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HomeSportsBaseballMLB News: Yankees' Gerrit Cole ready for return against Orioles

MLB News: Yankees’ Gerrit Cole ready for return against Orioles

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The New York Yankees more than survived since Gerrit Cole developed an elbow injury midway through spring training. Now they hope they can avoid having to play without Aaron Judge.

While Cole will make his highly anticipated season debut on Wednesday, the Yankees are holding their breath on Judge’s condition as they host the Baltimore Orioles in the second contest of a three-game series between the top two teams in the American League.

Cole is returning from right elbow inflammation that cost him New York’s first 75 games.

It’s unclear if the lineup behind him will include Judge, who was hit in the left hand by a pitch from Albert Suarez during the third inning of the Yankees’ 4-2 win on Tuesday. The New York captain initially stayed in and played center field in the top of the fourth but was replaced by Trent Grisham when his turn came up in the bottom half.

Judge scored on a single by Giancarlo Stanton. After being lifted, he underwent an MRI exam and CT scan, neither of which showed a fracture.

“It’s a big relief,” he said. “Just being hit there before a couple of years ago and breaking my wrist, you never know what’s going to happen. So finding out that it’s not fractured, not broken, is definitely a sigh of relief.”

Baltimore shortstop Gunnar Henderson said of the major league’s home run leader getting plunked, “Obviously you don’t want to see that. He’s an unreal hitter and you got to make difficult pitches and (Suarez) just kind of unfortunately went up in and in. I hate to see it, but I hope he’s out there soon.”

Cole is returning after three minor league rehab starts in which his pitch count increased each time. The Yankees decided to pencil in Cole after he pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings and struck out 10 for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre at Rochester on Friday. In the three outings (two for Double-A Somerset and the one for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre), Cole yielded two runs, one earned, while striking out 19 and walking none in 12 1/3 innings.

Cole is returning after dominating the 2023 AL Cy Young Award race in New York’s worst season since 1992. While the Yankees went 82-80, Cole finished 15-4 and led the AL with a 2.63 ERA and 209 innings to go along with 222 strikeouts in 33 starts.

“I’m very much wanting to get back very, very soon,” Cole said after his final rehab start. “What a fun club that they are right now so yeah, that’s part of the reason why I’m just trying to make sure that I’m in a good spot to help them.”

Cole is 5-3 with a 2.55 ERA in 12 career starts against the Orioles. He had a 3.75 ERA in two no-decisions against Baltimore last season.

The Orioles avoided being blanked on Tuesday when Anthony Santander homered in the ninth inning, but they wound up hitless in five at-bats with runners in scoring position. Baltimore also is dealing with an injury concern after Jordan Westburg exited following the top of the second due to left hip discomfort following a collision with Yankees baserunner Juan Soto.

“His hip’s pretty sore,” Baltimore manager Brandon Hyde said postgame. “Right now he’s day-to-day with a hip contusion, but we’ll see how he feels (Wednesday).”

The Orioles have starting pitchers John Means, Tyler Wells, Kyle Bradish and Dean Kremer on the injured list, prompting them to dip into their farm system.

Cade Povich (0-1, 4.76 ERA) is among the replacements, and he will make his third career start on Wednesday. Povich allowed six runs in 5 1/3 innings at Toronto on June 6 in his major league debut but followed up with six scoreless innings of five-hit ball in Baltimore’s 4-2 home win over the Atlanta Braves on June 12.

–Field Level Media

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