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Gerrit Cole strikes out 10 in Triple-A rehab start and could return to Yankees next week

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) — Yankees ace Gerrit Cole struck out 10 batters in a Triple-A game Friday night, perhaps the final hurdle before he returns from an elbow injury and joins New York’s rotation for the first time this season.

“We’ve got to make that decision in the next 24, 48 hours. But it’s really good work tonight," Cole told reporters. "I used all the pitches well. Got to pretty much every location. So, it’s another good step in the right direction.”

The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner allowed just two hits and an unearned run over 4 1/3 sharp innings for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders at Rochester, a Washington Nationals affiliate.

He threw 46 of his 70 pitches for strikes and did not issue a walk. The six-time All-Star has struck out 19 and walked none over 12 1/3 innings in three minor league rehabilitation starts.

“I’ve just got to get the pitch count up," Cole said. "I mean, the team’s playing well. It's not a situation where you come in and like, disrupt the distribution of innings with your bullpen when everything’s flowing so well.”

Cole's first two rehab outings came with Double-A Somerset. The right-hander could make his season debut for the major league-leading Yankees next Wednesday or Thursday at home against second-place Baltimore — or he could make another start in the minors.

“I’m very much wanting to get back very soon," he said with a big smile. "What a fun club they are right now. So yeah, that’s part of the reason why I’m just trying to make sure that I’m in a good spot to help them.”

The 33-year-old Cole made his only spring training start on March 1, then was diagnosed with nerve inflammation and edema and told to rest. He began throwing bullpens on May 4 and made his first rehab start for Somerset on June 4.

Cole gave up a double in the first inning Friday and an unearned run on a single in the fourth. He opened by striking out the first, third and fourth Rochester batters he faced.

He added a strikeout in the second inning and struck out the side in the third and fourth. He opened the fifth inning with his 10th strikeout before being lifted.

Cole pitched 4 2/3 innings of one-run ball Sunday for Somerset, allowing two hits, striking out four and walking one against Hartford in a game in which he retired his first eight batters. In that outing, he threw 44 of 57 pitches for strikes at Bridgewater Township, New Jersey.

Cole threw 45 pitches over 3 1/3 scoreless innings for the Patriots on June 4.

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The Associated Press