Nestor Cortes emerges as Yankees’ most likely Opening Day starter

Yankees rotation member Nestor Cortes is at Tampa during the 2024 spring training camp.

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Although Gerrit Cole’s elbow injury has created uncertainty surrounding the New York Yankees’ pitching rotation, manager Aaron Boone has been reluctant to reveal who will be the starting pitcher for the season opener against the Houston Astros on March 28th.

However, two other starting pitchers may have inadvertently provided some insight into the Yankees’ pitching plans. Recently, Carlos Rodon announced that he will be starting the team’s second game of the season. Additionally, following his start on Thursday, Marcus Stroman confirmed that he is scheduled to pitch the third game on March 30th, which also aligns with the Yankees’ home opener on April 5th.

Despite these revelations, the identity of the Yankees’ Opening Day starter remains a mystery. Fans and analysts alike will have to wait for an official announcement from manager Boone to know with certainty who will take the mound in Houston to kick off the season.

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With Gerrit Cole out due to injury and both Carlos Rodon and Marcus Stroman already scheduled for later starts, the New York Yankees are searching for a pitcher to fill the Opening Day slot against the Houston Astros on March 28th. Although neither Nestor Cortes nor Clarke Schmidt has had the most impressive spring training performances, it seems that Cortes may be the leading candidate for the starting role.

Cortes has struggled in his three spring outings, posting a 0-1 record with an 8.10 ERA. He has allowed nine runs on 17 hits and two walks over 10 innings pitched. Schmidt hasn’t fared much better, recording a 5.19 ERA in his three starts, surrendering five runs in 8.2 innings.

However, if Manager Aaron Boone selects Cortes for the Opening Day start, it would be a historic moment for the Yankees. Cortes would become the first left-handed pitcher to start on Opening Day for the team since CC Sabathia in 2014. Masahiro Tanaka held the Opening Day starting role from 2015 to 2017 and again in 2019, with Luis Severino taking the mound in 2018. Since Gerrit Cole joined the Yankees in 2020, he has consistently been the Opening Day starter.

However, the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner is currently sidelined with an elbow injury, expected to keep him out for the first one or two months of the season, and possibly even longer. Consequently, Boone has to turn to someone else to fill the void left by the injured ace.

While an official announcement from Boone is still pending, the signs seem to indicate that Cortes could potentially make history as the Yankees’ first left-handed Opening Day starter in nearly a decade.

Yankees narrow down Opening Day starter choice: Nestor Cortes over Rodon and Stroman

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With Gerrit Cole sidelined due to injury, the New York Yankees are faced with a void in their Opening Day rotation. While Nestor Cortes seems to be the leading candidate for the starting role, the team also considered Carlos Rodon and Marcus Stroman as potential options.

However, Rodon was not given serious consideration for the Opening Day start due to concerns about adding undue pressure, particularly after a disappointing first season with the Yankees in 2023.

Stroman, on the other hand, brought a different perspective to the situation. Having experience with Opening Day starts during his time with the Toronto Blue Jays, the Yankees presented him with the opportunity to take the mound. However, Stroman chose to decline the offer, prioritizing consistency in his pitching routine.

He explained that while the Yankees may have anticipated his enthusiasm for the role, Opening Day holds no extra significance for him. Stroman expressed confidence in any pitcher the Yankees select for Opening Day, emphasizing that it is just another game. He places a high value on adhering to his established routine, and given the short notice, adjusting his schedule proved to be impractical. In the end, both Stroman and the Yankees agreed to stick to his original plan.

Nestor Cortes will be the starting pitcher for the New York Yankees on Opening Day against the Houston Astros on March 28th. This decision was made after Marcus Stroman graciously declined the opportunity, preferring to adhere to his established training schedule.

Yankees pitcher Marcus Stroman is in action against Baltimore during a spring game on March 2, 2024.
NYY

To be ready for the earlier start, Cortes’ current schedule will require some modifications. His current plan includes a live batting practice session followed by two more outings before the regular season opener. The Yankees will likely adjust his program by incorporating additional rest days – potentially two extra days on one occasion and one extra day on another – to ensure he is fully prepared to handle the workload on Opening Day.

Stroman’s decision to decline the Opening Day start was based on his desire to maintain a consistent training routine. He emphasized the importance of each day during spring training, as making changes at this point could disrupt his carefully planned recovery regimen. Shifting from a seven-day to a five-day recovery cycle could have unintended consequences, according to Stroman.

While missing out on the Opening Day spotlight may be a minor disappointment, Stroman expressed enthusiasm for the opportunity to pitch in the Yankees’ home opener. He anticipates an electric atmosphere for that game and is eager to contribute to the team’s success.

What do you think? Leave your comment below.

One thought on “Nestor Cortes emerges as Yankees’ most likely Opening Day starter

  1. I have no issue over Nasty Nestor getting the nod, even though my preference is Schmidt, simply because the only one to take the ball every time it was his turn last year was Schmidt.

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