The New York Yankees have been edged out in the Wild Card Race, and as mentally checked out as the team’s fans might be, the guys in that locker room are not giving up.
At least, not publicly.
Manager Aaron Boone seems to be acutely aware that he’s probably coaching for his job, and though injuries have laid waste to his rotation all year long, especially in recent weeks (Gerrit Cole’s hammy, Jameson Taillon, Luis Severino’s stop-and-start rehab), Boone is pressing his most powerful button down the stretch run.
The Yankees announced on Sunday afternoon that Cole will start Friday’s series opener against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, which means the team is officially going off turn to maximize the number of times their ace appears in September.
The Bombers have their first off day in weeks on Thursday, but they won’t be using it to give Cole an extra breather, bumping him back to Saturday and keeping the rotation aligned.
Instead, assuming all goes well, Cole will pitch Sunday, Friday, then in any number of important end-of-season tiebreakers, Wild Card showdowns, and the like.
The Yankees have moved Gerrit Cole around in their rotation.
Nobody wants to be in the Wild Card Game when the season opens — especially not the New York Yankees, who weren’t built for this.
There are worse outcomes in the world than using Cole in a winner-take-all game, and it’s now clear Boone will do whatever it takes to make that happen, whether it’s Game 162 or a one-game playoff.
If Cole gets burned in a tiebreaker and forces Taillon, Nestor Cortes Jr., or Jordan Montgomery into a WC matchup, that’d be less than ideal. There’s nothing New York can do to prevent that outcome, though. You can’t hold Cole out in hopes of a tiebreaker’s chips falling right.
As long as he’s healthy, the Cy Young favorite has to be the first line of defense. Has to. The time for holding players out and preparing for a tomorrow that might never come has long passed.
Additionally, New York announced on Sunday that righty Luis Severino, on the shelf since 2019, could be activated as soon as Monday.
We’ve seen speed bumps before. Nobody can possibly be confident that this is the end of the holding pattern.
If Sevy’s actually ready, though, you can add a 1-3 inning option for any win-or-go-home game to the ‘pen, which would further bolster the team’s high-level depth. Here’s hoping that making the right decision for once actually pays off.