Cole relishes Opening Day rematch vs. rivals

Stanton looks forward to more OF time; Rizzo to wear Clemente Award cap patch

April 7th, 2022

NEW YORK -- The Yankees’ season-ending loss in last year’s American League Wild Card Game haunted Gerrit Cole. The ace right-hander wasn’t exactly counting how many days it took him to get over that outcome, but suffice it to say that he held a sour taste in his mouth for a while.

Friday’s Opening Day start presents Cole with an opportunity for renewal, and if the game goes as he and the Yanks expect it will, maybe just a small measure of revenge over the Red Sox.

“It’s a pretty formidable opponent,” Cole said. “I just kind of see it as two stags locking up in the forest. Somebody’s going to break an antler every once in a while, and nobody is certainly going to back down.”

This marks the official start of Cole’s third season with the Yankees, and his first where the landscape will look relatively normal. Cole drew the Opening Night assignment of the pandemic-shortened 2020 season in an empty Nationals Park, then faced the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium on Opening Day 2021 in front of a limited-capacity audience of 10,850.

“It feels different already,” Cole said on Thursday, as the Yanks held a workout in the Bronx. “No masks, the breakfast spreads are out, couches are back. Human beings are here. I’m very much looking forward to the experience, the type of environment I think we all love to see here in Yankee Stadium.”

Cole sustained a left hamstring injury last September that hindered his effectiveness down the stretch and into the one-game playoff at Fenway Park, when he completed just two-plus innings in the Yankees’ 6-2 loss.

“I was pretty pleased with the effort that we put in, to be honest,” Cole said. “I always try to give it as much as I can any given day. I hold myself to that standard for my whole career. Overall, there were challenges toward the end of the year that I faced and wasn’t able to overcome. But I think that there were a lot of similar challenges across the league for a lot of pitchers.”

Stanton island
Giancarlo Stanton made 26 appearances in the outfield last season, playing 16 games in right field and 10 in left field. The veteran said that the reps kept him sharper and more involved in the action, and he said he expects to patrol the outfield “a few times a week” this year.

“I enjoyed being out there,” Stanton said. “It’s obviously what I’ve done my whole career. I think it was a good switch-up from just DHing. I think it was good to be more engaged with the game. You kind of don’t realize how somewhat disconnected you are from the game when you’re just DHing.”

On his view of the ’22 Yankees, Stanton opined: “We’re ready to rock. We’re determined. We know how things have gone the past few years. We’ve got a good spark in us to get going.”

21 club
Anthony Rizzo is one of eight active recipients of the Roberto Clemente Award, all of whom will be permitted to wear the legend’s No. 21 on the backs of their caps for the remainder of their careers.

“The Roberto Clemente Award is easily the best award I’ve won in my career,” said Rizzo, who was honored in 2017 as a member of the Cubs. “He served everyone else. It’s one of the awards I’m definitely proud of, and I’ll be happy that I get to wear that No. 21.”

Gardy party
Manager Aaron Boone said that he spent some time during his drive to Yankee Stadium on Thursday thinking about Brett Gardner, who remains a free agent. Gardner’s agent, Joe Bick, has said that the outfielder would like to continue his career in 2022, but at this juncture it does not appear that the Yankees are interested.

“Gardy has been an amazing Yankee,” Boone said. “It was amazing for me to have a guy like that who was tough, a good player, consistent and one of the great leaders on this team. That said, I feel like we’ve been in position -- whether it was CC [Sabathia] leaving or Gardy not being here -- we’re in a position to carry on, and carry on strongly.”