Gerrit Cole set to throw first batting practice for Yankees

TAMPA — After going through stretching exercises Saturday morning on Field 3 of the Yankees’ spring training complex, the pitchers played catch.

While that exercise was going on, Gerrit Cole stood off to the side and didn’t participate.

Considering the Yankees dropped a nine-year deal on the right-handed free agent for $324 million last December, the sight of Cole not participating in a routine game of catch on the third day of spring training was eye-catching.

When the program moved to pitchers fielding drills, Cole rejoined the other pitchers taking ground balls and covering first base, and doing each with a purpose.

So why skip the mundane act of playing catch?

Part of his program doesn’t call for Cole to toss the day after throwing a bullpen session, which he did Friday.

Gerrit Cole
Gerrit ColeCharles Wenzelberg

“I am throwing a [batting practice] inning [Sunday],” Cole said following a workout at Steinbrenner Field.

Cole will be front and center at 11:45 a.m. Sunday morning on the main field when he throws batting practice. It will be the initial look at the pitcher the Yankees expect to lead them to their first World Series title since 2009. In the big picture it means very little, but it is the first step toward spring training game action and the start of the regular season.

Asked if Cole would be the Yankees’ Opening Day starter March 26 at Baltimore, manager Aaron Boone said with a straight face, “There is a good chance of that.”

The only way Cole doesn’t draw the Opening Day assignment is if he is injured. Though Masahiro Tanaka is capable of drawing the prestigious start, the Yankees didn’t drop $324 million on Cole to be anything other than their No. 1 starter.

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