Juan Soto struggles vs. Nestor Cortes heat in live action, lefty strikes out slugger thrice

Nestor Cortes is pitching to Juan Soto in a live BP session at Yankees' spring camp on February 20, 2024.
Inna Zeyger
Wednesday February 21, 2024

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Monday brought a glimpse of the daunting test awaiting left-hander Nestor Cortes on Tuesday afternoon. The lineup for his upcoming live batting practice session revealed the challenge he’ll face: two consecutive at-bats from the fearsome duo of Aaron Judge and Juan Soto.

This session, simulating three innings, offered Nestor Cortes valuable insight into the difficulties opposing pitchers encounter against the Yankees’ potent lineup. He not only faced Judge and Soto, but also sluggers like Giancarlo Stanton, Alex Verdugo, and Trent Grisham. By gradually increasing his pitch count to around 44, Cortes tested his stamina and honed his skills against a formidable offensive force.

Yankees get glimpse of future as Nestor Cortes stymies Juan Soto

Nestor Cortes is training at the Yankees facility in Tampa.
Charles Wenzelberg/NYP

This live BP session serves as a crucial preparation step for Nestor Cortes, who seeks to replicate his impressive 2023 performance and solidify himself as a key contributor in the Yankees’ rotation. While facing Judge and Soto consecutively presents a unique challenge, the experience gained from this session will undoubtedly prove valuable as he prepares for the upcoming season.

Nestor Cortes remarked that upon reviewing the lineup he would be facing the previous night, he recognized the challenge ahead. He mentioned that it felt akin to going through a tryout once more. Nonetheless, the pitcher found the experience enjoyable and exciting, emphasizing the importance of competition during camp. Nestor Cortes concluded that it marked a positive beginning to the process.

Nestor Cortes performed exceptionally well in the session, managing to strike out Soto three times in three at-bats, all via swinging strikes. However, he acknowledged Juan Soto’s presence as a new teammate, showing some leniency in his assessment.

The starter commented with a grin that it was probably too early for Juan Soto to be out there, suggesting it might have been his first exposure to live pitching since last season. Nestor Cortes downplayed the significance of the situation, indicating there was nothing remarkable about it.

Nasty Nestor looks potent to make a comeback

While facing the powerful Yankees lineup in Monday’s live batting practice session was a significant test for Nestor Cortes, the real challenge might lie in the coming days.


Last season, Nestor Cortes struggled with rebounding effectively between outings, ultimately leading to two rotator cuff strains. The second strain prematurely ended his season in August.

Despite appearing positive and upbeat on Tuesday, Nestor Cortes acknowledged the critical nature of the next few days for his recovery process. His performance in live BP is encouraging, but how his body responds to the workload will be crucial in assessing his readiness for the regular season.

He expressed concern, stating that the focus was not on the current day but rather on the following day. Nestor Cortes emphasized the importance of evaluating how effectively he bounces back and recovers, noting that this aspect remains a significant concern for both him and the coaching staff.

Manager Aaron Boone was pleased with Nestor Cortes’ performance, noting that the pitcher aimed for maximum ease while still managing to clock fastball speeds of 91-92 mph.

Boone commented that he observed Nestor’s stuff to be in good shape. He mentioned that while Nestor Cortes wasn’t completely sharp yet, his pitch qualities were consistent with what they had seen during his buildup. Boone noted that the pitcher seemed to be bouncing back and recovering effectively. He expressed anticipation to see how Nestor Cortes would recover the next day. Boone highlighted the lively nature of Nestor’s fastball, as well as his effective use of breaking balls and cutters during the session.

Boone further mentioned that Nestor Cortes displayed a good changeup during the session, something he has been incorporating more frequently.

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