The Yankees’ new ace has spoken: He can’t wait to put on the pinstripes.
Gerrit Cole has arrived in New York City for his big unveiling this week and sounded ready to take on the challenge as the missing piece in the Yankees’ pursuit of their first World Series crown since 2009.
The right-hander with lightning in his arm stopped to sign autographs and answer a few questions Monday afternoon in front of the upscale Mandarin Oriental New York hotel in Midtown.
“What doesn’t excite me?” Cole said, in his first public comments since agreeing to a record-breaking nine-year, $324 million contract to play in The Bronx. “The history, the fans, the city, competitiveness.”
Cole, wearing a trucker hat, leather jacket and brown pants, had a tentatively scheduled physical on Monday with a press conference expected Wednesday at the Stadium.
Cole said the decision to sign with the Yankees was difficult. Initially, most experts thought the 29-year-old Newport Beach, Calif., native would sign with either the Angels or Dodgers. But the Yankees won out.
“I just had to be thorough with it,” he said.
Cole was still sporting a beard and longish hair Monday, but plans to adhere to the franchise’s rules about facial hair and shave.
“Unfortunately,” he said with a smile. When asked if he would try to keep his scruff, he responded: “That’s nuts.”
The Yankees drafted Cole in the first round out of high school in 2008, but saw him go to UCLA rather than turn pro. They tried to trade for him, but watched as the Pirates dealt him to the Astros two years ago. The third time was the charm.
For all their success recently, winning 203 regular-season games the last two seasons and 91 the year before that, the Yankees have lacked that ace to put at the top of the rotation. Cole is that pitcher, coming off two seasons in which he went 35-10 with a 2.68 ERA, worked 412 ²/₃ innings and struck out 602.
With a fastball in the high 90s and a wipeout slider, he helped the Astros reach the World Series for the second time in three years, eliminating the Yankees in six games in the ALCS this past October. But now he’s a Yankee.