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Gerrit Cole rehab assignment set as injury return gets closer

SAN FRANCISCO — Gerrit Cole is in the minor leagues, but he’s ready to play.

Cole will begin a rehab assignment with Double-A Somerset starting Tuesday, manager Aaron Boone announced Sunday, moving the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner one step closer to a possible return to the Yankees by the end of June.

Boone said Cole will likely pitch in “at least a couple” rehab games, but it wouldn’t be surprising if the Yankees opted to err on the side of caution and use the bulk of the 30-day rehab period to ensure their ace recovers properly before returning to the big leagues.

Yankees ace Gerrit Cole (pictured during a simulated game on May 21) is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment on Tuesday. Getty Images

“We haven’t decided that yet,” Boone said. “It depends. Do we put him in a situation where he’s going to throw 60, 65, 70 pitches? Do we want him to throw one more pitch? We’ll get a better idea of ​​that as Gerrit gets out there and starts throwing. Do we want him to throw one more pitch at some level or do we want him to develop here? We haven’t decided that yet. We’re going to continue to work toward that.”

After being sidelined in March with neuritis and swelling in his right elbow, Cole began playing catch on April 8, progressed to bullpen work on May 4 and faced his first batters on May 21. Cole threw 43 pitches in a simulated game at the Yankees’ player development facility on Thursday and again appeared well enough to work in the bullpen on Sunday and begin his rehab assignment.

Boone said he didn’t know how many pitches Cole will throw Tuesday, but said he expects it to be around 50. Pitchers typically increase their pitch count by about 10 to 15 pitches with each start.

Gerrit Cole threw a bullpen pitch on May 18, 2024.
Gerrit Cole threw a bullpen pitch on May 18, 2024. Robert Sabo (NY Post)

The Yankees have been cautious about Cole’s return, but with Clarke Schmidt out until at least August with a lat muscle injury, the road to recovery isn’t likely to be quickened.

Cody Poteet will start in place of Schmidt against the Giants on Saturday night and is likely to keep his spot until Cole returns.

The Yankees’ starting rotation thrived without Cole earlier this year but was still eager for his return. Cole still has some hurdles to clear, but once he begins a rehab assignment on Tuesday, pitching for the Yankees this season will start to look more realistic.

“It’s never felt unreal, but I’m trying not to get ahead of myself,” Boone said. “It’s just like checking off checklists and moving the needle. I feel like things have been going in a much better direction since he’s been on rest, so we’re just going to keep moving toward that point. It’s never felt unreal, but at the same time, we’re not there yet.”