‘Really good’ Gerrit Cole changes tone on new MLB baseballs



TAMPA — After expressing concern about getting a feel for the new baseballs MLB is using this season, Gerrit Cole said there wasn’t much difference from what he’s accustomed to in his first start of the spring Monday.

Asked if he could tell a difference, the right-hander said, “Not a whole lot. … I didn’t notice anything.”

Gary Sanchez agreed.

“I haven’t noticed any change at all,’’ Sanchez said through an interpreter after blasting a massive homer in the Yankees 5-4, seven-inning win over Detroit at George M. Steinbrenner Field. “If you hit the ball well and find the barrel, it’s gonna travel well.”

While the ball felt fine to Cole, his results in his first action of the spring were mixed, but he was unconcerned after allowing a run on three hits in a 28-pitch inning in which he threw 15 strikes.

“I was comfortable out there, trying to settle into some pitches,’’ Cole said. “My location wasn’t quite where it should be.”

Gerrit Cole

He added he came out of the outing “feeling good” physically and he’d look to “clean up” his pitching line in his next outing, which Aaron Boone said would likely be with Kyle Higashioka behind the plate, as the manager wants all his pitchers to pitch to various catchers throughout the spring.

Cole’s velocity was solid and Boone called the brief performance from his ace “really good.”

Derek Dietrich, in camp on a minor league deal, started at third base Monday and is hoping his left-handed power will give him a chance of playing in The Bronx, where he’s confident his swing will do well thanks to the short porch in right field.

Dietrich said he’s been told over the years his “left-handed pull power would definitely be rewarded at Yankee Stadium. It’s always something I’ve thought about.”

In addition to playing third, Dietrich said he’s “most comfortable” at second base, which is occupied by DJ LeMahieu. He’s also capable of playing first base and the corner-outfield spots.

“I’ve always been a versatile player,’’ Dietrich said. “A Swiss Army knife to get my bat in the lineup.”

Dietrich spent the first six seasons of his career with the Marlins, most of them with Giancarlo Stanton.

“The guy is an absolute beast,’’ Dietrich said. “He’s obviously matured as a player, just like anyone with experience.”

The two have trained together in Miami in the offseason and Dietrich said Stanton “works harder than almost anybody I’ve ever played with.”

And with Stanton looking to finally stay healthy, Dietrich added “when it’s clicking and he’s consistent and on the field, he’s absolutely the best player on the field.”

Jay Bruce, another veteran in camp on a minor league deal, made a nice running catch near the warning track in left field. … Aaron Hicks picked up where he left off a year ago, walking in each of his two plate appearances. … Sanchez didn’t have the only huge blow of the afternoon for the Yankees. Chris Gittens, a 27-year-old outfielder, cleared the scoreboard in left-center with his grand slam in the fifth. Gittens hit 23 homers for Double-A Trenton in 2019.

Boone and Detroit manager A.J. Hinch met at home plate before Monday’s game and Hinch


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