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Yankees hold off discussing condition of ace Gerrit Cole's elbow

New York Yankees starting pitcher Gerrit Cole walks to the field before a spring training baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays Friday, March 1, 2024, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone held off discussing the condition of ace Gerrit Cole’s elbow, saying he and general manager Brian Cashman want to speak with the AL Cy Young Award winner before making any public comments.

The Yankees disclosed Monday that Cole was experiencing issues in bouncing back following spring training starts, and the 33-year-old right-hander traveled to Los Angeles to be examined by Dodgers team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache, an elbow expert. Cole was traveling back to Tampa on Friday.

Boone did say Friday that Nestor Cortes will start the March 28 opener at Houston.

"It’s just a minor setback for him,” Cortes said of Cole.

Cole is entering the fifth season of a $324 million, nine-year contract that pays $36 million annually. He has the right to opt out after the season and become a free agent, but if he opts out the Yankees can void the opt-out by adding a guaranteed $36 million salary for 2029.

Center fielder Aaron Judge delayed his return to the lineup and won't play Saturday. The 2022 AL MVP hasn't played in a spring training game since Sunday and had an MRI of his abdomen the following day. He hit off a tee and took soft toss in an indoor cage on Friday.

“All I’ll say is, we’re feeling pretty good,” Judge said. “Like I said, the MRI came back clean. I think a lot of it was precautionary and no need to risk stuff in spring training. The main goal is to be game ready for opening day, so just going to work toward that.”

There is no date set as to when Judge will play again.

“He’s doing well,” Boone said. “It’s not something we’re concerned with. It’s just making sure that we don’t turn into an issue so we’re not going to rush anything.”

Cortes threw a four-inning simulated game on Friday. He will make one final spring training start next Thursday.

"It’s a little surreal for me," Cortes said. “Happy to be able to be the opening-day starter. Not ideal for us with Gerrit Cole going down but I'm going to try and pick up where he left off.”

Cortes went 5-2 with a 4.97 ERA in 12 games during an injury-impacted 2023.

Carlos Rodón will start the second game and be followed by Marcus Stroman, who also will take the mound for the home opener April 5 against Toronto. Clarke Schmidt is the fourth starter, while the final rotation spot remains open.

Also Friday, former Yankees manager Joe Torre was in camp as a guest instructor. Torre won four World Series championships and six AL pennants with the Yankees from 1996-2007.

Wearing pinstripe pants and a BP jersey with his old No. 6 on it, Torre sat in the dugout and watched Andy Pettitte, a mainstay left-hander on his title teams, throw batting practice.

“I called him a couple of weeks ago just to check on his schedule and see if he would be willing to come hang out with us for a few days,” Boone said. “Right away he said, ‘Yep, I’ll be there. I’ll plan on being there.’ And then an added treat to see him already in uniform. Could not be more excited to see No. 6 out there.”

“We’re fortunate to have a number of obviously, big-time ex-Yankees in with us this spring and Joe certainly headlines that list of guys we’ve had in here.” Boone added. "So anything anyone can pick up from Joe, I’m just grateful that he’s given us few days here."

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB