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Higashioka to catch Cole; roster decisions

@BryanHoch
September 29, 2020

Gerrit Cole took his performance to another level in September, a four-start span that coincided with backup catcher Kyle Higashioka taking over behind the plate. The Yankees plan to keep that battery together in tonight's Game 1 of the American League Wild Card Series against the Indians at Progressive Field.

Gerrit Cole took his performance to another level in September, a four-start span that coincided with backup catcher Kyle Higashioka taking over behind the plate.

The Yankees plan to keep that battery together in tonight's Game 1 of the American League Wild Card Series against the Indians at Progressive Field.

Game Date Result Highlights
Gm 1 Sept. 29 NYY 12, CLE 3 Watch
Gm 2 Sept. 30 NYY 10, CLE 9 Watch

Yankees manager Aaron Boone confirmed on Monday that he will pair Cole with Higashioka, a decision that will place Gary Sánchez on the bench. Cole went 3-1 with a 1.00 ERA in his final four regular-season starts, all with Higashioka, after pitching to a 3.91 ERA in eight starts with Sánchez.

“Kyle's easy to communicate with,” Cole said. “He’s a really creative thinker, a good pitch framer, a good pitch caller. We've worked out well together.”

In describing why he and Higashioka have clicked, Cole nodded to their shared Southern California heritage; Cole and Higashioka played together as teenagers on an Angels scout team that also featured outfielder Aaron Hicks.

“It's always good to have people want to throw to you,” Higashioka said. “I think it validates the hard work you put in as a catcher on the defensive side and studying the hitters. We just want to win, so that's the most important thing.”

Boone said that he spoke with Sánchez prior to Monday’s workout, telling him that he should be prepared to enter tonight's game in a big situation. Sánchez finished the regular season with a .147 batting average, but he contributed some big moments, like a pinch-hit grand slam to defeat the Mets on Aug. 30.

“If we're to go deep in this postseason, we're going to need both of those guys, especially when we get past this and get into everyday situations,” Boone said. “Both guys are going to play.”

Tonight will mark the 11th start of Cole’s postseason career, having posted a 6-4 record with a 2.60 ERA with the Pirates (2013, ’15) and Astros ('18-19). Cole was Houston’s starter in Game 1 of last year’s World Series.

“If you’re taking the ball early, the object is to set the tone for the pitching staff and the team,” Cole said. “I’ve been practicing that this year, and I’ll just keep trying to get better at it.”

Something to talk about
Boone said that the Yankees’ coaches and front office held a meeting at the team hotel, discussing various permutations of the 28-man postseason roster, which will be announced this morning. Among the Yankees’ debates will be whether to carry 12 or 13 pitchers.

“A lot of people got to lay their cards on the table and speak up one way or another for a way we might want to go,” Boone said. “Having those kinds of spirited conversations is important, and we’ll settle in on ultimately which way we go in the next several hours.”

On the diamond
Miguel Andújar and Mike Ford are among the position players who could be added to the Yanks’ roster for the AL Wild Card Series. Both participated in Monday’s workout at Progressive Field, as did left-hander James Paxton, who played catch in the outfield.

Boone said that Paxton will travel with the Yankees throughout the postseason and could be an option for the later rounds. Paxton has not thrown from a mound since he sustained a left flexor tendon strain on Aug. 20.

“Part of the reason he's here is because of the progress he made to be able to start throwing again,” Boone said. “That's why he's in the bubble and part of our 40 [man] crew. We'll see where it leads over the next couple of weeks.”

He said it
“We’re in control of our destiny. Everyone starts even right now. We’ve been through a lot to get to this point, and we have an amazing opportunity to go compete for a championship.” -- Boone, on his message to the players

This date in Yankees history
Sept. 28, 1951: Allie Reynolds no-hit the Red Sox in an 8-0 Yankees victory, marking the right-hander’s second no-hitter of the season. Yogi Berra dropped a Ted Williams foul popup that would have been the final out. Reynolds then got Williams to foul out to almost the same spot, a ball Berra caught.

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and Facebook.