MLB warns Nestor Cortes against repeating illegal pitch

Yankees' Nestor Cortes throws a 'pump fake' in Cleveland on April 14, 2024.
Sara Molnick
Monday April 22, 2024

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Nestor Cortes‘ unconventional pitching style encountered a hurdle on Sunday. During his delivery against Andres Gimenez of the Cleveland Guardians, the lefty attempted a pump fake, a deceptive move where a pitcher feigned a throw to mislead the batter. However, Major League Baseball has since declared this tactic illegal.

While home plate umpire Mark Carlson permitted the pitch during the game, MLB informed Nestor Cortes on Monday that he can no longer utilize the pump fake. This ban will take effect for his next start against the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday. If he attempts it again, a ball will be added to the batter’s count.

This news comes despite Nestor Cortes’ belief in the uniqueness of the move. He pointed out that, to his knowledge, he’s the only pitcher to ever employ a pump fake in a windup.

Nestor Cortes is renowned for disrupting batters’ timing with unconventional techniques. His arsenal includes pauses in his windup and multiple knee raises before delivering a pitch. Unfortunately, the pump fake will no longer be part of his repertoire.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone wasn’t caught off guard by the ruling. He suspected the move wouldn’t be allowed for long, but found some humor in the situation. Boone remarked that while it was “pretty funny” to witness, he didn’t expect it to be deemed legal under MLB regulations.

Yankees' Nestor Cortes in action against the D-Backs in Phoenix on April 2, 2024.

Nestor Cortes’ pitch sparks debate, but Yankees rely on him

Nestor Cortes’ unique pitching style continues to draw attention, with his recent “pump fake” tactic taking center stage. While the move might bring a smile to his face, the Yankees are placing significant trust in his pitching prowess this season.

Earning the coveted Opening Day starting nod, Nestor Cortes has solidified himself as a cornerstone of the Yankees’ rotation. Despite a current 1-1 record and a 4.50 ERA in four outings, his contributions have been instrumental in the team’s strong 14-6 start.  

This weekend’s matchup against the Tampa Bay Rays presents another opportunity for Nestor Cortes to shine. However, his previous outing against the Guardians served as a stark reminder of the need for consistency. In that game, he surrendered four runs and five hits in just four innings, with the pump fake failing to disrupt the batters.

The Yankees are counting on Nestor Cortes to deliver a high volume of innings throughout the season, a crucial factor in their quest to rebound from a disappointing 2023 campaign. Missing the playoffs and enduring an 80-loss season, the team is looking for a fresh start, with the pitcher’s health playing a vital role. An extended injury sidelined him last year, making his return and current form all the more crucial.

Yankees star pitcher Nestor Cortes

The legality of the pump fake has sparked national debate, with USA Today reporting on the divided opinions amongst fans. While Yankees fans seem more receptive to the unorthodox move, traditionalists remain unconvinced. Pitchers have a history of employing unconventional windups, but Nestor Cortes’ pump fake appears to be a genuine innovation.

Despite his attempt to disrupt the timing of the batter, Andres Gimenez of the Guardians fouled off the pitch with the pump fake. Although the umpires didn’t penalize Nestor Cortes during the game, Major League Baseball issued a warning later. Any future attempts will result in disciplinary action, putting the legality of this tactic to rest.

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