Yankees pitcher Gerrit Cole throws off mound for first time since spring training shutdown

Cole has been recovering from inflammation in his right elbow

FILE - New York Yankees pitcher Gerrit Cole (45) throws against the Detroit Tigers during the fifth inning of a baseball game Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2023, in New York. Yankees ace Gerrit Cole is scheduled to throw off a mound Saturday, May 4, 2024 for the first time since getting hurt in spring training.(AP Photo/Adam Hunger, File)
New York Yankees ace Gerrit Cole threw off a mound Saturday for the first time since getting hurt in spring training. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger, File)

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

Gerrit Cole threw off a mound in a bullpen session for the first time since he was shut down during spring training due to inflammation in his right elbow.

The reigning American League Cy Young Award winner only threw 15 pitches, all fastballs, but was apparently happy with the result. He threw 13 of his 15 pitches for strikes and averaged 89 mph,

"This is a good day for me today," Cole told reporters after the session, via the New York Post. "I was fired up this morning when I came in. I’ve just been missing it, so it’s nice to be back on the mound."

The right-hander rated himself as "somewhere under five" on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being ready to pitch in a game, according to the Post.

Cole, 33, and the Yankees will have to see how his elbow responds after throwing. Even if he doesn't experience any setbacks, it could still be quite some time before he's ready to pitch for the Yankees.

The team didn't put a timeline on Cole's return upon shutting him down. He's eligible to be activated from the 60-day injured list at the end of May. But once Cole can resume a regular routine, he will essentially have to build up to a starter's workload in a progression that usually plays out in spring training. That's typically a six-week process and Cole isn't ready for that yet.

Last season, Cole compiled a 2.63 ERA and 222 strikeouts in 209 innings, compiling a 15–4 record in 33 starts. With that performance, he was a unanimous winner in AL Cy Young Award voting.

The Yankees have played well without Cole thus far, with a 21–13 record going into Saturday's matchup with the Detroit Tigers. That has New York in second place in the AL East, one game behind the Baltimore Orioles. Yankees starting pitchers have a 3.43 ERA collectively, with the staff compiling a 3.03 ERA overall. Marcus Stroman leads starters throwing at least 36 innings with a 3.41 ERA.