It’s finally about to get real for Yankees’ Gerrit Cole

Gerrit Cole already holds one Yankees record:

Most hoops jumped through to reach pinstriped debut.

But now, barring another cataclysmic event — and let’s not rule that out, for sure — the $301.3 million man has jumped through his last hoop. It’s time to do something that counts.

It’s time, finally, for Opening Night.

“Nothings guaranteed in 2020 so I’ll take it one day at a time,” the wise Yankees right-hander said after throwing six innings and 87 pitches in a Yankee Stadium intrasquad game, allowing two runs and striking out five and walking none. “Hopefully we get there because we’ve put a lot of hard work in. … I’m excited to start my career here as well.”

It won’t be at home, as the Yankees will play at the home of the defending champion Nationals on Thursday night, and it won’t be as loud as one would like, thanks to the coronavirus rightly convincing Major League Baseball to open the season without paying fans. The Yankees auditioned their version of artificial fan noise on Friday, and boy, it was so rough that even Aaron Boone conceded that it sounded like someone trying to tune an AM radio. Personally, it reminded me of the nocturnal mutants in “I Am Legend.”

Gerrit Cole
Gerrit ColeN.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg

Alas, we take what we can get. MLB released some encouraging COVID-19 test numbers on Friday, with only six of over 10,000 samples turning out positive, and it looks like we’ll make it to the start of the season, at least.

The Yankees will get there definitely without closer Aroldis Chapman, who is quarantined, and probably without their best player of 2019 DJ LeMahieu, who returned to the Stadium on Friday after his own quarantine. Yet they should have Cole, who pitched in four Grapefruit League games before the shutdown and then three intrasquad games during spring training 2.0. Who formally introduced himself to the Yankees fan base seven months ago Saturday, for crying out loud.

He crushed it that day, and he really has yet to slip up under Yankees employ. As you watched him work Friday, warming up to the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” in the first inning, then immediately working himself into a lather when “Bombers” leadoff hitter Mike Tauchman fouled off three pitches, you lamented that he did so in a near-empty ballpark. Yankees fans will love seeing Cole’s act in person, and he’ll feed off that energy, if we ever get to that point.

“Everything he does out there is impressive,” Cole’s catcher Gary Sanchez said through an interpreter.

Cole served up back-to-back homers in the fourth inning to Mike Ford and Miguel Andujar, the byproduct, he said, of his breaking stuff quitting on him and putting him in fastball counts, on which his teammates pounced. He took pride in escaping a first-and-third, one-out jam in the fifth by striking out Kyle Holder and retiring Tauchman on a groundout to second.

“I’ve been watching the same games you guys have,” Aaron Boone said to reporters. “The stuff’s been there.”

This being the weirdest and worst year ever, Boone also had to answer a question about suspended right-hander Domingo German posting on Instagram that he was retiring (Boone said he didn’t know about it). Ay yi yi. Maybe baseball games actually can serve as a pleasant, momentary diversion from the rest of this insane world. Maybe Cole can set the example with his first start as a Yankee, first start (against the Nats’ Max Scherzer) for the sport in this new world.

“It’s gonna be fun. It’s gonna have fake crowd noise. It’s gonna be 2020 coronavirus baseball,” Cole said, laughing. “But I’ll get to put the road jersey on for the first time. ‘New York’ across the chest. So [I’m] stoked about that. Stoked about playing in some high-stakes games with the boys. It’s been a while since we’ve been out there to do that.

“So [I’m] generally excited. Looking forward to it. And we’ll start the preparation to try to get a W in the next 24, 48 hours.”

His hoops jumped, the record unofficially set, Cole turns his focus to a smaller round object: Rings. The pursuit starts Thursday.

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