NEW YORK – Earlier this week, when the Yankees pitchers took part in field training, many of the Yankees’ arms wore a t-shirt with the same design on it. The shirts featured Nestor Cortes Jr., who resembled a famous video game character who also wore a mustache and threw a baseball that looked more like a fireball. Cortes was “awesome” in 2021, but his jersey has a nickname used to describe one of the season’s most important Yankees: Nasty Nestor.
The Yankees have missed several pieces from the projected starting rotation for much of this season, but the contribution that Cortes has made out of the bullpen and into the rotation has stabilized the Yankees on many of the team’s darkest spots this season.
Of the 14 Yankees pitchers asked to start a game so far this season, it is Cortes and his earned run average of 2.55 that stepped all starting pitchers this season. Cortes’ seventh start for the Yankees will be against the Minnesota Twins on Friday night. All of Cortes’ launches have been since July 4th, when the Yankees were halfway through the schedule at exactly .500. Now the Yankees are a season high of 18 games over .500 with a 70-52 record coming into play on Friday.
So what led to all this success that was sparked by a converted Reliever in the press? According to manager Aaron Boone, it was more the same who saw Cortes successfully translate his consistent play from the bullpen into a role as a starter.
“Overall he’s a better thrower now,” said Boone. “He did some really good things for us in 2019, played some big games and pitched some meaningful innings for us, but I would say he’s now a more advanced pitcher in terms of delivery, command and the crispness of things . He continued what we saw. ” him in the bullpen. “
“He knows who he is”
Cortes doesn’t have the fastball that Gerrit Cole can throw so quickly, nor the Andrew Heaney curveball that can be so effective in a jam. Cortes may feel like a stopgap solution in rotation, but the 26-year-old has found ways to frustrate his opponents by simply playing to his strengths.
“Anyone can succeed, so it’s who you are and they know who they are,” said Cole. “He’s played a lot in his career and found ways to be creative in the smaller leagues just to get into that position. He pitches when he’s creative.”
Cortes was most effective in his previous start against the Chicago White Sox, setting new season highs in innings pitches and strikeouts with six innings and seven strikeouts in a win on August 15.
Cole noted that Cortes is very vocal in the dugout with catchers and other pitchers to break down where his plan shifts as the game progresses, which is beneficial for all of the Yankees on the pitching team.
Ducking, diving and darting
A big aspect of Cortes and his success was the creativity that was displayed on the hill. Cortes doesn’t have a particular pitch style or arm angle that he clings to for a very long time. Despite the number of pitches preached throughout the sport, with deliveries looking the same each time, Cortes has had success with varying speeds and styles with the ball coming out of his hand.
“He’s leading there,” said Cole. “He’s got the clubs off balance in his own unique way and it’s been really productive for us.”
While Cole might be considered the best pitcher on the Yankees’ staff, even the league strikeout leader is impressed with what Cortes is capable of confusing hitters.
“It’s just very athletic,” said Cole. “He runs these pitches when he’s trying to set his plan for the day.