Gerrit Cole has thrown 201.1 innings to Kyle Higashioka in his career. Higashioka trails only former pirates Chris Stewart and Francisco Cervelli as Cole’s most common drumming partner.
On Sunday, the Yankees ace added a new person to his catcher list. José Treviño got his first start in a Cole game, snapping a streak of 13 consecutive starts in which Cole had pitched to Higashioka. The last time Cole had someone other than Higgy squat for him was July 23, 2021 when Gary Sanchez was behind home plate.
Aaron Boone explained his reasoning for rolling with Treviño in Sunday’s game.
“It’s something I want to be able to do,” Boone said. “I feel great about both guys and their abilities behind the plate.”
Boone has officially spoken out about his belief that the Yankees don’t have a traditional starter and a backup catcher, but Higashioka and Treviño are a “tandem.” Still, giving Higashioka, who was Sanchez’s backup last year and seemed to be Cole’s personal catcher, a day off with Cole on the mound is a bit unusual. The Yankees’ No. 1 starter was on board with the idea, according to the manager.
“I told him I was thinking about doing it,” Boone said before the game. “I don’t expect it to be a problem.”
Boone proved correct, as Cole drove 6 2/3 scoreless innings in his first start with Treviño.
“It seemed perfect, and I think that’s a great thing,” Boone said after the duo shut out the Guardians. “Going forward, we have two guys that are very capable back there. I feel like all of our staff feel that way too.”
“It was flawless,” Cole repeated to his manager. “We have some kind of two-headed monster in there right now. I thought there was a lot of continuity in what we wanted to do. Everyone was in a good place based on preparation.”
Most baseball players, and especially starting pitchers, are meticulous about their routines and habits on starting days, almost to the point of neurotic insanity. On Opening Day, for example, Cole was visibly upset when Billy Crystal’s ceremonial first pitch delayed the game four minutes, calling it an “unforeseen challenge”.
That was less than three weeks ago, so it was interesting to hear Boone say that Cole wasn’t affected by the novelty or the tweaks on the fly.
“One thing about Gerrit, he’s pretty flexible when things happen on the fly,” Boone offered. “He is very detailed. He prepares and works efficiently and strongly before his starts. He takes a lot of notes. He’s specific about the game plan for him, but I feel like he does a good job because inevitably there are wrinkles in his way.”
Cole’s playing record for 2022 has been incredibly wrinkled. He entered Sunday’s game with a 6.35 ERA and a tiger-striped blemish. Pitching against the Tigers on April 19, he recorded as many walks (five) as he had outs.
“I think we were going for really perfect pitches, probably too often,” Cole said of his train wreck in Detroit. “In certain situations, if I had attacked the area better, I would have been in a better place. So that’s what we’re working on this week.”
Cole said Saturday that when he evaluates his past mistakes and tries to find ways to correct them, it’s a collaborative effort between him, the coaching staff and his receivers. However, the problem in Detroit was clearly his command, which Cole says has been a recurring thing for him when things don’t go well.
“A common theme when I’ve gotten off track has been being behind in the counts,” the $324 million pitcher said. “Then you are forced into a position of being too aggressive.”
The second inning of that game against the Motor City Kitties involved Cole walking four guys, allowing a single and a sacrifice fly, and enduring six plate appearances that lasted at least six pitches.
“Against Detroit, things were there, I feel like in that inning it fell apart because it was so long,” Boone theorized. “I’m still very confident that it’s going to be a very good year for him.”
Things will work out great for the rest of the year if Cole can replicate starts like Sunday’s, especially if his newest release continues to shine.
“Being on the same page throughout the game feels pretty good,” Treviño said. “It was him doing what he does best. I thought he mixed up all the pitches from him today really well, but the cutter was definitely good.”
The Yankees confirmed that there was additional security at the stadium on Sunday in response to booing and the out-of-control, and frankly embarrassing, trash-throwing at the end of Saturday’s game.
The club also said they have not officially identified any of the fans responsible for the disaster but are actively working on it, saying there are cameras everywhere which should go a long way in finding the perpetrators.
On Sunday morning, Boone responded to Myles Straw, the Cleveland outfielder who called Yankees fans “classless” and the “worst fan base on the planet.”
“That’s an emotional reaction to the moment,” said Boone, who has managed the team since 2018 and played for the Yankees in 2003. “I certainly understand that, but I disagree.”
During Sunday’s game, Yankees media relations told the Daily News that because the incident occurred late in the game (allowing hooligans to leave immediately), it has been difficult to locate them. Surveillance cameras clearly captured their faces, but since they did not return to their seats, continuing any further action has been a huge hurdle to overcome.