Nestor Cortes reassures Yankees fans after a hamstring injury ending his WBC hopes

Nestor Cortes at Yankees' player development complex in Tampa on February 13, 2022.

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New York Yankees’ starting pitcher Nestor Cortes has pulled out of the World Baseball Classic after he hurt his hamstring while running. The left-handed pitcher, however, has assured fans of returning to the rotation for the regular season.

Following reports of his recent injury on Monday, the starting pitcher called his injury a “twitch” and told reporters outside the Yankees’ player development complex:

“It’s definitely possible to start the season healthy and in the rotation. So I’m hoping that the training staff will help me get there.”

But Andy Martino of SNY says that Nestor Cortes has a Grade 2 strain on his right hamstring and he is going to be off from the mound for a few weeks.

Nestor Cortes said that he hurt himself while running sprints near his home in Miami on February 6. For at least two weeks, he won’t throw from a mound. The pitcher thinks he might not have to start the season on the 10-day injured list. But he might miss one or two starts because the Yankees will be very careful to make sure this problem doesn’t cause a setback and cause him to miss more time.

His hamstring injury means Nestor Cortes won’t be able to play for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. Kyle Freeland of the Rockies will replace him on the national team.

He didn’t fly to Arizona this week for the start of Team USA’s training camp. Instead, Nestor Cortes drove across the state to the Yankees‘ spring training headquarters to get a problem with his hamstring checked out. He admitted that it was a setback for him.

“I was very excited for [the tournament]; I wanted to represent Team USA. “It’s a country that has given me a lot of opportunity to do a lot of stuff that I’m doing today. I’m very disappointed and very sad that I can’t participate.”

“I didn’t think of it much,” he said. “I thought it was just a cramp, then later that night I went to put on a shoe and felt a little pull there. Once I showed up (to Tampa) with a little bruise, the medical staff decided to take control of it.”

Even though he won’t be able to play in the WBC, Nestor Cortes still thinks he will be ready for Opening Day. On March 30, the Yankees’ regular season starts with a game against the Giants at Yankee Stadium.

Nestor Cortes has kept throwing and lifting weights, and he said he thinks he has enough time to get ready for the start of the season. He thinks he will need to throw between 15 and 20 innings this spring.

“I think the ultimate goal here is to get ready for No. 28,” Cortes said. “I think it’s kind of a letdown for [Team USA], but I think the biggest goal right here is to get healthy and be ready for the start of the season.”

That’s definitely a good sign, but the fact that it’s even a question at this point is a big headache for the Yankees. Not too long ago, it looked like they could start the season with Cole, Rodon, Cortes, Severino, and Montas as part of an elite rotation. But in January, it was said that Montas’s ongoing shoulder problems have kept him from getting ready for the season and that he could miss the first month of the season. Now that Cortes is hurt, it looks like the team might have to rethink their rotation.

Nestor Cortes, who is 28 years old, just had a great year in which he went 12-4 and had an ERA of 2.44 in 28 starts. He was named to the American League All-Star team. He had a hard time in his first few years in the major leagues. But the last two years have been a huge turning point for him. Since the start of the 2021 season, he has pitched 251 and third innings with a 2.61 ERA, 26.9% strikeout rate, 6.4% walk rate, and 31.2% ground ball rate. This offseason was the first time he became eligible for arbitration and agreed on a $3.2 million salary for this year. Nestor Cortes will have two more chances to go through arbitration before he can become a free agent after the 2025 season.

“I think as long as I stay healthy, I can be as good as last year,” the starter said. “Maybe better, who knows? I think the biggest issue here is being healthy. I think if I’m healthy, everything follows, and I can be the same guy, or just like that guy.”

Nestor Cortes and Aaron Judge.

There were concerns over Nestor Cortes’ injury

Nestor Cortes hurt his groin in August, which put him on the injured list. The injury got worse during the playoffs, but he said he hasn’t had any problems while training in the offseason.

“I was down in Miami rehabbing it throughout the whole offseason, and it feels great,” Cortes said. “No issues, no soreness. This year, I think I’m going to take care of my legs a little better.”

After the Yankees stopped Luis Severino from playing for the Dominican Republic in the WBC, MLB columnist and author of “The Empire: The True Power Behind the New York Yankees” Bob Klapisch asked why the same yardstick was not applied to Nestor Cortes. He wrote:

“If Cashman wants to apply the safety-first clause evenly, he’ll prohibit Nestor Cortes from joining Team USA. Nasty Nestor is coming off a career-high 170-inning season in 2022, including the post-season. That’s a 50 percent uptick from 2021, and an invitation to future trouble after ending last season with a groin injury.”

Even though Nestor Cortes doesn’t seem to think he will miss any games during the regular season, there is always a chance that his recovery won’t go as planned. If he has to miss any time, pitchers like Domingo German and Clarke Schmidt might step up to take his place and make some starts. There are also many unsigned free agents, like Michael Wacha, Dylan Bundy, and Chris Archer, who are still available. But the Yankees don’t look ready to cross $293 million, which brings them under a hefty luxury tax. But they could change their minds if things change.

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