After breakthrough victory, Nestor Cortes credits winter commute for turnaround

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Nestor Cortes, the New York Yankees’ All-Star lefty from 2022, faced a frustrating setback in 2023. A shoulder injury sidelined him for most of the season, allowing him just one major league start in the final four months. Working out with friends near his Miami home during the offseason, Cortes battled discouragement and a touch of fear as his progress stalled.

Determined to overcome this hurdle, Cortes began commuting weekly to the Yankees’ minor league complex in Tampa. There, he received invaluable support from the staff and utilized the team’s advanced pitching technology to meticulously rebuild his form. His dedication paid off in a dominant performance on Monday night against Miami. Cortes delivered a masterful two-hitter over eight innings, securing a convincing 7-0 victory and his first win since May 30th.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone couldn’t hide his delight with Cortes’s resurgence, highlighting its importance for the team’s pitching rotation, especially considering the workload on the bullpen. Cortes showcased remarkable control, painting the corners of the strike zone with 70 of his 102 pitches. While his fastball velocity wasn’t quite as high as in previous starts, he effectively mixed in a diverse arsenal of pitches, keeping Miami hitters off balance with fastballs, cutters, sweepers, changeups, sinkers, and a slider.

Despite allowing a pair of singles to Bryan De La Cruz, Cortes was dominant. He struck out six batters while issuing no walks, securing his first win in the majors since defeating Seattle last season and improving his record to 5-2.

The road to recovery wasn’t smooth sailing for Cortes. Following a frustrating trip to Los Angeles, where discomfort prevented him from even throwing a catch, he landed on the injured list with a strained rotator cuff. After a couple of rehabilitation starts in Double-A in late July, Cortes made a limited return against Houston on August 5th, pitching only four innings before his season was cut short. However, his performance on Monday night marked a triumphant return to form, a testament to his perseverance and the effectiveness of his offseason training regimen.

Cortes overcomes doubts and injury with tailored training program

Yankees' Nestor Cortes is in action.
MLB

The road to recovery from injury is often fraught with mental hurdles in addition to physical ones. Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake shed light on this common challenge faced by players like Nestor Cortes.

Nestor Cortes, a dominant force on the mound in 2022 with a 12-4 record and a career total of 24-11 wins, battled a shoulder injury for much of the 2023 season. Looking back, it’s possible the shoulder injury stemmed from a strained right hamstring he suffered early in spring training, highlighting the potential for one injury to lead to another.

Blake elaborated on the concept of “compensatory mechanisms.” When one body part is compromised, the body may subconsciously try to compensate, putting undue stress on other areas. This can create a domino effect of injuries.

Nestor Cortes himself confirmed these concerns. Even during offseason workouts at a local ballpark, he still felt the lingering effects of the shoulder injury. He struggled to regain his previous form and loosen up properly, leading to feelings of doubt about his ability to fully recover.

To address these physical and mental roadblocks, Blake and Yankees senior director of pitching Sam Briend devised a more structured program specifically for Nestor Cortes. This program incorporated a “true high-low throwing program,” carefully designed to alternate between high-stress and low-stress days. Using specialized tools like GPS units and other cutting-edge technology, they meticulously monitored the volume and intensity of Cortes’ throwing sessions, ensuring a safe and controlled path to recovery.

Dedication and support fuel Nestor Cortes’ comeback journey

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Nestor Cortes, the Yankees‘ resurgent lefty, displayed remarkable dedication in his fight to overcome a shoulder injury that sidelined him for most of the 2023 season. The 29-year-old (as of December) adopted a flexible commuting strategy, alternating between driving and flying to reach the Yankees’ minor league complex in Tampa for his rehabilitation program.

Nestor Cortes established a consistent routine, traveling to Tampa on either Monday or Sunday nights and staying for the entire week. He only returned home on weekends, adhering to this schedule even during holidays, picking it back up on January 2nd.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone never wavered in his faith in Nestor Cortes’ recovery. Boone recognized Cortes’ determination to follow the necessary rehabilitation steps, especially considering his dedication that began during the later stages of the previous year. Boone particularly commended Cortes’ unwavering commitment to his daily routine, ensuring his focus remained on activities crucial to regaining his health and physical conditioning.

Nestor Cortes himself acknowledged the vital role played by the team’s support staff in his successful return. He expressed his gratitude towards head athletic trainer Tim Lentych, assistant strength and conditioning coach Larry Adegoke, and assistant pitching coach Desi Druschel. Their guidance and support proved invaluable throughout his time in Tampa.

With a current record of 1-1 and a stellar 3.50 ERA in his three starts, Nestor Cortes has struck out 13 batters with just 4 walks. His performance stands as a testament to his regained health and the effectiveness of the rehabilitation program implemented with the support of the Yankees’ staff. Cortes’ story serves as an inspiring example of perseverance and the power of a dedicated support system.

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