DUNEDIN, Fla. — There are executives around the league who wonder if 200 innings should be an attainable goal for any starting pitcher this season, coming off a shortened campaign in which no one could come close to seeing half that many frames. Gerrit Cole doesn’t want to hear it.
After striking out eight across five innings in the Yankees’ 8-3 Grapefruit League victory over the Blue Jays on Sunday, the ace right-hander said that he is ready to handle as many innings as his team needs.
“I haven’t put a number on it, but my goal every year is to go deep into games and make as many starts as I’m asked,” Cole said. “We’re a start away from being built up at this point, and it’s been as normal a spring as I’ve had in my career.”
Yankees manager Aaron Boone said that he sees Cole as a candidate to work 200 innings, beginning with the April 1 season opener at Yankee Stadium. Cole tossed 73 innings in 12 regular-season starts last year and exceeded 200 innings in each of his previous three campaigns with the Pirates and Astros.
On a drizzly, overcast afternoon, Cole limited Toronto to one run, four hits and a walk in Sunday’s effort, throwing 48 of 78 pitches for strikes. The Jays’ lone run off Cole came on Marcus Semien’s fifth-inning homer, and Cole said that he accomplished what he traveled to Dunedin for.
“I needed to get through five [innings] and 75 [pitches],” Cole said. “We wanted to move the fastball better today. I thought we had some good runs of located pitches and we mixed well. As you’re continuing to build up, it’s important to make sure you hit the threshold of the amount of mix that you want to bring out the regular season, while also throwing the amount of pitches.”
Cole was paired with Kyle Higashioka, with whom he made his final four regular-season starts of 2020, plus three more in the postseason. That string will be broken, Boone said, as Gary Sánchez is expected to be behind the plate for Cole’s Opening Day assignment.
“I think all our catchers have come in super prepared,” Cole said. “They’re working hard. Everybody’s been healthy for the most part. It was good to see Kyle out there today and feeling good. I’ve gotten to work with everybody, and we’re really laying a good foundation as a group.”
Back in there
Clint Frazier returned to the lineup on Sunday, one day after Boone said that he gave the outfielder a day off in response to being “a little sluggish.” Frazier was listed on the Yanks’ travel roster for Saturday’s game against the Orioles but did not make the trip to Sarasota, Fla.
“I wanted him to stay back and get some work in right field,” Boone said. “He’s good to go.”
Frazier went 2-for-4 on Sunday, knocking a two-run double and scoring on Derek Dietrich’s single in the first inning.
Most of Gleyber Torres’ defensive innings have taken place with DJ LeMahieu at second base, which Boone said has been on purpose. Boone said that the double-play combination has been “joined at the hip” this spring, and LeMahieu said that Torres expressed a desire to work together more closely.
“He’s working hard this spring. He’s focused,” LeMahieu said. “Last year, he didn’t have the success that he had the previous two years. I think the sign of a great player is coming back from adversity, and I think he’s ready for that. He’s extremely talented and the sky’s the limit. It’s a dangerous combo. When he’s focused like he is and as talented as he is, I’m excited for him.”
Returning from an 81-game suspension for violation of Major League Baseball’s policy against domestic violence that kept him off professional mounds for the 2020 regular season, Domingo Germán said that he focused upon training his body to be in top condition for Spring Training.
The right-hander is seeing results from that work, having tallied 13 strikeouts against one walk over nine Grapefruit League innings through Sunday, scattering five hits. In his most recent outing on March 15 against the Phillies, Germán was clocked as high as 94.2 mph with his fastball. He averaged 93.4 mph with his heater during the 2019 season.
“I think you can point out the [velocity]; in previous camps, I don’t think I’ve been where I find myself today,” Germán said through a translator. “Clearly, it’s something that helped there.”
Right-hander Asher Wojciechowski exited Sunday’s exhibition in the seventh inning with discomfort in his right side, according to Boone. The 32-year-old, a non-roster invitee, has pitched to a 7.94 ERA in 5 2/3 spring innings.
• Higashioka said that he had no issues after missing time last week with soreness in his side. Higashioka said that the soreness was in his oblique area but that it was different from what he felt last August, when a right oblique strain sent him to the injured list.
Jameson Taillon will make his fourth appearance and third start of the spring on Monday as the Yankees host the Phillies in a 6:35 p.m. ET exhibition at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Taillon has hurled 5 2/3 scoreless innings this spring, his first with New York. Aaron Nola is scheduled to start for Philadelphia, and the game can be seen on YES and MLB.TV.