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Under normal circumstances, the New York Yankees would have tabbed ace and reigning American League Cy Young winner Gerrit Cole as their Opening Day starter for the 2024 season. Cole, however, is sidelined with an elbow injury and presently has an uncertain time-table his return. On Friday, the Yankees landed on their Opening-Day replacement for Cole, as manager Aaron Boone told reporters that lefty Nestor Cortes would take the first turn of season on March 28 against the Astros in Houston. It will be Cortes' first-ever Opening Day assignment. 

The 29-year-old Cortes is coming off a disappointing 2023 season in which he put up a 4.97 ERA for the Yankees and was limited to just 12 starts and 63 ⅓ innings because of rotator-cuff issues. However, Cortes isn't far removed from a 2022 campaign in which he pitched to a 2.44 ERA with 163 strikeouts in 158 ⅓ innings, earned his first All-Star selection, and finished eighth in AL Cy Young balloting. 

Carlos Rodón and Marcus Stroman were also candidates to take the Opening-Day turn in Cole's stead, but the Yankees preferred to keep them on their established spring schedule. As such, Rodón and Stroman should make the second and third starts of the regular season, respectively. 

"I think they thought that I was going to be like, 'Hey, let me get it,'" Stroman said recently about the possibility of starting Opening Day. "That's not my nature, man. It doesn't matter to me. I'm confident in whoever goes out there from this squad to get the job done. At the end of the day, it's just another game. I'm not someone who is going to be upset if I don't get the Opening Day nod.

"I'm trying to go out there for 30-plus starts. That's the goal for me. I have confidence in anybody we throw out there for Opening Day. At this point, it's too hard to get on schedule and on track. They came to me, but like I said, they agreed and I agreed also that it was probably best to stay on the schedule we came up with."

The Yankees are coming off a disappointing 82-win season in 2023, though they will enter the '24 campaign with a lineup featuring perennial All-Star Juan Soto, who they traded for last December