Cole intent on adding ring to his hardware collection

February 15th, 2024

TAMPA, Fla. -- There is a choice piece of real estate in ’s home office reserved for the Cy Young Award, mounted slightly off-center behind his desk so that the hardware will be visible when he needs to make a Zoom call.

And yes, Cole says that he is keeping some wall space available for a second award, though individual honors are not his focus. As the Yankees’ pitchers and catchers went through their first official workout on Thursday, the ace right-hander said that he needs to add a World Series ring to his collection.

“It’s obviously a really special honor, and I’m very thankful to be able to represent the Yankees and my teammates in receiving that award,” Cole said. “With that said, [a second Cy Young] is not on the goal list. To go out there and prepare to win a world championship, that’s really at the top of the list.”

A repeat performance from Cole would go a long way toward helping the Yankees reach their ultimate goal. Cole went 15-4 with a 2.63 ERA and 222 strikeouts last season, holding batters to a .206 average while limiting opponents to three runs or fewer in 28 of 33 starts.

Leading the Majors in WHIP (0.98) and opponent on-base percentage (.259), Cole’s ERA was the fourth lowest by a qualified Yankee in the last 51 years, trailing only Ron Guidry (1.74 in 1978), Rudy May (2.46 in '80) and Catfish Hunter (2.58 in '75).

“I’m not sure I have any other goals, other than just to do my job and win the World Series,” Cole said. “I try to keep it simple in that regard.”

Yankees manager Aaron Boone said that his expectations are for Cole “to continue to be the ace and the leader of our staff. He doesn’t have to do more or less. He’s the poster child, in a lot of ways, for how you prepare for this thing 365 days a year. He knows how to do it. The biggest thing I want for him is health, being able to take the ball every five days so he can go out and do his thing.”

One day after Boone described his club’s mindset as “hell-bent on winning a championship,” Cole agreed with his manager’s stance.

It was during Cole’s introductory press conference in December 2019 that managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner voiced an expectation for multiple championships as a result of Cole’s nine-year, $324 million contract; thus far, the Yankees have gotten no further than the American League Championship Series.

“I think that it was the main reason why I’m here,” Cole said. “The Yankees and the Steinbrenner family, and us as an organization, we set out to do that goal every single year. They provide us with the opportunity to accomplish that goal every single time. As a player, you don’t take that for granted.”

Though Cole acknowledged that some of the Yankees’ 2023 injuries were “out of the normal realm,” such as Aaron Judge crashing into the right-field wall at Dodger Stadium in June, Cole said that he believes, “We get injured too much as a group. We need to improve.”

“That’s been an area of attention for a lot of our players, and Aaron [Boone] spoke about it this morning,” Cole said. “By and large, just the first few days and the last few weeks that players have been around, we’ve really built a good foundation. That’s the first step.”

Cole seemed particularly enthused by the Yankees’ offseason addition of outfielder Juan Soto, and for good reason -- Soto is 4-for-6 with a double and two homers in his career against Cole, with all of those at-bats having taken place during the 2019 World Series, when Cole was with the Astros.

“Just a magnificent hitter, really,” Cole said. “He’s got the best feel for the strike zone that I’ve ever come across. Man, is he going to be tough to deal with. He’s just a combination of Create-A-Player statistics and attributes at the plate. I’m very thankful that I don’t have to pitch against him.”

Cole heads a rotation that is also projected to feature Carlos Rodón, Marcus Stroman, Nestor Cortes and Clarke Schmidt. Stroman told on Thursday that he is lined up to pitch the Yankees’ home opener on April 5 against one of his former clubs, the Blue Jays.

The Yanks are also counting on bounceback performances from Rodón and Cortes, who were limited to a combined 26 starts last season due to injuries.

“Right off the surface, the top four guys are former All-Stars, and Clarke Schmidt had a career year last year -- looking to build on a really solid innings build-up and a really solid body of work,” Cole said. “I’m certainly excited to see what some of the young guys have to bring.”