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Around the Empire: Yankees news - 9/5/21

Cole stays grounded; Velazquez reflects on journey; Keeping the faith in Joey Gallo; Appreciating Judge’s importance; Kluber closer than you think

New York Yankees v Oakland Athletics Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

CNBC | Nicolas Vega: Despite signing the richest contract for a pitcher in MLB history, Gerrit Cole still finds ways to remain grounded. Exhibit A: he still drives his 2006 Toyota Tacoma. The pickup truck, which has 82,000 miles on it, was a gift from his father when he was in high school. Rather than drive something flashier, Cole is interested in reliability. He recounts how it has never broken down, and has been quite useful when they need a vehicle with extra capacity. Just when I thought I couldn’t like the Yankees’ ace even more.

New York Post | Steve Serby: Andrew Velazquez sat down for a Q&A where he talked about a variety of topics, ranging from his journey to the Yankees to the best slice in Morris Park (spoiler: he’s a fan of Patricia’s, Luciano’s, and Emilio’s). He talked about his biggest motivators during the arduous path to being a big league player. He touched on what he admires most about a handful of his teammates. Finally, Velazquez shares what it means to him to be from the Bronx and play for the Yankees, and how he wants to serve as an inspiration to the next generation. | Randy Miller: Entering yesterday’s contest, Joey Gallo was mired in an 0-for-17 slump. The first 32 games of his Yankees career have not gone as the All-Star outfielder had hoped, as he was hitting .134/.297/.321 with a 76 wRC+ and 39.1 percent strikeout rate in pinstripes. Despite that, manager Aaron Boone has faith that the results are bound to come for the lefty slugger.

The Yankees’ skipper admitted that Gallo might be pressing a little; however, he still felt comfortable penciling him into the two-hole in the lineup. Boone praised the quality of Gallo’s at-bats and lauded his ability to draw walks as justification for batting him so high in the order. Gallo took a step in repaying that faith yesterday, with his game-tying two-run home run in the eighth. Hopefully that is just the start of the turnaround.

New York Post | Ian O’Connor: Look, we all know how good Aaron Judge is. I don’t need to regurgitate a bunch of offensive numbers. This season however, he has added one more dimension to his value to the Yankees. Judge’s ability to play center field is a massive boost for the Bombers, as it allows them to field their “jumbo package” with Giancarlo Stanton in the outfield and Luke Voit at DH.

Boone praised Judge’s athleticism to be able to play above-average centerfield as well as his selflessness to do whatever is necessary to put his team in the best position to win. Stanton also noted how important Judge’s flexibility has been to the team, allowing them to field their best lineup. There are not many players around the league who have as big an impact on their team — offensively, defensively, and as a leader. | Pete Caldera: Giving up five runs including a grand slam is never ideal as a starting pitcher. However, Corey Kluber left his first outing back from the IL feeling encouraged. Aside from that one mistake pitch, he actually tossed a decent game. He cruised through the first three innings without giving up a hit. More importantly, he bounced back from the outing feeling fully healthy.

Kluber liked the way the ball was coming out of his hand as well as the shape and execution he was able to achieve. Now it’s just a matter of building the arm strength back up and fine-tuning the command. Without a clear Game Two starter for the playoffs, it would be a huge boost to the Yankees if he could get back to the version they saw up to and including the no-hitter. There is still uncertainty surrounding Luis Severino and Domingo Germán, and Jameson Taillon on the fritz again as well, the Yankees need all the pitchers currently available to find their A-game.