Yankees’ Nestor Cortes takes a jibe at umpire after ‘illegal’ pitch confrontation

Yankees Nestor Cortes pitches against the White Sox on May 17, 2024, at Yankee Stadium.

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During a dominant outing against the Chicago White Sox on Friday, Nestor Cortes found himself in a perplexing situation with two outs and the bases empty in the sixth inning. As he delivered a pitch to Corey Julks, the Yankees pitcher incorporated a hesitation move that resulted in a wild throw sailing well above the strike zone. Undeterred, he quickly followed up with a rapid delivery that caught Julks swinging and missing.

However, plate umpire Laz Diaz intervened, stepping out from behind catcher Austin Wells and calling Nestor Cortes for an illegal pitch, automatically adding a ball to the count and making it 2-2. Both the pitcher and Yankees manager Aaron Boone vehemently argued the decision, but their protests fell on deaf ears.

In a sarcastic jab at the umpires during his post-game comments, Nestor Cortes said, “The umpires didn’t do anything in this game. I don’t know, I guess it was an illegal pitch and that’s all I am going to say.”

Despite the controversy and Boone’s impassioned defense, Nestor Cortes remained focused and unfazed. He proceeded to strike out Julks with a full-count changeup and retired the next eight batters he faced, completing a masterful seven-inning performance that propelled the Yankees to a 4-2 victory over the White Sox.

In the aftermath, Nestor Cortes declined to delve into the specifics of the incident, simply acknowledging that it was an illegal pitch and choosing not to elaborate further. His composure and ability to maintain his dominance on the mound, even in the face of adversity, underscored his mental fortitude and the exceptional quality of his pitches throughout the game.

Nestor Cortes stifles Sox bats, secures Yankees win

Nestor Cortes showcased his resilience and pitching prowess throughout the game, navigating through challenging situations with poise. In the first inning, he stranded runners on the corners, and in the fourth, he worked around a two-out double. The Yankees star further demonstrated his defensive skills by picking off Zach Remillard at second base, diffusing the tension of a two-on, no-out scenario in the fifth.

Nestor Cortes (2-4) continued to excel at Yankee Stadium, bolstering his home record to 2-1 with an impressive 1.27 ERA across five starts. However, his performance on the road has been a stark contrast, with a 0-3 record and a 6.75 ERA in five away games. Opposing hitters have found more success against Nestor Cortes on the road, batting .293 compared to a meager .168 in the Bronx.

In his post-game comments, he acknowledged initial struggles with command but noted that he found his groove by the third or fourth inning. Nestor Cortes consistently hit the outside corner as planned and effectively utilized his cutter, fastball, and changeup throughout the night. The Yankees pitcher credited his success to his ability to mix his pitches and keep hitters off balance.

“I thought in the beginning I wasn’t throwing the ball where I wanted to,” he said. “In the third or fourth inning, things got more under control. I was able to pepper the outside corner the way I wanted to. The cutter and fastball were really good, and toward the end of the outing I was able to use the changeup a lot. I was able to mix all night — that’s kind of what got me there.”

Nestor Cortes catches batters off guard

New York Yankees southpaw Nestor Cortes is known for his unconventional pitching style, occasionally employing quirky deliveries to catch batters off guard. His repertoire includes a corkscrew-like hesitation move, where he pauses mid-windup, turns his back to the hitter, and sometimes even feigns a throw before finally delivering the pitch.

Yankees Nestor Cortes confronts umpire following illegal pitch call against the White Sox on May 17, 2024, at Yankee Stadium.

Alternatively, he might surprise the batter with a vintage quick pitch. Nestor Cortes’ inventiveness often thrills the Yankee Stadium crowd, particularly when it disrupts a hitter’s timing and results in an easy out. However, during Saturday’s game, home plate umpire Laz Diaz called off his quick pitch, leading to a bizarre turn of events on the mound.

Just one pitch after employing his signature exaggerated motion to throw off the hitter’s timing on Sunday, Nestor Cortes delivered a quick pitch that Diaz deemed a violation. Despite Cortes’ vehement objection to the ruling, he refrained from delving into the specifics, merely acknowledging the existence of a “gray area” in the rules.

Nestor Cortes generated five whiffs on eight swings against 15 changeups in the game. He views the pitch as a weapon, recognizing that hitters across the league are aware of his tendency to throw strikes and pitch inside.

Nestor Cortes believes that incorporating the changeup more frequently will create a mental chess match with batters, forcing them to consider whether to anticipate the changeup or a high fastball. Moving forward, Cortes sees the changeup as a valuable tool in his arsenal.

The batter, Corey Julks, ultimately struck out later in the at-bat, but the incident left Cortes visibly displeased with the quick-pitch argument.

As tensions escalated between Cortes and Diaz, Yankees manager Aaron Boone swiftly intervened to defuse the situation. Cortes retrieved the ball from catcher Austin Wells while Diaz explained his decision to Boone. The brief one-minute incident concluded, and the game resumed shortly thereafter.

Boone also expressed his disagreement with the illegal pitch call, asserting that Nestor Cortes was set and had stepped off with his right foot, contrary to Diaz’s initial claim that the pitcher had stepped off with his left foot first. Boone acknowledged the need for further investigation but maintained his initial belief that the pitch was not illegal.

The stark contrast between Nestor Cortes’ home and away performances has raised questions. When asked about the dramatic splits, Cortes admitted that he, too, sought an answer. He maintains that his preparation and approach remain consistent, regardless of the venue, but acknowledged that he hasn’t found his rhythm on the road yet. Cortes expressed optimism about turning things around.

“Good question,” the pitcher told when asked about this. “I want to know the answer to that, too. I prepare the same. I try to do everything as I do here at home. It just hasn’t clicked yet [on the road]. Hopefully we can turn that around.”

Regardless of the controversy surrounding the quick pitch, the Chicago White Sox struggled to capitalize on Nestor Cortes’ 93 legal pitches throughout the game. His dominant performance, coupled with his ability to navigate the gray areas of pitching mechanics, showcased his skill and creativity on the mound, even in the face of contentious calls by the umpiring crew.

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