Nestor Cortes’ second Yankees start signals ‘best’ shape after injury nightmare

Yankees' Nestor Cortes is in action.

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Nestor Cortes provided a positive sign for the Yankees on Sunday, showcasing both a return to physical health and his signature deceptive pitching style.

The southpaw displayed encouraging resilience in his surgically repaired shoulder. He confidently utilized his arsenal of hesitation deliveries and varied arm slots throughout his four innings against the Detroit Tigers. Nestor Cortes steadily built his pitch count, reaching 54 by the end of his outing.

Following his strong performance, Nestor Cortes openly expressed his satisfaction with his improved physical condition, suggesting a successful recovery from last season’s shoulder problems. This is a welcome development for the Yankees, who are counting on Cortes to be a key contributor to their starting rotation in 2024.

Nestor Cortes commented after the game, expressing that his shoulder felt better than it had in a long time. Despite conceding a solo home run and issuing one walk while striking out three, he felt in sync and fluid on the mound. He noted that aside from the home run, he was able to maintain control, throw strikes consistently, and effectively command his pitches throughout the outing.

“Best it’s ever been in a while,” he told. “Just feeling like I was in a rhythm, everything was flowing. Gave up that bomb, but everything else was easygoing and throwing strikes and pounding the zone and was able to command pitches.”

Nestor Cortes resorts to familiar deceptions in strong start

Nestor Cortes is pitching to Juan Soto in a live BP session at Yankees' spring camp on February 20, 2024.
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Nestor Cortes’ outing against the Tigers on Sunday was particularly encouraging as it showcased his return to form not just physically, but also strategically. This spring training, the pitcher, who missed significant time last season due to rotator cuff strains, has been re-integrating some of his signature deceptive tactics.

One such example came in the second inning, where Nestor Cortes used a pronounced leg kick toward center field before delivering a pitch that resulted in a flyout. This tactic disrupts the hitter’s timing and makes it harder to pick up the pitch’s release point.

In the following inning, Nestor Cortes displayed his mastery of varied arm angles. On a key strikeout against Akil Baddoo, he changed his arm slot several times, culminating in a sweeping pitch that fooled Baddoo into swinging out of the zone. This ability to manipulate arm angles adds another layer of deception to Nestor Cortes’ arsenal, making it difficult for batters to predict where the pitch will be coming from.

Nestor Cortes’ reliance on these familiar tactics, combined with his evident physical progress, paints a positive picture for the Yankees‘ starting rotation going forward. The pitcher explained with a smile that there had been a request from Gleyber Torres from the dugout. So, he decided to try it out. He mentioned that once he started incorporating it and it felt natural, he felt like he was in a good place.

“Gleyber [Torres] was asking for it from the dugout,” he told. “So that kind of led me to that. But yeah, once I started doing that and it starts feeling normal, then I feel like I’m in a good spot.”

Boone impressed

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

Aaron Boone remarked that throughout spring, Nestor Cortes had consistently impressed him. Boone noted that he had spent most of his offseason focusing on workouts and rehabilitation at the Yankees’ player development complex. However, Boone appreciated observing more of the pitcher’s performance as he gradually increased his workload.

Boone expressed his excitement about Nestor Cortes’ positive recovery between outings, emphasizing that it has been encouraging to witness. He emphasized the need to maintain this momentum moving forward.

Nestor Cortes has reiterated this viewpoint several times during training, adopting a cautiously optimistic approach as he gradually ramps up his workload. However, three or four days after his start last Monday, he recalled feeling as though it had been a week since his last outing due to his notable physical well-being.

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