The anticipation surrounding Gerrit Cole’s potential return to the Yankees is palpable, but recent updates suggest fans may need to brace themselves for a prolonged wait. Despite initial optimism, it’s becoming increasingly evident that negotiations between Cole’s camp and the Yankees’ front office are more complex than anticipated.

Explaining The Opt-Out Clause In Gerrit Cole's Yankees Contract
The Yankees could certainly use ace Gerrit Cole whenever he’s ready to contribute — after all, he’s the best arm they’ve got on the payroll. Luckily, though, the pitchers he left in his wake have hardly been the team’s achilles heel, leaving him plenty of time to comfortably rehab in relative silence since the day Dr. ElAttrache gave the go-ahead.

That was March 14, when the Good Doctor prescribed rest and rehab rather than Tommy John surgery. Between Opening Day (when he was placed on the 60-Day IL) and early May (when “catch” progressed to “mound work”), fans didn’t hear much from Cole, outside of some enthusiastic dugout grunting. And that was fine; no news truly was good news, and besides, the detailed updates (if any) were likely to only breed confusion and unnecessary impatience.

Though Cole is technically eligible to return 60 days from March 28, that always felt absurdly ambitious, an inclination that’s been reinforced by his recent light bullpens. Cole threw 15 pitches on May 4, never exerting himself beyond 89 MPH. He threw 20 on May 7, leaning on the fastball and presumably hitting similar velocity marks.

Once he begins experimenting with all his pitches, he’ll need three or four weeks approximating a typical spring training to consider returning to the Yankees. That would (seemingly) make late June or early July a best-case scenario — a completely acceptable reality that most fans probably still don’t want to think about.

Yankees ace Gerrit Cole making good, and slow, progress in return from elbow injury

When asked about Cole’s progress on Tuesday, Aaron Boone was blunt — not as blunt as he was regarding Gleyber Torres’ error, but still. No facts were obscured. Nothing was danced around.

It’s going to be a while. And it should be a while. Through the weekend’s action, Nestor Cortes Jr.’s 3.72 ERA is the highest in the rotation. “They don’t need Cole” is an outright lie, but they’re surviving well enough without Cole that they have plenty of incentive to make sure his ramp-up is as methodical as possible.

Right now, the performance of Cole’s rotation mates has afforded the Yankees even more leeway to be methodical than they might’ve been expecting.

No need for the Yankees to be cagey here. When Cole’s ready, he’ll return. The Yankees’ investment in both the player and the person dictates that they cannot afford to rush any piece of this process.

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