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Yankees 3, Tigers 5: Michael King is back, baby

Cole was sharp, and the King has returned.

MLB: Spring Training-Detroit Tigers at New York Yankees Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Gerrit Cole got his spring debut tonight, and Michael King made his awaited return, but the Yankees fell 5-3 to the Tigers in this Friday night matchup.

To be blunt, even the full-strength Tigers are at best a very pedestrian lineup, and in tonight’s case, Cole went up against their B team. The bulk of Detroit’s primary hitters played in the afternoon against the Phillies with this being a split-squad day for AJ Hinch’s team.

With it being his first game action, Cole took this opportunity to work on his fastball command, using the heater a whopping 69 percent of the time. For context, Cole threw his fastball 52 percent of the time in 2022.

Now that in and of itself isn’t that unusual, but what really stood out was how Cole deployed his fastball tonight. The Yankees’ ace, as you can see down below, operated almost exclusively at the top of the zone, something we’ve been wanting to see him do more of, for a long time.

The pitch didn’t return a lot of whiffs (only 3/19), but it is definitely something to keep track of, moving forward.

From a final line standpoint, Cole’s night reflected the mismatch that he was him against this Tigers’ offense, going three full innings allowing only a hit, while striking out four batters.

Following Cole’s three innings of work, in came Michael King for his first game action since an elbow injury cut short his up to that point, marvelous 2022 campaign.

Over two scoreless innings of work, King averaged 94.0 mph on his fastball, topping out at close to 96. That average velocity was about one and a half tick under where he was last season, but it’s to be somewhat expected on his first game back, still maybe not quite at full throttle.

King’s slider was excellent in a short sample, getting three whiffs on four swings, and if he is able to get back to his old self, the Yankees will get a major boost to an already enviable bullpen.

On the offensive side, Aaron Judge had a very good night with the bat, but the lack of offense around him was a problem, something we most definitely hope to avoid in the regular season. The reigning MVP had a couple of doubles in three at-bats, and each time the lineup failed to drive him in. The Yankees did get on the board first with an IKF sac-fly that ended in a double play as Harrison Bader tried to take third on the play.

Cole and King were sharp, but the Tigers' lineup jumped on Clarke Schmidt, who seems to be in a dire spot if he wants to earn that fifth starter spot, especially with how Domingo Germán’s spring has started. Schmidt gave up four runs in one and two-thirds as he struggled to earn called strikes with his cutter.

The Yankees responded with a couple of promising youngsters coming around to score after they led off the seventh frame with a walk and a single, in Everson Pereira and Spencer Jones, but the comeback attempt stopped there. Jones did come back to hit in the ninth, and got another single, ending his day at 2-for-2.

The Tigers would put on a run in the ninth off Deivi García, another arm returning from injury, and that was that, as Detroit took home this one 5-3.

It is worth noting that García’s fastball saw a huge boost, as he sat 95-98 mph throwing basically all heaters (30 out of 35 total pitches). That’s definitely another development to monitor throughout spring.

Box Score