The New York Yankees Opening Day pitcher Gerrit Cole, his story

William Parlee
New York Yankees, Aaron Boone, Gerrit Cole
Dec 18, 2019; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone, left, and pitcher Gerrit Cole pose for photos during a press conference at Legends Club at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports

Tomorrow at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York Yankee pitching ace Gerrit Cole will take to the mound for the Yankees against the Toronto Blue Jays. How the game will turn out is anyone’s guess, but when he opened for the Yankees last season against the Washington National at Nationals Park, he pitched five innings and only allowed one hit.  Here is his story right up to his second Opening Day start for the Yankees.

New York Yankee’s general partner and owner Hal Steinbrenner spent $324 million on to see Gerrit Cole in a Yankee uniform and pitching for the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Cole, 30, was born on September 8, 1990, in Newport Beach, California, to Mark and Karen Cole. Cole’s father was from New York and a Yankee fan. His father would tell him stories of Lou Gehrig and other famous Yankees, and the young boy would quickly become a baseball fan and Yankee fanatic.

On weekends one could see the young boy playing baseball at local ball fields, playing any position so that he could play. His father certainly nurtured Cole’s interest in the Yankees by flying him across the country seven times to Yankee Stadium to see his idols, Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, and Andy Pettitte. Cole was a member of the Tustin Western Little League team of Newport Beach.

In 2001 hiS Dad would take the young Cole to the World Series in Arizona to see his favorite Yankees play. The eleven-year-old could be seen in the stands with a Yankee uniform and cap on while holding a sign saying “Yankee Fan Today, Tomorrow, Forever.” Being a lifelong Yankee fan had to, in some way, sway him to being the pitching Ace for a club he loved all his life? The signing of Cole is not the first time Cole and the Yankees have interacted. The Yankees drafted Cole in 2008, but Cole decided to attend college at UCLA. They were also outbid by the Pirates for Cole when he got out of college.

Cole attended Orange Lutheran High School and played on the team as a pitcher. In this sophomore year, he once pitched 45 innings without allowing a run. In his junior year, his fastball reached 94mph. At the start of his senior season, fifty baseball scouts would attend his opening start. He would go 8-2 that season with a .047 ERA while striking out 121. The Yankees would select Cole in the first-round draft in 2008, but Cole would attend college instead.

At UCLA, Cole’s introduction to college pitching would be a bit rude, as he faced more talented players. He would go 4-8 with an ERA of 3.49. His next year would be more successful as he went 11-4, with an ERA of 3.37 with 153 strikeouts. In 2011 Cole would sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Cole attended spring training in 2012 but was optioned to the Bradenton Marauders of the Florida State League. Cole pitched to a 2.90 ERA before being promoted to the Indianapolis Indians, a triple-A Pirates minor league team. There he would go 5-3 with a 2.91 ERA in twelve starts.

Injuries on the Pirates would cause Cole to be brought up to the majors; he made his MLB debut on June 11, 2013. In his first appearance, he struck out his first batter in just three pitches. In the game, he would also get his first hit. He gave up two earned runs in the game but got his first win as a major league pitcher. He would hit his first home run on Sept. 7, 2014, his second on August 26th, and his third for the Pirates, on May 26, 2016, a three-run blast into the visitor’s bullpen.

For the Pirates, he would go 10-7 in his first year, 11-5 in his second, and an amazing 19-8 in his third year while being an All-Star, MVP nominee, and coming in fourth in the Cy Young voting. He would have an offseason in 2016, going only 7-10. 2017 would be only slightly better when he went 12-12. At the end of the season, he would be traded to the Houston Astros. With a new pitching coach and new technologies, Cole would again find his form. He would go 15-5 in 2018 while posting a 2.88 ERA. Cole’s 2019 was even better, going 20-5 with an ERA of 2.50.

During the 2019 postseason, Cole would get his second taste of postseason play, and he would dominate. In 2018 he would go 1-1 with a 3.46 ERA. He would go seven or more innings in all five of his 2019 starts, sometimes going over 100 pitches. On October 5, against the Rays in the ALDS, he would not allow a run in the 3-1 win. On 10/10, he would again face the Rays and pitch to a .057 ERA in the win. On 10/15, he would lose to the Yankees but post an ERA of just .040. In the ALCS against the Nationals on 10/22, he would get a 5-4 win. To finish off his postseason, he would get another win against the Nationals on 10/27 while allowing only one run in the 7-1 Houston win. He would end the postseason 4-1 with an ERA of 1.72.

Once interviewed by David Laurila, he would ask Cole what his hitting approach is; Cole would answer, “I try to get early contact and keep it on the ground. I like to keep the ball down as much as I can. Strikeouts are something that happens. You don’t go for strikeouts because your pitch count gets too high. When you get that opportunity, you have to put them away with whatever is working that day. That’s the approach I’ve always had to have. I’ve got to keep my pitch count down. If you want to go deep into ballgames, you have to stay under that 100 mark.”

Cole is a fearless monster on the mound and attacks hitters. He is durable and goes deep into games, something that will rest the Yankee bullpen. He has been an All-Star three times in his short career, been an MVP nominee twice, and voted for the Cy Young Award three times, coming in second in the voting in 2019.

Although he has turned out to be the New York Yankees’ winningest pitcher, he doesn’t seem to be the dominant pitcher he was for the Houston Astros in 2019. He appears to have struggled at times, even in the games that he has won. Also, Cole has given up home runs; lot’s of them. He has given up a home run in every one of his starts during 2020. The Yankees have lost the last four games that Cole started as the season came to a close. In those games, Cole gave up eight home runs while walking nine hitters. In 2019 he was 21-5 with an ERA of 2.51; last season, he was 7-3 with an ERA of .284.

Cole is totally healthy, and although he seemed to struggle at times during this spring, throwing a lot of pitches, he had a 3-0 season with a 2.45 ERA. Against Toronto last season, he was 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA.