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Tim O

Tim O'Sullivan: Cote hoping to pitch his way up the East Coast

Jordan Cote has been experiencing some extremes this spring, his second as a member of the New York Yankees. The 20-year-old from Sanbornton is in Tampa at extended spring training with rehabbing major leaguers like Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Kevin Youkilis and Mark Texeira.

While he may see that kind of player on a daily basis, Cote still feels like he’s a long way from the big leagues himself. He struggled early in the spring, took some time off from games to work on his mechanics, and now he’s waiting to see if he gets called up to New York’s short-season single-A team in Staten Island that begins play on June 17.

“I came into spring feeling like I had a shot to make the Charleston (SC, a step above Staten Island) roster and just really didn’t throw well,” Cote said. “I was disappointed that I didn’t go, but I really, honestly, didn’t deserve it. So now I’m just waiting it out and hoping to get to Staten Island and hoping to get out of here.”

Cote spent all of last season in Tampa with one of the two Gulf Coast League Yankees rookie teams. He was shut down at the end of the season because of a minor shoulder problem that has long since cleared up. He spent the offseason working on his strength and conditioning, returned to Tampa in January, and began his spring training on March 2.

His biggest problem this spring was inconsistent velocity. Some fastballs would reach 92 mph, some would hit only 86. He knew his mechanics were a touch off, but he couldn’t figure out why or how to solve it.

“I’m not sure what it was, just maybe not focusing on the right things and letting things fall into place,” he said. “I just tried to press myself a little bit too much.”

The organization gave Cote a choice: he could keep working on his mechanics during games, or he could take some time off and work on the side. To his credit, Cote didn’t let his ego get in the way and decided to pull himself out of games.

“I really just wanted to get it done and work on this stuff and get it down and be confident with it,” Cote said. “So far, it’s worked out.”

He worked in the bullpen and threw simulated games to other Yankees under the watch of Carlos Chantres, the Staten Island pitching coach. Chantres suggested a few tweaks, Cote adopted them, and the results followed.

Cote said he pitched “pretty well” on May 7, his first game back. And last Monday, in his second game back, he worked three perfect innings with four strikeouts. He said he threw 12 fastballs in that outing, four of them at 89, four at 90 and four at 91, just the kind of consistency he wanted.

While Cote admits he may have distracted himself with visions of Charleston, there were other distractions in Tampa. Not only have the biggest of names been at the facilities, like Jeter and A-Rod, but there’s been a parade of injured Yankees – Curtis Granderson, Joel Pineda, Eduardo Nunez, Francisco Cervelli and Chien-Ming Wang.

In addition to the circus that swirled around all of them, the Yankees also have a new minor league pitching coordinator in Gil Patterson.

“It kind of felt like you had to prove yourself all over again because of the new coordinator, and you really had to learn his way of doing things,” Cote said. “It’s not bad, it’s just been different.”

The same goes for working with Chantres. It’s been a change, but one that Cote has enjoyed.

“I like him a lot, he’s a different guy, really different, but he’s a good guy and he’s got a really good eye for mechanical flaws,” Cote said.

And Cote definitely wants to follow Chantres to Staten Island. The former Winnisquam Regional star said the stands are usually empty during the games in Tampa – “I think the most people we’ve had at a game was around 25.” Staten Island averaged 3,715 fans per game last year, and that was a major drop from 2011, when the team averaged 5,664.

Cote won’t know if he makes that roster until three or four days before the season opener. The organization needs to see who it selects and signs from the draft (June 6-8) before making those final decisions.

“I’m not 100 percent positive, but I should be going to Staten Island,” Cote said. “I don’t think they would keep me down here, but you never know.”

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at 369-3371 or tosullivan@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @timosullivan20.)

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