Nestor Cortes, with his pencil-thin mustache and quirky delivery, looks nothing like his peers. All he does, though, is get hitters out.
Nestor Cortes Jr. is a 5’11” 210lb lefthander who is quickly edging his way into a depleted Yankee’s rotation.
Quirky as lefties are known to be at times, Cortes disappoints no one. In fact, he makes opponents laugh as he did when facing Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo during the Subway Series.
Messing with the outfielder’s timing by starting his windup, delaying a little bit, and then firing, Cortes Jr. threw a ball, but it didn’t matter — it was awesome, and Nimmo was laughing like the rest of us.
Nestor Cortes tries literally anything to get Shohei Ohtani out pic.twitter.com/oDfGKZy2e0
— Big Game Bengal (@BengalYouTube) June 30, 2021
Nestor Cortes Jr.: The Unlikeliest Yankees Keeper
His sketchy career had the Yankees exposing Cortes to the Rule 5 draft in December 2017, whereupon he was claimed and then returned by the Baltimore Orioles the following April.
Discarded again by the Yankees, Cortes was traded to the Seattle Mariners in 2019 for “future cash considerations,” not even another player.
Seattle used him in only five games in 2020 before they granted Cortes free agency – and low and behold – there were the Yankees to sign him on January 4, 2021.
Nestor Cortes: Finally, A Break To Show His Stuff
Barely registering on the Yankee’s radar during Spring Training, where it seemed everyone was hitting the gun at 95+, Cortes was quickly shuffled off to Triple-A Scranton, with no fit as a starter or reliever on the Yankees pitching staff.
The tide turned for Cortes when Corey Kluber went down with an injury that will keep him out of action until September at the earliest, and that coupled with the off-and-on rehab of Luis Severino left the Yankees with nothing to lose on giving Cortes Jr. a start or two.
Nestor Cortes Slowly Gaining The Yankees Confidence
In all, Aaron Boone has given the ball to Cortes nine times his callup. All but two of those have come in relief.
The numbers are good, beginning with a 1.05 ERA, no home runs surrendered over 25.2 innings, 31 strikeouts, and a .0974 WHIP (anything under 1.00 is considered outstanding).
The walks (10) are a concern, but given that he’s surrendered four runs, the Yankees have to be pleased in knowing they have a guy who can pitch with men on base while figuring out for himself how to wiggle out of jams.
All of which suggests that even though Nestor Cortes Jr. may not “look” like a major league pitcher, he is showing he can be successful in doing the only thing pitchers need to do – get batters out any which way you can.
Will The Yankees Stay With Cortes?
With the trade deadline looming, anything goes as Brian Cashman can add to the staff, pushing Cortes aside, or he can even trade him while his value is on the high side.
But if Cortes Jr. continues to pitch like he is, it becomes a moot question.
Perhaps Boone can even consider slotting Cortes behind Gerrit Cole, giving hitters a different righty-lefty look, as well as the variance from 98 to 92 on the radar gun on back-to-back days.
While typically not any team’s number two, remember the game’s name is to get 27 outs, an ability Cortes Jr. is beginning to master.
Consistency, except for Cole, has been the bane of Yankees starters this season.
Nestor Cortes Jr. is the sleeper on the Yankees staff, and if teams eventually catch up to him, it’s not likely to be any time soon.
Let him pitch.
Here’s What Readers Are Saying…
Mike Harrington A real pitcher… nothing wrong with fireballers, but true pitching is an art form. A guy like Andy Pettite who only ramped up to 92-94 on the FB who had to work the zone with finesse and excellent location. Nestor is a similar example… the guy isn’t gonna gas you, but he will fool you. Great stuff and a step-up that was desperately needed by this team. Hopefully, he keeps dominating as he has of late.
Steven Kenworthy A throwback for sure. And he actually gets batters out!
Steven Fumosa He looks like he’s throwing pies
AJ Torres He’s like that kid on the team that says they aren’t hitting because he’s a lefty. Yeah, Cortes is that lefty. Love it
Mike Ackerman I have to admit in the beginning I was not a Nestor fan. I saw him pitch 5-6 times in person in 2019 and he was always giving up a homer. Ok for much of an outing and then a dinger. He has obviously refined his pitching and I am now a believer. In the proud Yankee tradition of Eddie Lopat and Whitey Ford Nestor takes on the mantle of ” crafty little left-hander”. I’m sure it drives some of the statheads in the back office crazy but I love that Nestor just is doing what he needs to do so that he can get hitters out. You go, Nestor! Thanks for posting Steve