On Sunday afternoon, the New York Yankees improved to an MLB-best 8-2 courtesy of a Giancarlo Stanton grand slam and an 8-3 win over the Toronto Blue Jays (box score). New York has won all three series they've played and they've yet to lose a game when they score a run -- their two losses were shutouts.

The Yankees also received good news prior to Sunday's game. Reigning AL Cy Young winner Gerrit Cole, who has yet to pitch this season because of nerve inflammation in his elbow, is expected to begin throwing this coming week. Tests revealed Cole has no ligament or structural damage in his elbow. Once the inflammation clears out, he can begin throwing. 

"I think in the next couple of days," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Sunday when asked when Cole would begin a throwing program (via Newsday). "Maybe (Monday) or Tuesday."

Cole is on the 60-day injured list and thus can not return until May 27 at the earliest. He will need what amounts to a full spring training to prepare for the season, and the first step is playing catch sometime this week. Cole has been shut down since March 11 and it will take six weeks or so to get built up. The Yankees will of course be cautious with their ace as well.

The rotation without Cole has pitched well enough. The starters just aren't giving the Yankees much length. Marcus Stroman has completed six innings in both of his starts. In the other eight games, the starters have recorded two outs total after the fifth inning. Luis Gil, who is filling Cole's rotation spot, struck out eight Sunday, but threw 95 pitches in 4 1/3 innings.

Yankees SPMLB rank

IP per G












Because of all the short starts, the Yankees' bullpen ranks fourth in the league in innings pitched, and two of the teams ahead of them are the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres. They've played two extra games because of the Seoul Series. Only the 1-9 Miami Marlins have asked their bullpen to throw more innings than the Yankees among the other 27 teams.

Cole led the American League with 209 innings pitched last season and the Yankees badly miss his ability to eat innings and spare the bullpen every fifth day. Right now they're leaning on Stroman to be the rotation stabilizer. Otherwise the Yankees aren't 100% sure what they're going to get from Gil, Nestor Cortes, Carlos Rodón, or Clarke Schmidt every fifth day.

For now, Cole is still several weeks away, though he is at least close beginning a throwing program. The Yankees have found a way to overcome all the short starts in the early going but putting this much on the bullpen is not a recipe for long-term success. The starters they have must start giving more length, with or without Cole.