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Aaron Boone not surprised by what Yankees’ rotation has done without Gerrit Cole

When it became clear that an elbow injury was going to sideline Gerrit Cole midway through spring training, panic ensued among the public.

The ace had been the only sure thing in the Yankees’ rotation last season, winning the first Cy Young of his career while teammates succumbed to injuries and inconsistency. The Yankees, desperate for a return to the postseason, already had multiple questions among their starters, particularly ones surrounding the health and capability of Carlos Rodón and Nestor Cortes.

How could the staff possibly stay afloat with Cole on the shelf?

Fast forward to present day and the Yankees have one of the best starting quintets in baseball, a group comprised of Rodón, Cortes, Marcus Stroman, Clarke Schmidt and Luis Gil. Prior to Rodón starting Sunday’s game against the White Sox, the rotation’s 3.00 ERA ranked third in the majors, trailing the Red Sox (2.73) and Phillies (2.63).

Cole has yet to throw a pitch to live hitters, let alone in a game of any kind.

“Yes,” Aaron Boone said when asked if he thought the Yankees’ rotation could be this good without its top dog. “I acknowledged the questions just based on guys coming off of injury, off a down performance, whatever it may be. But all the guys we’re talking about, I know they’re capable of what they’re doing so far. That said, it doesn’t always work out that way, but I’m not surprised by what any of those individuals are doing.”

Boone did include one exception, noting that Luis Gil has been a bit of a shocker.

The 25-year-old essentially missed the last two seasons while recovering from Tommy John surgery, but the flamethrower has a 2.39 ERA after striking out 14 White Sox on Saturday, a Yankees’ rookie record.

Gil has the best ERA on the team, but every Yankee starter had a mark under Cortes’ high of 3.56 as of Sunday morning. Schmidt, in just his second season as a full-time starter, ranked second with a 2.49 ERA.

“I guess maybe Luis, the way he’s kind of gone from getting optioned in early spring to pitching at this level this quick, maybe that’s a little surprising,” Boone said. “But I’m not surprised by what any of them are doing based on what they’ve shown in the past and what some of the young players that are still ascending are capable of based on their talent.”

Bat-Tracking the Bombers

Major League Baseball recently publicized a ton of bat-tracking data, releasing information on bat speed, swing length and more.

As of Sunday morning, Giancarlo Stanton led all big leaguers with an average bat speed of 80.5 mph. That was noticeably higher than Pittsburgh’s Oneil Cruz, who ranks second at 77.9 mph.

Also in the top 10: Aaron Judge was sixth at 76.5 mph, while Juan Soto was ninth at 76.1 mph. The two and Stanton had combined for 34 home runs.

“I do think opponents are aware of those three guys and how they’re swinging the bat and certainly know what they’re capable of when they’re at their best,” Boone said. “If you gotta navigate that, you better be on your game or you’ll be backing up bases and looking at that scoreboard with your mouth open because they have the ability to hit the ball with such authority all over the place.”

Soto led all Yankees and was fourth in the majors with 94 squared up balls. He also had 60 blasts, which ranked second in the majors behind Milwaukee’s William Contreras (64). Judge ranked fifth overall with 52.

Stanton had the second-longest swing in baseball at 8.3 feet. Only Detroit’s Javier Báez has a longer one (8.6 feet). Judge ranked fifth at 8.1 feet.

Soto and Gleyber Torres led the Yankees with seven swords, or awkward swings. Anthony Volpe ranked first on the Yankees and eighth in baseball with 299 competitive swings.

Plans for LeMahieu and Kahnle

With DJ LeMahieu (nondisplaced foot fracture) already scheduled to play for Double-A Somerset on Sunday, Boone said the plan is for the infielder to play in back-to-back games on Tuesday and Wednesday. Monday is an off day in the minor leagues.

From there, the Yankees hope to have LeMahieu play in three straight games over the weekend before he possibly makes his season debut on the team’s upcoming West Coast road trip.

Tommy Kahnle (delayed throwing program) was scheduled to pitch for Somerset on Sunday. Boone said he will probably be activated on Wednesday.


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