Gerrit Cole insider: Initial Yankees rejection was key to everything

Gerrit Cole insider: Initial Yankees rejection was key to everything
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John Savage knows about recruiting Gerrit Cole.

The longtime UCLA head coach got the right-hander to commit to the Bruins out of Orange Lutheran HS in Southern California then waited to see if he’d actually get to coach him.

“We were pretty comfortable we would be able to hold onto him,” Savage said by phone. “No one believed me.”

That’s because Cole was a first-round talent out of high school, and many thought he’d wind up going pro instead. The Yankees ended up selecting him with the 28th pick in the first round of the 2008 draft but couldn’t sign him.

Now the Yankees are among the teams trying to land the coveted free agent, and Savage is among those waiting to see where he goes.

And he isn’t surprised Cole is expected to take some time before he finds a new home.

“I don’t know what he’s gonna do,” Savage said. “He’s been thinking about this a long time. And that was before he pitched like he did on the biggest stage.”

Cole is the top free-agent target this offseason. He went from UCLA to being the top pick in the draft for the Pirates in 2011 then was traded to the Astros.

Two years later, he’s set to likely score the biggest contract for a starting pitcher.

“I think he’ll look at the team’s chances of winning and the players around him,” Savage said. “It’s about wherever he feels comfortable. A lot will go into it.”

The Angels figure to be in the mix to end up with Cole, since they are his hometown team. And Savage pointed out Cole grew up a Yankees fan.

But as Patrick Corbin showed a year ago, that only goes so far.

Cole is expected to take longer to sign than Corbin did before he went to the Nationals.

Savage is confident Cole will have success regardless of the destination.

“No matter where he’s been, he’s shown he’s up for the challenge,” Savage said. “That’s why I think whenever he ends up, he’ll be good.”

And he couldn’t have lined it up much better.

“It was a different process, but it might have been the best decision in the history of the draft,” Savage said of Cole turning down the Yankees in the draft. “He got an $8 million bonus [from the Pirates] and now he’s hitting free agency having evolved into one of the best pitchers in the game. Every step he’s taken has been very calculated.

“And he ends up making the right decision. His timing couldn’t be better now.”

Cole spent three years at UCLA, mostly as the ace, alongside Trevor Bauer.

“Because of what happened in the draft, he had an ‘X’ on his back all three years he was here,” Savage said. “There was a lot of pressure, being under the spotlight at 18. So he’s had 11 years to deal with it.

“From here to being the top pick of the Pirates to the trade with Houston, there’s been a ton of attention paid to him.”

Through it all, Savage said Cole hasn’t changed.

“He’s always been the same guy,” Savage said. “It’s kind of been a fairy tale progression. They’re in the sweet spot. They’re in charge of the sweepstakes.”

Source: New York Post

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