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Cole and Britton Thrilled to be Back at the Ballpark

Gerrit Cole and Zach Britton both met with the media Friday via Zoom from Yankee Stadium and both expressed how excited everyone is to be back at the ballpark and to get back to playing baseball. “It’s been a long summer for everybody,” expressed Cole. “I’m thrilled to get back on the field.” Britton commented similarly to Cole stating, “It’s exciting (to be back at Yankee Stadium). It’s nice to get back in the swing of things a little and to get this thing started.”

Cole was out on the field yesterday for simulated game action. According to Yankees pitching coach, Matt Blake, Cole topped 99 MPH on the radar gun. “As far as where I’m at now, it’s a great baseline. I threw three innings yesterday, about 40 to 45 pitches at normal velocity,” stated Cole on yesterday’s workout. Cole says he will be on a five day swing, with one six day swing early on in camp, with the extra day being determined on fatigue & workload each week. During the break between Spring Training and “summer camp,” Cole remained on normal schedule, initially pitching from a mound every fifth or sixth day, with the middle of the break more at every seven days. Once there was a season on a horizon, he began to ramp back up, pitching from a mound every five days. He feels the work he did at home and with Adam Ottavino, Aaron Boone and Radley Haddad (Yankees bullpen catcher) prepared him really well for getting back to camp this week. “It was a real team effort to stay in shape,” said Cole. Cole and Ottavino had the advantage of not living far apart and also having Manager, Aaron Boone down the road as well.

Britton threw his first official bullpen session this afternoon after going through the MLB testing process. Asked about how he felt, Britton stated, “I feel good. I feel like if we had to play right now, I could pitch and be fine based on the work I did at home. Getting back in the competitive atmosphere again is the biggest thing for a lot of guys.” Britton, who threw bullpens, played catch, and tried to simulate spring training at home during the break the best he could, is scheduled to face hitters for the first time at Camp on Sunday. He stated that he has been throwing off the mound and facing hitters as much as possible during the break.

Both Cole and Britton were asked about how they felt returning to the ballpark and returning to game action later this month with everything going on with the virus and climbing cases.

Cole, who’s wife just gave birth to their son, Caden Gerrit Cole at 7:47 on June 30th was questioned by the media on how he felt about returning to the game with a new born and how he felt about health & safety. “I have faith we can get through this and get through this safely,” Cole responded. He reiterated that MLB and the Yankees are taking all the necessary precautions to get the season up and running. Cole expressed that players want to play because it brings hope in a time when the world needs hope. He trusts they can do a good job of isolating themselves and staying smart and safe in and out of the ballpark. Cole expressed that if those matters are done properly, that they players will be fine. He did acknowledge the fact that players may test positive, but with the focus on baseball, he said they’ll deal with it when they come. “If we can bring some smiles to faces and joy in this time, and keep ourselves safe and set an example of how we go about work on the field in this pandemic.. we’re looking forward to these opportunities. That’s why I’m here,” expressed Cole. “To take that burden on and take it in stride. I’m honored to do it.”

Britton responded similarly saying that it feels weird to not be in close quarters with his teammates. He expressed, “It’s been a while. It’s good to see everybody,” but said it’s definitely different to not be able to hug each other and do things in close quarters like usual. Everyone is respecting each other’s space and wearing masks in the clubhouse. Britton, who has a young family of his own, stated that everyone is being conscious and giving space,” but that moving forward it’ll be more comfortable to do and players will adjust. Teams are expected to create a code of conduct heading into camp, which Britton stated the team will address in meetings in the coming days, reiterating that it’s about just being conscious and considerate to each and every person.

The Yankees do hope to have fans in the stands at some point this season. Britton stated that until then, it’s going to be a challenge getting used to playing in an empty stadium. He believes it’s the team that can self-motivate the best that is going to come out on top. He believes in his team and their ability to do so and says, while there’s no way you avoid the awkward echoes of an empty stadium that the players will be able to adjust, but that it will be a challenge.

Photo: Yankees Media Relations

Britton was also the representative from the Yankees in the MLBPA negotiations with owners over the break. He said the negotiations were not supposed to be public and that it was unfortunate they became public. He stated that now that they’re back at the ballpark, “now that we’re back playing, that’s my focus. Everything in between during negotiations was a difficult time for the game. The focus is now on getting back to baseball.”

Both Cole and Britton reiterated that the players are just happy to be back to playing baseball. Britton stated that he has talked to players from other teams and ultimately, all the guys are excited to be back on the field and to get back to playing.

The Yankees’ first full-team workout is scheduled for Saturday, July 4th. They then open their season on July 23rd against the Nationals in Washington.

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Cole is slated to be the Yankees Opening Day starter on July 23rd when the Yankees take on the Nationals in Washington. When asked what his thoughts were about opening day, Cole responded with, “Gardner called it in a group chat… I’m excited. It’s an enticing matchup with pitching against them in the world series last year. Hopefully it draws some good attention.” Cole expressed that the MLB season opening up in DC is perfect for the country.  He expressed that with both Aaron’s (Aaron Judge and Aaron Hicks) healthy, that the Yankees have a good chance this season and that their focus is to come out hot and win some ballgames. He discussed the connection the team has with the fans in New York City and that the players just want to compete and get after it.

Cole rounded out his press conference stating the following about the season: “It’s going to be a different season. There’s only going to be one coronavirus world series champion and that’s unique in and of itself. And I don’t see why you wouldn’t want to take that trophy home, especially when you’re competing against your peers and there’s only going to be one of them.”

Written By

Alexis Farinacci is a baseball beat writer and social media editor for the Pinstriped Prospects. Follow Alexis on Twitter & Instagram: @alexisfarinacci .

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