Yanks’ Cole available in ‘pen for ALDS Game 5, could close

NEW YORK (AP) — Yankees ace Gerrit Cole could make his first career relief appearance in Game 5 of the AL Division Series against Cleveland, possibly as a closer.

New York manager Aaron Boone switched starting pitchers after Monday night’s rainout and said Nestor Cortes will take the mound Tuesday afternoon on three days’ rest in place of Jameson Taillon.

If the Yankees advance, Taillon would start the League Championship Series opener at the Houston Astros on Wednesday night.

Yankees relievers have struggled since midseason, and New York wasted a two-run, ninth-inning lead in the Game 3 loss at Cleveland. Asked whether he would entertain using Cole to close, Boone said: “If we needed it at the end, I’d be open to it or open to anything.”

“Yesterday he texted me in the morning or late morning, like, ‘I’m good to go today,’” Boone said. “So I’m expecting him to be the same today.”

Cole won Games 1 and 4 against Cleveland, allowing three runs and 10 hits in 13 1/3 innings with 16 strikeouts and two walks. The 32-year-old right-hander, in the third season of a $324 million, nine-year contract, has made 283 big league appearances, including 16 in the postseason, all as a starter.

“He’s durable and mechanically really efficient,” Boone said. “And he’s very honest about where he’s at, too, and things like that. He’s good to talk to in that way.”

Cleveland stayed with Aaron Civale as its starter rather than pitch 2020 AL Cy Young Award winner Shane Bieber on three days’ rest, which he has never done. Bieber, limited to 16 starts last year because of a strained right shoulder, would be the Game 1 starter against the Astros.

“It’s not because he can’t pitch. Just, he’s been through a lot,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said. “He had an injury last year and he’s had a remarkable year, but it’s not been probably as easy as he’s made it look. ”

Boone said the teams were told at 8:20 p.m. Monday that rain was expected to clear at 8:45 p.m. and the game could start at 9:30 p.m. New York and Cleveland didn’t want to warm up until the rain stopped, so they waited. The rain continued and at 9:10 p.m., the forecaster said rain had developed over Newark, New Jersey.

“They were kind of like lions a little bit around my door, because they were uni-ed up and eye-blacked up and launched up and ready to go,” Boone said of his players, “and then all of a sudden it’s like — hold up. So it was a little odd.”

Major League Baseball didn’t want to start the game at 10:30 or 10:45 p.m.

Because of the extra night in New York, part of the Cleveland traveling party had to move.

“We had to make some adjustments just because our hotel was full,” Francona said. “We split up and they got it all mapped out and was no big deal.”

Players spent the night at a hotel in Yonkers, just north of the Bronx, while staff stayed in Manhattan.

“We made the choice to have all of our players and coaches stay close to the ballpark just so they were able to get into their hotel, get settled,” president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said.

Right-handers Ron Marinaccio and Frankie Montas were with New York at Yankee Stadium and prepared to travel to Houston in case the team decides to activate them against the Astros. Both pitchers have been sidelined with injuries, but could be ready for the ALCS if the Yankees advance.

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