NEW YORK – The crowd noise was phony. Gerrit Cole’s scowl was real.
The new ace gave up consecutive home runs to Mike Ford and Miguel Andújar in an intrasquad game as the pitcher and the public-address system's recorded crowd sounds tuned up for New York Yankees debuts.
Those runs in the fourth inning were the only ones Cole allowed over 5 2/3 innings Friday night. He struck out seven, walked none and hit a batter, throwing 87 pitches.
“The back-to-back homers were undesirable from my perspective,” he said. “Just kind of got into a position there where I was spraying some breaking balls and just kind of became noncompetitive. And I got in some fastball situations where I had to challenge, guys. It was kind of a predictable count, and then they got their swing off.”
Next up is the opener of the pandemic-delayed major league season, at the World Series champion Washington Nationals on Thursday night in a matchup against Max Scherzer.
“Gosh, it’s going to be fun,” Cole said. “It’s going to have fake crowd noise, and going to be 2020 coronavirus baseball.”
New York started experimenting with artificial crowd noise Friday at Yankee Stadium, where just one of the 50,000 or seats was filled, by what appeared to be a employee watching from the fifth row behind home plate. With the Yankees prepping for the start of the season in empty ballparks, the level was low at the start and got more exuberant, even for routine fly balls.
“Early in the day, I really didn’t like it,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “It sounded kind of like we were trying to tune in our AM radio and trying to find the station and we couldn’t find it. I felt a little better with it during the game. It did feel a little bit more natural. So, hopefully, there’s some tweaking of it.”