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Yankees’ Gerrit Cole to make rehab start vs. red-hot Yard Goats

What happens when the hottest team in the Eastern League faces the reigning Cy Young Award winner?

We’re about to find out.

The Hartford Yard Goats, who have won six of seven to surge into second place, will be the opponent when Yankees ace Gerrit Cole, working his way back from injury, makes his first minor rehab start against the Goats on Tuesday night in Somerset, N.J. about a three-hour drive from Dunkin’ Park.

The game will be live streamed on MILB.tv and broadcast on the Audacy app.

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Cole, 33, signed a $324-million contract to join the Yankees in 2020. In 11 big league seasons, with the Pirates, Astros and Yankees, he is 145-75 with a 3.17 ERA. Last season, he was 15-4, leading the league in innings (209), ERA (2.63), striking out 222. His is 51-23 as a Yankee.

During spring training, Cole began experiencing elbow discomfort, diagnosed as nerve inflammation, and was shut down. He avoided surgery, but did not throw for several weeks. As if starting spring training over with 25 tosses on April 8, he has been ramping up slowly with throwing sessions on the side, reporting no set-backs and reaching near peak velocity on his fastball.

Now he is ready to make the first of what will likely be three or four starts in the minor leagues to build up his pitch count and innings to where he could start major league games. He could be targeting a comeback in time for the Yankees’ series against the Red Sox at Fenway Park on June 14.

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The Yard Goats (27-23), a half-game behind Portland in the EL’s Northeast Division, are hitting .257 as a team against Double A pitching with 254 runs scored, both second in the league, and 49 home runs in 50 games. Zac Veen (.326), Hartford’s leading hitter and a Rockies’ first-round draft pick, is out with an injury. Cole will face several of Colorado’s top prospects, and it will be a memorable experience for them. Lefthander Mason Albright (2-3, 4.85) will start on the mound for the Goats.