Luis Gil’s meteoric rise threatens Cortes’ Yankees rotation spot

Yankees rotation stars Luis Gil and Nestor Cortes

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The recent performance of rising star Luis Gil has come as a shot in the arm for the Yankees rotation. With his latest performance of six shutout innings against the formidable Tampa Bay Rays, the pitcher is poised very well to surpass Nestor Cortes in the upcoming rotation reshuffle. With Gerrit Cole’s impending return, it may result in the southpaw finding it tough to stay in the five-man rotation.

While Cortes was undeniably the Yankees’ most outstanding starter in 2022, it seems that time and possibly injury have diminished his once-magical touch. In contrast, Luis Gil has been absolutely decimating opposing hitters with an arsenal so impressive that it leaves them utterly overwhelmed, as described by manager Aaron Boone following the team’s 10-6 triumph on Sunday.

The rise of the 25-year-old right-hander is not only fascinating to witness but also has significant implications for the team’s roster. As Cole is set to return from the Injured List in June or early July, Boone will face a crucial decision on how to skillfully manage the rotation. With Luis Gil’s long limbs and incredible arm speed, he is undeniably a thrilling addition to the Yankees’ pitching staff.

Cortes’ fastball velocity has dipped below 91 mph, and the deceptive elements of his delivery have been noticeably absent in recent outings. Moreover, he has struggled mightily on the road, going 0-3 with a 6.75 ERA away from the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium, including a disappointing performance at Tropicana Field where he surrendered four runs, including two home runs, in just 5.1 innings.

Visibly shaken, Cortes admitted, “It’s tough to pitch in this league without a fastball,” a stark realization that underscores the challenges he currently faces.

Luis Gil’s performance stood in stark contrast to Cortes’ struggles, as he dominated the Rays with a blistering fastball that peaked at 99.4 mph and averaged an impressive 96.6 mph. The Rays were unable to advance a runner to third base and managed a mere five batted balls out of the infield, a testament to Luis Gil’s overpowering stuff.

Luis Gil flourishes under Cole’s guidance

In a captivating display of mentorship, Gerrit Cole, the Yankees’ grandmaster, was recently seen imparting wisdom to Luis Gil in a private bullpen session that was beautifully captured by the YES Network. Cole’s keen eye for talent has certainly recognized the prodigious skills of the young pitcher.

Cole, having noticed a minor flaw in Luis Gil’s delivery related to the timing of the ball’s release from his glove, was determined to impart his wisdom to the young protégé.

With the help of interpreter Marlon Abreu, Cole carefully explained the significance of achieving the perfect transfer. He emphasized that while each pitcher’s style may vary, the optimal timing can be gauged by the results – whether pitches are consistently hitting their intended targets and maintaining good movement.

Luis Gil, and more notably, the Rays, can attest to the effectiveness of Cole’s guidance. The young right-hander’s performance was so dominant that the Yankees’ decision to pull him after the sixth inning felt like a merciful gesture to the opposition.

The Yankees’ clubhouse was filled with booming music as they made plans to extend their stay in Florida for an extra day before their series against the Twins. The atmosphere was electric, fueled by a trifecta of accomplishments – a series win over the Rays, Jahmai Jones’ milestone first career home run, and the growing belief that Luis Gil has truly arrived.

Manager Aaron Boone’s growing admiration for the young right-hander is hardly surprising. He remarked on the unique characteristics and velocity of Luis Gil’s fastball, which proved to be a formidable challenge for hitters. Boone also highlighted the strength of his secondary pitches, which commanded respect from opposing batters.

Feedback from hitters further reinforced the potency of Luis Gil’s arsenal, as they found themselves overwhelmed and struggled to make meaningful contact even when they did connect with the ball. Boone credited this to the pitcher’s ability to deceive hitters through various means, such as velocity, spin, or other deceptive elements.

Yankees' ace Gerrit Cole is teaching pitcher Luis Gil at Tropicana Field on May 10, 2024.

Interestingly, despite the fierceness of his pitches, Luis Gil’s delivery is remarkably conventional, devoid of any distinctive quirks. Moreover, in contrast to the fiery personalities of teammates like Carlos Rodon or Marcus Stroman, the rising Yankees star exudes a gentle demeanor off the mound.

With “God Bless Me” inked on his neck, the Dominican native made a point to express his gratitude to both God and the Yankees organization for the opportunity to showcase his talents and remain healthy. Luis Gil emphasized his commitment to staying focused and putting in the necessary work to continue his impressive ascent in the Yankees’ rotation.

For manager Aaron Boone, this abundance of positives is a dream scenario, but if forced to choose, he might just lean towards the third option – the emergence of a new rotation rock star in Luis Gil. As the young hurler continues to shine, it’s becoming increasingly clear that his time to take center stage has arrived.

Yankees Luis Gil reacts during his start against the Rays at Tropicana Field on May 12, 2024.
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Carlos Rodon took Boone’s praise a step further, expressing his own sense of being overwhelmed by Gil’s performance. Rodon highlighted Gil’s remarkable ability to consistently throw strikes, giving hitters no respite and keeping them constantly on their toes.

The Yankees are fortunate that they don’t have to make an immediate decision regarding Luis Gil and Nestor Cortes, as the choice goes beyond just these two pitchers. They must also consider Gil’s potential to contribute to the team’s success while carefully managing his workload to protect his arm.

Throughout his decade-long career, Luis Gil has only surpassed the 50-inning mark twice, and he has already pitched 43 innings this season. As time is of the essence, the Yankees could opt to shut him down soon, preserving his remaining innings for the crucial postseason.

Alternatively, they could limit Luis Gil to five innings per start and manage his workload by implementing a six-man rotation (saving Cortes’ spot), a strategy made possible by the team’s depth, which includes several relievers capable of serving as short-stint starters.

Regardless of the approach, Luis Gil has demonstrated that his success is no mere fluke. Ascending from the No. 5 slot to boasting the rotation’s lowest ERA (2.51) is a testament to his genuine talent. However, as Gil’s star rises, Nasty Nestor’s performance has been declining at an alarming rate.

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