The Yankees made the biggest splash of the 2019 offseason just over a year ago when they signed Gerrit Cole to a nine-year, $324 million deal.
But last season didn't go as planned for the Yankees, who came into the 2020 COVID-shortened season as arguably the biggest favorites to win the World Series, or at least to represent the AL. But instead, the Yanks fell in five games in the ALDS to the Tampa Bay Rays, who would go on to lose in the World Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
"It was pretty tough. It was the first time dealing with all these things, not just for the players but fro everybody else," Cole said told YES Network's Meredith Marakovits Tuesday on playing through the pandemic. "I think we did the best we could and certainly came out better for it in the end."
Cole had a solid first season with the Yankees, going 7-3 with a 2.84 ERA and 0.96 WHIP over his 12 regular season starts, but had an issue with allowing home runs all throughout the year. He carried his strong pitching into the postseason with a 2.88 ERA during his three starts.
"Ultimately we came up short of our goal," Cole said. "As a group, as individuals, we have some more work to do, which is exciting. From a personal standpoint, I felt I was throwing the ball well at the end when it counted most. Still going to focus on making some improvements, but showing up at the end was big."
The Yankees' ace said he's started the light catch portion of his offseason program a bit earlier than usual this year, since he threw much less during the 2020 season than he would have in any other season.
"It's been nice and the ball feels really familiar at this point, so that's a good sign," Cole said.
Despite a smaller workload last season, Cole added that he doesn't expect any change in body or pitching management as he trains this offseason.
"I've been focused on getting out of the gates. ... I wouldn't anticipate anything in the large scheme of things to change. Maybe just a conscious effort early to conserve and be smart about things."
Kyle Higashioka turned into Cole's catcher down the stretch and in the playoffs despite Gary Sanchez being the team's starter, but Cole said he likes the fact that the Yankees have "two quality guys" who can fill in at the spot when they need them to.
"We're fortunate to have two tremendously talented catchers... for someone to be able to fill in at any time and bring some of their talents or their unique attributes to help the team as a whole... that's a blessing to have two quality guys like that," Cole said.
The Yankees rotation isn't set just yet, but there's a possibility they'll look to a lot of young guys to step up and make contributions at the beginning of games. Cole said he's ready to take on the role as teacher as well, aside from handling his own stuff.
"There's a lot of talent there and a lot of great different attributes," Cole said. "You can see why each one of these guys is unique. The future is tremendously exciting."
"Early in my career, I had a real blessing to play with a lot of veterans and the example that they set, some of the habits that I have, I learned from those guys... So I can imagine in New York, in the bright lights and coming up through that system, there's an opportunity for guys to get better from learning from some of the things that I've picked up from older guys a long time ago."