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Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

At long last, Gerrit Cole is making his 2024 season debut.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone told media on Monday that the reigning AL Cy Young winner will make his return from elbow soreness on Wednesday. He’ll face the second-place Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium.

Cole has been on the injured list since first reporting pain in his elbow early in spring training. There was obvious concern, but cooler heads prevailed as Cole’s velocity had never dropped.

As expected, the Yankees took their time with his rehab. Cole basically went through an entire spring training ramp-up working his way back. His last rehab start was with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Friday, and he struck out ten hitters in 4.2 innings.

The New York Yankees’ pitching staff, already the best in baseball with a 3.02 collective ERA, is about to get stronger. Cole re-joins a rotation that has been anchored excellently in his absence. Carlos Rodon has bounced back, Marcus Stroman is a natural fit, and Luis Gil has been better most of this year than Cole was in a Cy Young season.

Gerrit Cole was one of the Yankees’ few bright spots in the lost 2023 season. He went 15-4 with an AL-leading 2.63 ERA in 33 starts, striking out 222 in 209 innings. Cole’s 165 ERA+ also led the AL, making him 65% better than the average pitcher. He received all first-place votes.

As to Wednesday, fans should expect Cole to be one some sort of pitch count, but not exactly a short leash. He has a 2.55 career ERA against the Orioles and will hopefully generate plenty of whiffs. The Yankees really need him to set a tone and widen the team’s lead in the division.

Of course, Gerrit Cole coming back from injury means that someone gets demoted. Cody Poteet could be the one, particularly since he’s filling in for an injured Clarke Schmidt. But we all know the real correct choice.

Nestor Cortes, please report to the bullpen. Nestor Cortes, bullpen.

Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.