Yankees ace Gerrit Cole not ruling out June return after ‘sharp’ live BP session: ‘He looks nasty’

NEW YORK — Sweating, smiling and standing by his locker, Gerrit Cole didn’t bother to change his clothes before talking to reporters on Tuesday.

The reigning Cy Young winner had just finished facing live hitters for the first time since elbow inflammation shut him down midway through spring training. He donned pinstripes for the occasion.

“Because I miss it,” Cole said when asked why he wore the Yankees’ full uniform for a 20-pitch live batting practice session in the Bronx.

Pitted against teammates Oswaldo Cabrera and Jahmai Jones for the first time ever, Cole threw 11 fastballs, three change-ups, two curves, two sliders and two cutters. He was happy with all of his offerings, except for the change-up.

“He looks good,” Cabrera told the New York Daily News. “He looks nasty. He looks like one of the nastier pitchers that I’ve seen, and he’s just warming up.”

Added Jones: “That’s probably the best 70 percent or 60 percent I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Cole said that his fastball touched 96 mph multiple times. Perhaps more than pitching coach Matt Blake would have liked.

“I hit 96 a couple of times and Matt yelled at me,” Cole said with a laugh. “So then I had to throw it like 90 a few times to even it back out.”

Cole wasn’t necessarily trying to throw that hard, but he felt “a little extra adrenaline” on Tuesday. The fact that a large majority of his teammates and coaches came out to watch him throw probably didn’t help him dial things back.

However, Cole said the gesture meant a lot to him, and Yankees manager Aaron Boone was more than pleased with the performance, which mostly saw Cabrera and Jones track pitches. With limited cuts, Cabrera flew out twice, while Jones swung and missed three times.

“It looked like it was coming out really easy. I thought he was sharp,” Boone said. “That’s a big step.

“To me, he looked very much in control, but with easy velocity, too.”

With a significant step checked off, many want to know when Cole will return.

He is eligible to come off the 60-day injured list at the end of this month, but that’s not going to happen. Asked if he could return at some point in June, Cole said, “I wouldn’t rule it out.”

Boone offered a similarly uncommitted response.

“I guess it’s possible,” the manager said. “I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves in this and start predicting. Things are going well.”

In the meantime, Cole said he still needs to throw one or two more sessions against live hitters before starting a rehab assignment. Assuming he feels fine in the coming days, his next outing is scheduled for this weekend.

Boone believes it will happen in Tampa with the Yankees in San Diego for the start of a three-city trip to the West Coast.

Cole added that he hasn’t decided where he wants to be at when he returns. In other words, will he fully ramp up during his rehab assignment, or will he use his first big league start or two to complete his build up?

That remains to be seen. For now, the most important thing is that Cole hasn’t felt any pain or had trouble recovering since starting his throwing program on April 8.

Trouble recovering is what led to his absence in spring training, but he’s no longer worried about his elbow.

“It just feels better,” Cole said. “Some days you can produce results and you don’t always have to feel 100 percent, but it’s mainly just been the fact that it’s been able to feel refreshed by the next time I get back on the mound.”

LeMahieu expected in Anaheim

Boone said that DJ LeMahieu (nondisplaced foot fracture) is trending toward making his season debut when the Yankees are in Anaheim next week. The third baseman had his rehab assignment transferred to High-A Hudson Valley on Tuesday.

Beet up

Pitching prospect Clayton Beeter, who made his MLB debut earlier this season, was placed on the seven-day injured list at Triple-A on Tuesday. The move is retroactive to May 20.

Boone said the righty is dealing with shoulder discomfort.

Additional transfers

Jasson Domínguez had his rehab assignment transferred from Single-A Tampa to Double-A Somerset on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Jorbit Vivas joined LeMahieu in Hudson Valley after a stint with Single-A Tampa.