Gerrit Cole’s return to the Yankees’ rotation could be extremely beneficial in the coming weeks, but his 2024 debut Wednesday night was largely forgettable. New York’s ace threw four innings and allowed two runs in a 7-6 extra-innings loss to the Orioles.

“I’m tired now,” Cole said after the game. “Certainly a different level. It just demands a higher level of focus and execution. I definitely felt I could keep making pitches, but it was strategic in the pitch count. And, certainly, in that regard we executed that perfectly.”

Cole was on a tight pitch count in his first game back from a lingering elbow ailment, exiting the game after 62 pitches. He failed to get an out in the fifth inning, allowing a Cedric Mullins single and opening the door for the Orioles to take a 4-1 lead against reliever Ron Marinaccio later in the inning.

“I felt pretty good,” Cole said of his performance. “Good command for the most part. And made some good pitches when we needed to make some good pitches.”

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The Yankees fought back later in the game to tie it 6-6, but the bullpen finally cracked in the 10th inning. Star relief pitcher Clay Holmes allowed the automatic runner to score and then let in an unearned run on a throwing error. New York scored in the bottom of the frame but could not get even.

Despite making several rehab starts in the minor leagues, Cole was in deep company against the Orioles, the Yankees’ current arch-rivals in the race for the A.L. East division title, in his MLB return. The reigning A.L. Cy Young winner performed solidly under the circumstances.

It would require a dramatic collapse later this season for New York to miss the playoffs, and the hope is that Cole regains his usual form over the summer and makes a difference for the team in the postseason.

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