TAMPA — Gerrit Cole came to the Yankees hoping to make October memories — or at least different postseason memories than the ones he already has.
“I can remember how every single season of mine has ended,’’ Cole said after the Yankees pitchers and catchers had their first workout of the spring at their minor league complex Thursday.
That obviously includes last year, when the Yankees lost to the Rays in the ALDS in five games despite Cole’s strong effort in Game 5 on three days’ rest.
“I was probably emotionally affected for a few weeks after that,’’ Cole said. “We’ve got to move on. You’ve got to prepare, so you can’t let it negatively impact your preparation or mindset going forward, but I carry it in my back pocket. I remember who we lost to and why we lost. It’s a motivational thing for me to try harder this year and try to get past where we did last year.”
After signing the richest contract for a pitcher in MLB history, Cole saw his first spring training with the Yankees interrupted by the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, followed by a 60-game season.
Despite the limited workload a year ago, Cole said he hasn’t made any major changes in his preparation, though he’s aware all pitchers will be managed differently than in a typical 162-game season.
Among them are Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon, who are both coming off two consecutive seasons impacted by injury and will be counted on to bolster a rotation that is without a lot of certainty behind Cole.
On their first day of throwing, Kluber and Taillon impressed Aaron Boone, who hadn’t seen either pitch in person since signing with the Yankees.
“They looked like you hoped they would look here on Day 1,’’ Boone said of the right-handers.
Cole is among those expecting both Kluber and Taillon to pitch as well as they have at other points of their careers.
“Corey is a true craftsman [and] I’ve always enjoyed watching him pitch,’’ Cole said. “Jameson is in a really good spot. … They’ve had to overcome some adversity and they’re in the process of doing that right now.’’
Cole added that while he spoke highly to the front office about his former Pirates teammate Taillon, it was only after the Yankees came to him seeking his input.
“It’s not like I’m making calls, trying to pull strings to acquire anybody,’’ Cole said. ”I just spoke personally about a great friend. I spoke to the character of the player and how well he’s dealt with adversity and overcome challenges.”
He also expects to work with Kyle Higashioka and Gary Sanchez behind the plate, and he brought up a former catcher of his from Houston, Robinson Chirinos, whom the Yankees recently agreed to a deal with.
That will be sorted out during the spring and beyond.
But both Cole and Boone know where they want to end up.
Boone said his first address to the pitchers and catchers — which took place in two groups because of COVID protocols — was about keeping expectations high.
“Knowing the group of guys, by and large, has had a lot of success, but a lot of disappointment, too,’’ Boone said.
That includes Cole.
“I’m extremely driven for a championship,’’ Cole said. “When you play, you play to win. Personal accolades take a backseat.”
“He’s the complete package,’’ Boone said of Cole. “He is a superstar in the sport. He certainly has the talent to deliver the goods and when you couple that with a real keen understanding of who he is, how to apply information and how he has probably grown in that understanding in the course of his career, you see a real refined polished pitcher and person with special stuff.”
Credit: Notigroup Newsroom.
[This article may have been written with information from various sources]