PITTSBURGH — It’s been five years, but apparently a piece of Gerrit Cole’s heart is still connected to this place. The Yankees ace was nostalgic Tuesday afternoon when he met with writers that covered him back when he was the Pirates ace.
“It’s a pretty special feeling. Amy and I were kind of walking around town the other day with Caden and it’s just kind of surreal,” Cole said of his wife and son. “You know the last time we left we felt like we were just kids and now we have a 2-year old.”
Cole was one of three former Pirates returning to PNC Park for the first time for this two-game interleague series against the Pirates. Jameson Taillon and Clay Holmes were here more recently. Taillon was starting Tuesday night’s game and Holmes talked about how excited he was to see the people that he worked with here.
Cole was the No.1 overall pick for the Pirates in 2011 and made his major league debut here on June 11, 2013. In five seasons with the Pirates, Cole was 59-42 with a 3.50 ERA. He was part of the team that won the 2013 wild card game, the franchise’s first taste of the playoffs in 20 years. He was dealt to the Astros in January 2018 for Michael Feliz, Jason Martin, Colin Moran and Joe Musgrove. It was in his two seasons with the Astros where Cole redefined himself as an elite pitcher — and earned the nine-year, $324 million deal he has now with the Yankees.
He is not scheduled to start here. He will open the four-game series in Fenway against the Red Sox on Thursday. But getting back on the PNC Park mound, where he threw his first pitch as a big leaguer, would have meant a lot to him.
“I was slated for this one until the rain-out and then the extra kind of shuffle and I had it circled so but hopefully with the schedule change the next few years, with (MLB proposed changes) and the divisions shake out differently,” Cole said. “we’ll have another opportunity coming up soon to pitch here. This would just be special. I mean, I had my first RBIs, first base hits, my first pitch, first strikeout, first win in the wildcard… just a lot of great baseball that we played on this field. A lot of hard work and so it’s kind of tough for me to sum it up into words.”
Anthony Rizzo was scratched from the Yankees lineup less than an hour before first pitch with “lower back stiffness,” according to the team. The issue is something Rizzo has dealt with before and could cost him a few games, Yankees manager Aaron Boone said after the Bombers 5-2 loss to the Pirates at PNC Park.
“It might end up being a couple of days, but we’ll see what we have coming in tomorrow,” Boone said. “He said it’s something that’s similar to what’s popped up on him before and it’s usually a day or two. So I expect that to be a day to day situation. So we’ll see.”
Rizzo 32, has had a history of back issues dating back to his time with the Cubs.
Boone said it wasn’t a play or swing, it just kind of popped up on him Tuesday.
“He was hoping with all the work he was doing before, kind of free him up a little bit and just didn’t happen,” Boone said. “So pulled the plug on it an hour before. And we’ll just keep working to try and get him some relief.”
The first baseman has been an integral part of the Yankees success this season. Rizzo is slashing .223/.336/.507 with an .844 OPS. He is one of three Yankees sluggers with at least 20 homers. He has clubbed 22 in 77 games this season and driven in 52 runs.
LOAISIGA COMING BACK
Right-handed reliever Jonathan Loaisiga threw a live batting practice on Tuesday and is ready to start his minor league rehabs. He will pitch for Tampa on Saturday and then meet the Yankees back in New York.
“He’ll probably do another one or two (minor league rehab games) with either Somerset or Scranton,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said.
Loaisiga has been on the injured list with right shoulder inflammation since May 25.
Miguel Castro, who was on the paternity leave list over the weekend in Cleveland, is still in the Dominican Republic, but expected back for Wednesday’s game.
“We’re hoping he’ll be back tomorrow. I think everything was going well,” Boone said. “Matt (Blake) actually spoke with him a couple hours ago. So he is expected to be here tomorrow.
Manny Banuelos, who the Yankees designated for assignment last week, was traded to the Pirates over the weekend. He is expected to be at the game on Wednesday and Boone said he is happy to see the one-time Yankees prospect get another shot in the big leagues.
“I mean, excited for him to have an opportunity. He can pitch. So I’m not surprised somebody claimed him,” Boone said. “It was great having him here all spring and then obviously when we brought him up, he earned that opportunity and now because of the work he’s done this spring and early in the first part of this season, he’s earned an opportunity with another big league club so happy for that. Sad we don’t have them anymore but excited he’s getting this opportunity to pitch.”