Yankees' Gerrit Cole to begin rehab assignment this week, says Aaron Boone

The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner has yet to pitch this season

The New York Yankees are a step closer to getting their ace back.

Gerrit Cole will begin a minor league rehab assignment on Tuesday with Double-A Somerset, manager Aaron Boone told reporters (via MLB.com's Bryan Hoch) on Sunday afternoon.

Cole, the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner, hasn't pitched for the Yankees for the season after being shut down during spring training with right elbow inflammation. After three recent throwing sessions, which included facing live hitters, he's now on track to return to the Yankees' rotation.

How many rehab starts Cole pitches will depend on how he performs and responds in those outings. Boone indicated he'll have at least a couple starts in the minors before he'll join the big league club, which puts his timeline for a return as early as mid-June.

The Yankees have the best record in the AL going into Sunday's game with the San Francisco Giants. At 41–19, they hold first place in the AL East, two games ahead of the Baltimore Orioles. That success has been largely fueled by the excellent starting pitching the Yankees have gotten in Cole's absence.

Yankees starters have a 2.73 ERA. Only the Philadelphia Phillies (2.67) are currently better in MLB. The rotation recently finished an MLB-record streak of 16 consecutive starts of at least five innings while allowing two runs or fewer. That streak ended last Thursday against the Los Angeles Angels with Carlos Rodón allowing three runs in six innings.

Last week, the Yankees placed Clarke Schmidt on the injured list with a right lat strain. He's expected to be sidelined for four to six weeks, which lines up his return with Cole's.

Right-hander Cody Poteet was called up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to take Schmidt's place in the rotation and he allowed two earned runs with six strikeouts in five innings Saturday versus the Giants.