The Yankees have a huge starting rotation decision to make when Gerrit Cole returns

MLB: New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays
Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

New York Yankees star pitcher Gerrit Cole is on the mend from a nerve injury to his throwing elbow and has started to make significant progress. Recently, he began throwing off the mound, achieving speeds up to 89 mph with his fastball. Although Cole is still a few weeks away from a potential rehab assignment, his recovery is on track, and he is expected to return to the lineup in June.

Gerrit Cole’s Recovery and Impact on the Yankees’ Rotation

Cole’s return will undoubtedly reinstate him as the team’s ace, especially after winning the Cy Young award in the American League last season.

Last year, the 33-year-old achieved a 2.63 ERA over 209 innings, boasting an 80.4% left-on-base rate and a 39.6% ground ball rate, contributing 5.2 WAR to his team. His comeback will bolster the Yankees, particularly in games against formidable opponents.

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at New York Yankees, gerrit cole
Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Rotation Decisions: Schmidt vs. Gil

However, Cole’s return poses a challenging decision for the Yankees, as it will result in six starting pitchers for five rotation spots, necessitating a tough choice. The dilemma will likely come down to Clarke Schmidt or Luis Gil, both of whom have shown potential but also inconsistencies.

Clarke Schmidt has had a volatile start to the season. Last year, he recorded a 4.64 ERA over 159 innings, and this year, he has a 3.50 ERA and a 4.09 FIP across 36 innings. His performance includes an impressive 10.25 strikeouts per nine and an 81.8% left-on-base rate.

Despite strong strikeout numbers, Schmidt has struggled with pitch location, occasionally getting hit hard, as evidenced in his recent outing against the Detroit Tigers, where he allowed three earned runs and a leadoff homer (for the second consecutive game).

On the other hand, Luis Gil, at 25 years old, has a 3.19 ERA over 31 innings this season, including striking out 11.61 batters per nine innings.

Gil’s stats reflect a promising trend, with a 73.9% left-on-base rate and a 36.8% ground ball rate, although his walk rate is high at 5.81 per nine innings. His recent performance against the Baltimore Orioles was particularly strong, pitching 6.1 scoreless innings with five strikeouts and only one walk.

As Gerrit Cole prepares to rejoin the rotation, Yankees manager Aaron Boone faces a decision on whether to bet on Schmidt’s long-term potential and current progress or to lean towards Gil, who might provide a more immediate impact in winning games. This decision is crucial, but regardless of the outcome, maintaining depth in the rotation is beneficial, especially considering the unpredictability of injuries.

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