TAMPA – Gerrit Cole came to the Yankees hoping to create memories of October, or at least postseason memories different from the ones he already has.
“I can remember how every season of mine has ended,” Cole said after the Yankees pitchers and catchers had their first spring training at their minor league complex on Thursday.
That obviously includes last year, when the Yankees lost to the Rays in the ALDS in five games despite Cole’s great effort in Game 5 with three days off.
“I was probably emotionally affected for a few weeks after that,” Cole said. “We have to move on. You have to prepare, so you cannot allow this to negatively affect your preparation or mindset in the future, but I carry it in my back pocket. I remember who we lost to and why we lost. It is a motivation for me to try harder this year and try to overcome what we did last year. “
After signing the richest contract for a pitcher in MLB history, Cole saw his first spring training with the Yankees interrupted by the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, followed by a 60-game season.
Despite the limited workload from a year ago, Cole said he hasn’t made any major changes to his preparation, although he knows all pitchers will be handled differently than a typical 162-game season.
Among them are Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon, who have been injured for two consecutive seasons and will be counted on to bolster a rotation that is not very certain behind Cole.
On his first pitching day, Kluber and Taillon impressed Aaron Boone, who hadn’t seen any of the pitches in person since signing with the Yankees.
“They looked like you expected them to be seen here on Day 1,” Boone said of the right-handers.
Cole is among those who expect both Kluber and Taillon to pitch as well as they have at other times in their careers.
“Corey is a true craftsman [and] I’ve always loved watching him pitch, ” Cole said. “Jameson is in a very good position. … They have had to overcome some adversities and are in the process of doing it right now. ”
Cole added that while he spoke highly to the front office about his former Pirates teammate Taillon, it was only after the Yankees came to him for his opinion.
“It’s not like I’m making calls, trying to pull the strings to acquire someone,” Cole said. “I just personally spoke about a great friend. I spoke about the character of the player and how well he has dealt with adversity and overcome challenges.
He also hopes to work with Kyle Higashioka and Gary Sanchez behind the plate, bringing in a former receiver of his from Houston, Robinson Chirinos, with whom the Yankees recently struck a deal.
That will be fixed during the spring and beyond.
But both Cole and Boone know where they want to end.
Boone said his first speech to pitchers and catchers, which was held in two groups due to COVID protocols, was about keeping expectations high.
“Meeting the boy group, in general, has been very successful, but also very disappointing,” Boone said.
That includes Cole.
“I’m very motivated by a championship,” Cole said. “When you play, you play to win. Personal accolades take a back seat. “
“It’s the complete package,” Boone said of Cole. “He is a superstar in sports. He certainly has the talent to deliver the products and when you combine it with a very deep understanding of who he is, how to apply the information, and how he has likely grown in that understanding over the course of his career, you see a real refined polish. pitcher and person with special things. “