Yankees’ new free agent rejects offer to start on Opening Day

MLB: Spring Training-New York Yankees at Toronto Blue Jays
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

With New York Yankees ace Gerrit Cole missing the first 1-2 months of the 2024 season with an elbow injury, he leaves a huge hole in the rotation that will be impossible to fill. Someone, however, will have to try his best and do it, at least for a few weeks.

Cole was penciled as the Yankees’ Opening Day starter, but despite getting good news on his elbow (he will avoid surgery and will be ready to return sometime in May or June) on Thursday, he won’t be ready to take the ball as New York opens its season on March 28.

Who will get the assignment? Only manager Aaron Boone knows at this point, but he states he isn’t ready to make the announcement. Since he said that Carlos Rodon is penciled for the second game, that leaves three logical candidates: Marcus Stroman, Nestor Cortes, and Clarke Schmidt.

You can go ahead and scratch Stroman off that list, too.

Stroman declined the Yankees offer

Chris Kirschner of The Athletic wrote that the Yankees free agent signing turned down the chance because he would have to change his entire schedule/routine and, like Cole, is “very particular in how they go about their business.”

“I think they thought that I was going to be like, ‘Hey, let me get it,’” Stroman said. “That’s not my nature, man. I’m confident in whoever goes out there and gets the ball to get the job done. At the end of the day, it’s just another game. I’m not someone who’s gonna be upset if I don’t get the Opening Day nod. I’m trying to go out there and get 30-plus starts. I have confidence in anybody we throw out there for Opening Day. At this point, it’s too hard to get on schedule and on track. They came to me, and we agreed that it was best to stay on the schedule that we came up with.”

Boone’s plans don’t appear to be set in stone, though. It could be Cortes or Schmidt, or if they don’t want to mess up everybody’s preparations, they could also go with a bullpen game or an outside option such as Will Warren or Clayton Beeter, per Kirschner.

The Opening Day assignment is as symbolic as they get, but at the end of the day, it’s just one game, and there will be 161 more to cover. The Yankees don’t want to disrupt anyone’s routines, risk an injury, or overtax the bullpen, so they have some thinking to do.

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