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Gerrit Cole, the New York Yankees ace and the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner, told reporters on Tuesday night that he won't "rule out" making his season debut in June. Cole has been sidelined since spring training by elbow nerve inflammation and edema. 

Cole, 33, has continued to progress in his recovery and he checked off another milestone ahead of Tuesday night's game against the Seattle Mariners by throwing 20 pitches to teammates Oswaldo Cabrera and Jahmai Jones. Cole had previously thrown five bullpen sessions as part of his rehab.

Manager Aaron Boone, however, cautioned Cole's optimism: "I guess it's possible. I don't want to get ahead of ourselves in this and start predicting," he told reporters. "Things are going well, and that was another big step. He'll probably have another couple of these, and then we start to build from there."

When healthy, Cole has been one of the best pitchers in the sport for close to a decade. Over the last three seasons alone, he's compiled a 3.11 ERA (135 ERA+) and a 5.19 strikeout-to-walk ratio. In addition to winning his first Cy Young Award last fall, he had received consideration in each of the past five seasons, including second-place finishes in 2019 and in 2022.

Withstanding a two-month absence from a pitcher of Cole's quality is never easy, but the Yankees have managed thanks to a surprisingly effective rotation. The Yankees enter Wednesday with a 33-17 record on the young season, putting them 1 1/2 games up on the Baltimore Orioles in the American League East. The Yankees starting five ranks third in all of Major League Baseball in ERA, behind only the Philadelphia Phillies and the Boston Red Sox.

New York's rotation -- Nestor Cortes, Marcus Stroman, Clarke Schmidt, Carlos Rodón, and Luis Gil -- has started every game but one. None of them have ERA+ lower than 112, and all but Stroman have a strikeout-to-walk ratio exceeding 2.00.

Cole can opt out of his contract at season's end, although the Yankees can then void that decision by adding an additional season to his deal, covering the 2029 campaign for a $36 million salary.