NEW YORK (AP) — Gerrit Cole couldn't have expected the New York Yankees to take the ball away from him just one batter into his first home start in the Bronx.
But the team's new $324 million ace learned the hard way about one of baseball’s new coronavirus safety protocols Tuesday night during an intrasquad game at Yankee Stadium.
Cole allowed a home run to the second hitter he faced, Miguel Andújar, one pitch after being forced to give up the ball he used to strike out leadoff man Mike Tauchman.
“I liked that ball,” Cole grumbled on the mound.
Among the safety steps instituted by Major League Baseball for this virus-shortened season is that pitchers can’t reuse a baseball once it has been touched by other players. After Cole struck out Tauchman swinging, catcher Gary Sánchez whipped the ball around the infield — a customary ritual that’s frowned upon in MLB’s 2020 operations manual.
Cole shot the dugout a confused look when coaches called for the ball. Andújar crushed the next pitch into the empty right field seats.
“We weren’t exactly sure if we were supposed to keep it or not,” Cole said. “We kind of made a joke about it. Looked like I probably should have kept it.”
Yankees manager Aaron Boone said the club is still trying to nail down some of the protocols in MLB's 101-page manual — one reason the team is scheduling so many of these intrasquads early in preseason camp. He said he wasn't sure if Sánchez was supposed to throw the ball around the infield or if umpires would make them throw out the baseball during the regular season if he did.
“I have to get to the bottom of that," Boone said.
Otherwise, Cole’s first time toeing the Yankee Stadium rubber in pinstripes went smoothly.
Cole faced a Yankees B team in an intrasquad game that aired locally. He pitched five innings of one-run ball, striking out six and allowing one hit and two walks.
The 29-year-old tried to mimic as much of his pregame routine as possible, figuring out how to adjust to account for social distancing and the missing adrenaline that usually comes from a stadium full of fans.
“This is the first kind of real, most game-like scenario I’ve been put in with it,” he said. "It was certainly different, but everything's different. I didn’t have trouble focusing tonight, so I’m just going to try to get in my space and do what I do.”
Cole is expected to start on opening night for New York against the World Series champion Nationals in Washington on July 23.
SUBWAY SERIES STUFF
The Yankees are set to visit the crosstown Mets on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 next season, according to a person familiar with the decision. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because Major League Baseball has not yet released next season’s schedule.
The Yankees and Mets won’t have to wait that long to see each other. The teams announced Tuesday they will play preseason exhibition games July 18 at Citi Field and July 19 at Yankee Stadium as they prepare for the start of a pandemic-shortened 60-game regular season. The Philadelphia Phillies and new manager Joe Girardi — formerly the Yankees' skipper — will travel to the Bronx for an exhibition game July 20.
Aside from INF DJ LeMahieu and RHP Luis Cessa — both isolating at home following positive coronavirus tests — RHP Jonathan Loaisiga is the only Yankees player yet to clear intake screening. The hard thrower from Nicaragua was delayed getting to New York and is awaiting results from a test taken Monday. ... C Kyle Higashioka was scratched from the intrasquad game with a sore neck. ... OF Clint Frazier has been limited to DH duties after dealing with “a little foot issue” over the past two months, Boone said. Frazier is running and doing outfield drills. “We're just slow-playing him,” Boone said.
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