Nestor Cortes wins fans again with his nasty throw against Phillies

Nestor Cortes is pitching against the Phillies at Yankee Stadium, April 3, 2023.
John Allen
Tuesday April 4, 2023

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Nestor Cortes is an overwhelmingly favorite in the Bronx and he, through his ups and downs in the last few years, knows everything about baseball. This was on display on Monday when the Yankees beat the Phillies 8-1 at Yankee Stadium. Nestor Cortes made his first start of 2023 and pitched five innings with only one run allowed. But the way he fought to stop each of Philles’ run, it further eulogized him among fans and adds to the “Legend of Nasty Nestor.”

Nestor Cortes keeps his head in the game all the time

Nestor Cortes wants to show at least twice that he can do it. In 2022, he was one of Major League Baseball’s biggest stories. He went 12-4 in 28 starts with a 2.44 ERA and a WHIP of 0.922 when he pitched. Nestor Cortes came in eighth place in the Cy Young voting. In the ALDS, he won Game 5 against Cleveland, but a sore groin ended his ALCS after just two innings. From start to finish, he was a genius.

When the Yankees trusted him with the ball to start against the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday, Nestor Cortes just started from where he left last season. The 28-year-old only gave up one run in five innings, but it was a play he made behind the plate that made MLB fans gasp. It also happened to be Nestor Cortes’ last out of the night, which stopped the Phillies from possibly scoring more runs. It was the Yankees’ first great defensive play of the year.

J.T. Realmuto, the catcher for the Phillies, hit a single to the right with two outs in the fifth inning. Franchy Cordero of the Yankees fielded it and threw the ball toward home plate, but it went over catcher Jose Trevino. Nestor Cortes was right where he should have been—backing up Trevino—and after catching the wild throw, he made an incredibly smart play. Nestor Cortes makes a perfect throw to third base to oust Brandon Marsh, who was trying to slide back into the bag.

“Great play,” Yankees manager Aarone Boone told. “Great play. First, to be in the right position, backing up the base. And then executing a really tough play where he kind of had to throw back against his body.”

When asked about it, Nestor Cortes replied: “I knew I had to be back there just in case. Luckily, I was.”

Nestor Cortes with Aaron Judge and other teammates.

Nestor Cortes is shaped by adversity

Nestor Cortes had a spot in the rotation for the first time when he went to spring training this year. Because Carlos Rodon, Luis Severino, and Frankie Montas have been hurt, he is now the Yankees’ No. 2 starter.

“He’s been such a good pitcher here,” manager Aaron Boone said following the team’s win. “Nothing has been given to him. He’s had to scratch and crawl his way through the minor leagues and make the most of his chances here.

Nestor Cortes was demoted and traded by the Yankees and other teams before he showed them what he could be and grew into the starter he is today.

On Thursday’s Opening Day, when the players were being introduced before the game, Nestor Cortes got one of the loudest cheers. It was just behind the ones for Aaron Judge and Anthony Volpe in terms of volume and intensity. Nestor Cortes found out on Monday morning that he would be the 2022 Latino MVP for AL Starters. On Monday night, he pitched five innings against Philadelphia. It was his longest game after an injury-shortened spring, and he only gave up one run and seven hits. He did this by pumping his four-seamer fastball for strikes and getting through a lot of long at-bats.

“He’s been such a good pitcher here and has been given nothing,” Boone said. “Had to just scratch and crawl his way through the minor leagues . . . He’s a great story for a lot of people out there.”

Girlfriend Alondra taking a photo of Nestor Cortes during a Yankee away game.

The Yankees traded Nestor Cortes to the Mariners in 2019 for “future considerations” after letting him go to the Orioles as a Rule 5 pick in 2017 and then getting him back.

In 2020, Seattle let him go. The left-handed pitcher re-signed with the Yankees and improved so much last season that Nestor Cortes earned his first All-Star spot and the nickname “Nasty Nestor.” Cortes got his first big-money contract for this season, which pays him $3.2 million.

Nestor Cortes is a good defender, so none of this comes as a surprise. Still, people depend on him for his arm. That’s how he makes most of his money, and the Yankees are counting on it. Cortes should be less affected by the new rules than almost any other pitcher in MLB, since he was already one of the fastest throwers in the sport.

“He’s really athletic,” Anthony Rizzo said. “You don’t see a lot of pitchers make that play.”

Teammates played Nestor Cortes

Hours before Nestor Cortes wore special cleats with mustaches and pitched five innings of one-run ball in an 8-1 win over the Phillies, arriving players tried to copy his weird windup, which has been confusing big league hitters for the past few seasons.

While passing through the access tunnel between the players’ parking lot and the clubhouse, Nestor Cortes’ teammates spent time imitating the left-famous hander’s pitching style.

“It was great,” Cortes said. “When I turned the corner and saw them [recording], I was like, ‘Oh, gosh,’ but it turned out to be good.”

Gerrit Cole was the clear winner. He got it right, starting with Nestor Cortes fiddling with his glove before he threw and continuing with not one, not two, but three leg swings before the pitch.

“He’s such an important part of our team, not only with what he does on the mound but in the locker room as well,” manager Aaron Boone said of Cortes. “He’s a great story for a lot of people out there.”

Nestor Cortes is with Anthony Rizzo during a Yankees golf event.

Anthony Rizzo added: “It’s always fun playing behind him. The crowd loves him. He brings good energy on the mound and in the dugout.”

Cortes’ unique cleats

Nestor Cortes took the Yankees mound on Monday with some unique shoes. During a game against the Philadelphia Phillies, the left-handed pitcher went viral for his cleats, which had pictures of facial hair on them. Cortes, who is known for his mustache, had several mustaches on his cleats.

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