The New York Yankees were pegged as World Series favorites last offseason when they signed Gerrit Cole to a nine-year, $324 million deal. However, the COVID-shortened season didn't go as they would've liked.
The Bronx Bombers' season ended with a Game 5 American League Division Series loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, who went on to lose the World Series to the loaded Los Angeles Dodgers. While Cole had a solid first season in Pinstripes, he admitted that playing amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic was very difficult.
"It was pretty tough. It was the first time dealing with all these things, not just for the players but for everybody else," Cole said told YES Network's Meredith Marakovits Tuesday. "I think we did the best we could and certainly came out better for it in the end."
The 30-year-old went 7-3 with a 2.84 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 94 strikeouts in 73 innings. He carried his solid play on the mound into the postseason, where he went 2-0 in three starts with a 2.95 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and 30 strikeouts in 18.1 innings.
While the Yanks' rotation will look a little different in 2021, Cole will remain the team's No. 1 pitcher. He admitted in his interview with Marakovits that he hopes to take on a mentor role on top of handling his regular duties.
"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."
Any sort of leadership role Cole takes on will benefit the Yankees. New York hasn't won a title since 2009, though it hopes to change that in 2021 with help from its ace pitcher.