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Gerrit Cole injury update: Yankees ace will not throw for 3-4 weeks due to elbow nerve inflammation, edema

New York Yankees ace and reigning AL Cy Young winner Gerrit Cole told reporters on Saturday (including Bryan Hoch) that he’ll be shut down for three to four weeks as he deals with nerve inflammation and edema. He is not, at this point, expected to receive a PRP injection. While Cole did not put a timetable on his return to the mound, previous forecasts had him slated to miss 10-12 weeks, as MLB.com reported on Thursday

Cole has undergone an MRI, CT scan, and X-rays in the past week. He also underwent further testing during an in-person appointment with Dr. Neal ElAttrache on Thursday. Following the visit, the New York Post reported that Cole’s visit with the renowned surgeon brought relatively good news. The report indicates there’s a belief that Cole can avoid Tommy John surgery and he could return after “rest, rehab and some conservative, non-surgical” treatment. 

Boone had previously said Cole was not recovering well between outings, which was the cause for concern, initially. Cole threw two innings and 39 pitches in his spring debut on March 1. He has not appeared in a game since, but he did throw 45-50 pitches in a simulated game on March 7.

It goes without saying that losing Cole for any length of time would be a devastating blow to a Yankees team that is trying to return to the postseason after going 82-80 in 2023, the franchise’s worst record in three decades. He is one of the most indispensable players in the game not only because of his excellence, but also his durability. Cole last missed a start for a non-COVID reason in 2016.

The Yankees traded four pitchers, including Michael King and depth starters Jhony Brito and Randy Vásquez, for Juan Soto over the winter. As things stand, their rotation depth chart looks like this:

  1. RHP Gerrit Cole (possibly out two months)
  2. LHP Carlos Rodón (injured and ineffective in 2023)
  3. RHP Marcus Stroman
  4. LHP Nestor Cortes (injured and ineffective in 2023)
  5. RHP Clarke Schmidt (set new career high by 66 innings in 2023)
  6. RHP Luke Weaver
  7. RHP Will Warren (not on 40-man roster)

A long-term injury to Cole could push the Yankees into the market for a starting pitcher. Reigning NL Cy Young winner Blake Snell and former Yankee Jordan Montgomery remain unsigned free agents, and either would be a significant upgrade to New York’s rotation, with or without Cole. Whether the Yankees engage Scott Boras, who also represents Cole, on Montgomery or Snell remains to be seen.

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Cole, 33, can opt out of the remaining four years and $144 million remaining on his contract after the season, though the Yankees can void the opt out by exercising a one-year club option worth $36 million. Obviously a major elbow injury could affect that decision, though that is still a ways away.

Last season, Cole led the league in innings (209), ERA (2.63), ERA+ (165), WHIP (0.98), and WAR (7.4), among other things. He missed approximately six weeks spread across two injured list stints with elbow inflammation while with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2016. That is the only other arm injury of his career.

Unfortunately for the Yankees, Cole is not their only star player undergoing testing this week. Outfielder Aaron Judge underwent an MRI on his abs and is taking some time off before swinging a bat again.

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