New York Yankees ace pitcher Gerrit Cole made his first rehab start Tuesday evening, throwing 3 1/3 scoreless innings for the team’s Double-A affiliate. Cole will likely make several more starts in the minors on a loosening pitch count before he returns to the roster.

Pitching for the Somerset Patriots Tuesday, Cole threw just 45 pitches, striking out five batters and allowing two hits in the outing. He told reporters after the game that he felt “close” to a return from nerve inflammation he sustained during spring training earlier this year.

Before Cole’s rehab start, Yankees manager Aaron Boone said that Cole’s progress and eventual timetable for return will depend on the manner in which he continues to recover. Regardless of whether he returns early, he will be on a tight but slightly increasing pitch count each time he plays.

“It just depends,” Boone said about Cole’s potential return, according to MLB.com. “Do we want to bring him in a situation where he’s at 60, 65, 70 pitches? Do we want him to have one more (rehab start)? We’ll have a better feel for that, and certainly Gerrit will have a better feel for that as he now goes and starts pitching in games.”

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Despite Cole’s absence, the Yankees have thrived in the 2024 season and should only benefit further from his return. Young star Luis Gil has been brilliant on the mound and is currently in contention for Rookie of the Year honors while sluggers Aaron Judge and Juan Soto have been spectacular at the plate. The team is currently 44-19 and lead the A.L. East division.

With such strong results already this season, the Yankees should be in an excellent position later this summer when their A.L. Cy Young winner returns to the rotation. Nearing a return after months of recovery, Cole is still patient.

“We’ll take it start by start, just like we have the whole time,” Cole said. “It was a good day yesterday, so very encouraged.”

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