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As Gerrit Cole recovers, the New York Yankees are thriving on the mound

Perhaps the most notable thing about the pitching performances the Yankees are getting from their starters is that none of those pitches are thrown by Gerrit Cole.

Unless you count Cole's progress in executing throws during his bullpen sessions during his recovery from an elbow injury that will likely last into June.

With 33 wins in 48 games – the same as two years ago – the Yankees have an ERA of 2.81, which is 14 points fewer than in 2022, when they also started 33-15. The Yankees are doing well while averaging 8.7 strikeouts per game, compared to 9.2 strikeouts to this point in 2022 en route to 99 wins.

“I just answered the questions because the guys are coming off an injury, a poor performance, whatever it may be,” manager Aaron Boone said Sunday morning. But I know that all the guys we’re talking about are capable of what they’re doing so far.”

Cole has been out since mid-March and some advocated spending on free agents Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery, a left-handed duo who signed with San Francisco and Arizona, respectively.

There were calls for these moves because questions remained about the rotation beyond Cole, whose Cy Young defense was halted when the injury was reported.

There continued to be questions about Marcus Stroman, who battled some injuries last year with the Cubs. Another question was whether Nestor Cortes could return in 2022 after pitching once last season after May 30, and another question was whether Clarke Schmidt could take the next step after a career-high in innings pitched last season could do.

Perhaps the biggest concern concerned Carlos Rodón, whose first season of a six-year, $162 million contract was a nightmare due to a forearm, elbow and then a brief hamstring injury. The first two ailments kept Rodon from taking the mound just before the All-Star break as the 2023 season began to deteriorate, and after he pitched he was 3-8 with an ERA of 6.85 in 14 starts spanning 64 1/3 innings.

Rodon is about nine innings shy of last season's total and also has two more wins after the Yankees made it seven straight games with a starter playing at least six and allowing two runs or fewer. It's the first time the Yankees have done this since July 6-16, 2010, and back then their rotation consisted of CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes and Javier Vazquez.

“I sit in the dugout now and look around and I feel pretty comfortable in this stadium,” Rodón said. “I thought about it my first month here in April. I look around and think, 'This doesn't feel overwhelming anymore.'” This feels like home.'”

And in his last comfortable outing, he threw a pitch while still recovering from poor weather conditions and had 23 hits and misses against the team that made him a first-round pick in 2014 and a no-hitter to start the 2021 season led to a contract with the San Francisco Giants and an eventual signing in December 2022.

The latest strong start also came a day after Luis Gil loaded the bases in the first inning and then set a rookie record with 14 strikeouts, breaking Orlando Hernández's 1998 mark. And perhaps Gil was another big question given his recovery from Tommy John surgery in 2022, and he's remarkably dominant for the fifth time.

Cole will return at some point, but in the meantime, the Yankees will continue to enjoy what their rotation is accomplishing en route to the best record in the American League.

“I just answered the questions because the guys are coming off an injury, a poor performance, whatever it may be,” manager Aaron Boone said Sunday morning. But I know that all the guys we’re talking about are capable of what they’re doing so far.”

Anna Harden

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