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Yankees ace Gerrit Cole won’t throw for 3-4 weeks, but feels relieved by diagnosis on elbow

Sarah Stier/Getty Images North America/TNS

TAMPA, Fla. — Various tests and a trip to Los Angeles to see Dr. Neal ElAttrache had some fearing the worst, but Gerrit Cole said that he’s only dealing with nerve inflammation and edema in his right elbow.

The ace returned to Yankees camp on Saturday, where he relayed that diagnosis and said that he won’t throw for the next three to four weeks.

“We’re gonna keep the arm live, though,” Cole said. “So it’s not like we’re not doing anything. That was the term that the doctors described. ‘You’re gonna keep the arm live for the next three to four weeks and hit the ground running.' ”

Cole said that means doing plyos and movement exercises. He doesn’t plan on getting any shots, such as PRP injections. Rather, he just needs rest and recovery.

The pitcher first went for an MRI on Monday because his elbow wasn’t recovering properly. He’s gotten a CT scan and X-rays, among other tests, since then.

“We’ve determined that we just got a little too hot a little too quick,” said Cole, adding that he felt great all offseason. “We progressed through the normal recovery cycle, but at a certain time, we didn’t get back to the baseline, which was kind of our target. At that point, it was time to see what was going on.”

Cole’s elbow injury, the multiple tests and the lack of information provided on it in the days that followed the initial news had some Yankees fans wondering if the reigning Cy Young winner might need Tommy John surgery. That it’s only inflammation is a win for the pitcher and team.

“I mean, best case scenario would be he wouldn’t be dealing with anything, right?” Brian Cashman said. “But I guess second best case, right?”

The general manager added that, while he’s learned not to sweat injuries over the years, Cole’s due diligence and communication helped Cashman sleep better over the last few nights.

“I trust Gerrit,” Cashman said. “I really trust his knowledge of himself, his knowledge of his craft, and also the strength that he shows like, ‘Listen, I want to do a deep dive here, just in case.’ So, thankfully, he did.”

While Cole suffered a minor elbow injury in 2016, this is somewhat uncharted ground for the 33-year-old. So is missing significant time.

Cole has been a model of durability throughout his career. He’s made at least 30 starts in seven of his 11 MLB seasons and made a full 12 starts during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. He’s totaled 591 innings in the three campaigns since then, including 209 frames last season.

“It’s not a common experience for me,” Cole said. “I haven’t really dealt with anything like this before. So anytime you’re going through something for the first time, there’s a little bit uncertainty, but I had a lot of faith.

“I’m just trying to be as thorough as possible in that situation. I’m always a thorough guy. I do everything thorough, so when this came up, I just approached it the same as I try to do everything else.”

When asked if the diagnosis came as a disappointment or relief, Cole said, “I felt good leaving the doctor.”

While Cole awaited conclusive results, he said that he received “some wisdom on how to navigate this kind of thing” from teammates like Clarke Schmidt and Carlos Rodón, who have undergone Tommy John surgery.

“Elbow stuff is a little unfamiliar territory for him,” Schmidt said Friday, “but not for us normal, mortal people over here.”

With Cole out, Nestor Cortes will start for the Yankees on opening day. Cole believes the Yankees’ rotation will be “solid” without him, but he’s obviously eager to rejoin the group.

While Cole said it’s too soon to circle a date for his return, his no-throw timeline could make some time in late May or early June possible. Cashman said that Cole will need to go through a full spring training routine once he’s ready. Cole is also a candidate for the 60-day injured list — if a roster spot is needed — as he will miss that time.

“At this stage,” Cole said, “we’re just focusing on the first three to four weeks.”