Matt Blake hilariously recalls Gerrit Cole grilling him after Yankees hiring

Point blank Q.
Pittsburgh Pirates v New York Yankees
Pittsburgh Pirates v New York Yankees / Mark Brown/GettyImages

When the New York Yankees plucked Matt Blake from the Cleveland Guardians' pitching department to be their primary pitching coach after the 2019 season, that didn't just mean that he was taking over an MLB program for the first time. It meant that he'd play a front-and-center role in their biggest free agent recruitment of the past decade: wooing Gerrit Cole.

Now, it hardly hurt that Cole was a lifelong Yankee fan, and that Andy Pettitte -- his childhood hero -- was also present for the proceedings. Still, Cole is nothing if not a stickler for high-level pitching acumen. If Blake, the team's brand new pitching coach, didn't impress him, he would've harbored some trepidation. Not so much trepidation that he would've chosen the (shudders) Angels instead, but hey, all of a sudden, that Dodgers offer begins to look a bit more enticing.

So ... how, exactly, did Blake command respect from Cole, as well as other experienced big-league aces, as someone who was (generously) inexperienced as a high-level arm?

He was brought in to emphasize a new holistic approach from the Yankees, embracing a collaborative, data-driven relationship. So when Cole, point-blank, started the relationship by asking, ""How many mound visits have you done?" he had a baked-in sales pitch and rebuke.

Answer? Zero, but clearly, it hasn't mattered (or stopped Cole from acting as a de facto active player second banana in filtering Blake's message to his minions, aka the rest of the pitching staff).

Yankees' Gerrit Cole asked Matt Blake how many mound visits he'd made before buying in

Currently, Cole is working his way back from elbow inflammation, and just finished his third rehab assignment, so the next step could be a return to the big-league roster. He struck out 10 batters in 4 1/3 innings and allowed just to hits and no walks while throwing 70 pitches. So you can bet he's itching to re-join his teammantes and Blake as the Yankees plow ahead with the best record in MLB.

Cole might have the highest standards in the game for pitching expertise. If he eventually bought into Blake's vision with the Yankees, then it's no surprise an endless parade of scrap heap relievers and tantalizing starts has, too.

In fact, the clearest evidence that Cole has embraced Blake's leadership was his willingness to push back this offseason. With regard to "communication" between the dugout and front office on key analytical points, Cole felt the Yankees were still lacking. Both he and Aaron Judge raised alarms, the Yankees responded and, by all accounts, things have run much smoother since 2024 began.

That's real trust. And it doesn't hurt matters that Blake's got a few more mound visits under his belt at this point, too.