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Yankees ace Cole throws 15 fastballs in first bullpen session since injuring elbow

Gerrit Cole New York Yankees Gerrit Cole - The Canadian Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Yankees ace Gerrit Cole threw 15 fastballs in a bullpen session Saturday, marking his first time off the mound since getting injured in spring training.

After making some tosses at various distances in the outfield, Cole said he averaged 89 mph in a session that was not maximum effort and described it as “average.”

“Obviously it’s a progression off the mound but I gotta see how the next 48 hours go before I decide when I’m gonna get off the mound again," Cole said. "Somewhere between one and five, not on the backside of the middle of that graph.”

Cole said he threw 13 strikes in a session that took place before the Yankees handed out promotional bobbleheads with his likeness for “Star Wars Day."

“It’s a nice day all together,” Cole said. “I was fired up this morning when I came in and yeah I’ve just been missing it. So it’s nice to be back on the mound.”

The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner has been on the 60-day injured list with right elbow inflammation. He is not expected to make his season debut until at least June.

Cole had recently progressed to throwing on flat ground after the 33-year-old right-hander was shut down in mid-March due to nerve inflammation and edema in his pitching elbow.

Cole is entering the fifth season of a $324 million, nine-year contract that pays $36 million annually. He has the right to opt out after the season and become a free agent, but if he opts out the Yankees can void the opt-out by adding a guaranteed $36 million salary for 2029.

Last season, Cole became the first Yankee to win the Cy Young since Roger Clemens in 2001. He was 15-4 with an AL-best 2.63 ERA and finished with 222 strikeouts.

Without Cole, New York’s starters entered Saturday’s game against Detroit with a 3.43 ERA.

“They’ve done a really job and just given us that opportunity to win a ballgame every single night," manager Aaron Boone said. “Obviously when you have a guy like Gerrit down, that’s imperative for guys to step up."