The Yankees are about to get better when Gerrit Cole returns

John Heyman


BOSTON — A jubilant Gerrit Cole is back from a 10-hit, 4 ²/₃-inning Rochester homer and excitedly tells us he’ll “definitely” be back playing in the big leagues soon. Which must be a pretty scary proposition for the rest of the American League.

The Yankees have cemented their status as a World Series favorite through 73 games, and it’s a wonder they could do so without the best pitcher in MLB. This won’t be the case for much longer. Cole looked ready and his stat line for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre screamed ready.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone hasn’t fully committed to inserting Cole directly into the rotation, though doing anything else seems extremely cautious right now. In any case, no one had to say a word. Cole’s energetic demeanor and dominant performance told you he was at least on the cusp.
This is difficult for the rest of the league. For Boone, presumably the only downside would be having the unenviable task of telling little-known but highly effective Cody Poteet — whose only commonality with Cole is that they are both UCLA Bruin alumni — that he would have to leave the rotation.

Gerrit Cole, who was playing for the Somerset Patriots a week ago, has now started three rehabs. Bill Costron/New York Post

Yes, a team that entered spring training with a rotation that looked dangerously thin now has additions, not to mention the ever-reverable and confident Clark Schmidt, who within weeks will be waiting in the wings. The only staff to post an ERA below 3.00 (2.88 entering Saturday) will soon make a pre-deadline acquisition to best them all.

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The Yankees took a day off from their control of their schedule in the second game of their first series of the season with the rival Red Sox. They dropped the game 8-4 on Saturday night, thanks mostly to revived star Carlos Rodon who surrendered five quick innings before finding his rhythm. But there is no doubt who the junior circuit class is for 45 percent of the schedule.

Of course, the Yankees weren’t celebrating yet. They’re too smart for that. But they’re actually getting better every week. They are 13-4 in their last 17, 17-6 in their last 23, 24-8 in their last 32, and 30-10 in their last 40.

They talk as if they don’t want to jinx it. But they know. They have to know.

Juan Soto looks to the sky after hitting a solo homer in the seventh inning of a Yankees loss. Getty Images

“These guys have played great baseball to start the season. But we know that’s what it’s all about — it’s the start of the season,” Boone said. “We’ve got a long way to go.”

Fair enough, but their popularity has reached such a height that their fans can easily be heard here at Fenway, or what the operators of this old facility humbly call “the most popular baseball stadium in America.” (I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a real Red Sox fan call it that.) Anyway, the “Let’s go Yankees” chant can be heard on almost every other inning. (The other hymn, which contains an unkind word, was sometimes heard as well.)

Alex Verdugo had a big night during the Yankees’ win on Friday. Getty Images

At times, the hardcore Red Sox fans, who clearly occupied the majority of the 36,673-person crowd, didn’t seem to have the energy to drown out the foreign rally call. It’s been that kind of year here.

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They know it is no use. These Yankees are simply too good.

After the “disaster” of the 82-80 season, the Yankees were once again true Bronx hurlers. Their 50th MLB win — happily won here Friday night — provided a nice punctuation to an impressive start.

The Yankees’ stadium is a big reason they’ve won 50 games already. Getty Images

A huge Winter Meeting where they acquired infielder Alex Verdugo as well as great outfielder Juan Soto, a progression to center field and a firm belief that they would get healthier (how could they not?) made them slight favorites in the American League to start. the year. But hardly anyone saw this coming. (Definitely not me, who pictured them as a third place team. Sorry about that connection!)

The Yankees are posting big numbers — a plus-run differential of over 130 tells the story perfectly — and dominating their schedule. They lead the American League in runs scored with 367, on-base percentage at .333, OPS at .771 and a host of other things. The tandem of Soto and Aaron Judge is as unstoppable as the Yankees imagined when they sent a half-rounder to San Diego for Soto (but avoided handing over top prospects Spencer Jones, Jorge Lombard Jr. or Roderick Arias).

Luis Gil has been a stalwart in the rotation this year. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Conn

If Judge isn’t the best player, it’s Soto, who has now reached a career-best 11 consecutive games in which he has reached base at least twice. No one wanted to choose their club’s favorite for the award. (I know I tried to ask the question, but it was closed.)

However, Soto thanked the judge, and set Soto’s ice on fire.

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“It’s really nice to bat against him,” Soto told The Post. “When you have a guy like Judge behind you, that’s one of the best things you can have. … You don’t have to be the champion every time.

Meanwhile, Boone is happy to have the best players in the league together. (As expected, he also did not say who is leading this race.)

“when [Soto] “And Jodji does what they do, it’s just another level from everyone,” Boone said [else]”.

Speaking of another level, the defending Cy Young winner will make this great Yankees team even better.

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