TAMPA — Gerrit Cole brings to the Yankees a resume that includes a league-best 326 strikeouts and a 2.65 ERA from a year ago, but the 29-year-old is still seeking his first World Series title.
And on the day the Yankees held their first workout of the spring with pitchers and catchers on Thursday, Cole made it clear he understood that with the $324 million contract he signed comes the expectation of a championship.
“I love it,” Cole said of the team’s World Series-or-bust mentality. “From a player perspective, it doesn’t get much [simpler] than that. It’s the dream to go out there every day and try to win every single time. It sounds very simple, but you guys know better than I do, being around this organization, there are a lot of moving parts and there are a lot of people that pour a lot of time into simplifying that one theme: We need to win a world championship… That drive to win is what fuels you.”
The right-hander addressed the media for the first time Thursday after reporting to camp Wednesday.
And in addition to making it clear he didn’t want to talk about his former team’s sign-stealing scandal, Cole expressed bitterness in being part of a team that lost Game 7 of the World Series to Washington.
“It’s easy to stay driven this year,” Cole said of getting within a win of a championship last October. “My free agent process got done really quickly. You mix that excitement with that disappointment or bad feeling you have of losing and you get someone who’s [champing] on the bit. I’m ready to go right now to take care of business. It drives me every year, but specifically last year, coming so close, it just makes the opportunity this year so much more exciting.”
The process of getting ready for the season began before Cole got to Tampa, when he started laying out a schedule with new pitching coach Matt Blake.
Despite Cole’s heavy workload each of the previous two seasons in Houston, he insisted his arm is strong heading into 2020.
“As far as the 250 innings [last season between the regular season and playoffs], I feel pretty recovered,” Cole said. “If anything, I feel like I have more feel for where the ball’s going now, which I guess continues with more experience and the more you throw.”
But Cole will undoubtedly bring more to the Yankees than just what he provides over the course of 30-35 starts.
Masahiro Tanaka and Luis Severino have already talked about picking things up from the new ace, but Cole said he’s looking for a back-and-forth conversation with his fellow pitchers.
“I’m just gonna try to fit in wherever I can, but I’m new here,” Cole said. “The only way to get familiar with things is to communicate. I just want to make sure everyone is on the same page as soon as [possible].”
He singled out Tanaka as someone he’s admired from afar.
“How can you not?” Cole said. “He’s been the quintessential professional here in New York for his entire stay. He dealt with a lot of challenges coming from Japan in the middle of his career to a completely different side of the world. There’s probably some perspective to be gained there.”
The chats Cole has had with coaches and catchers so far involve how he likes his receivers to set up, what the team’s approach is when it comes to setting up opposing hitters and to get familiar with the communication process.
For now, Cole said he’d be leaning on some of his new teammates to show him the ropes until he gets more comfortable, but added that Aaron Boone told the team in his first meeting of the season on Thursday that he’ll be looking for contributions from everyone.
“Aaron, this morning, talked about bringing energy and bringing a positive vibe and focus into the clubhouse,’’ Cole said. “So, essentially, I think he’s really calling on all of us to be leaders in that sense.’’
But they only have one ace.
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