With pitching always a sore subject, the Yankees are finding a spark with an unexpected starter in Nestor Cortes Jr.
The New York Yankees have always made effort to solidify a championship team, but sometimes (especially recently) it doesn’t work the way they planned. After a big signing like Gerrit Cole, their pitching rotation has not lived up to expectations, whether it’s due to injuries or performance-based issues.
Cole’s ERA has skyrocketed after the allegations of Spider Tack use. Jameson Taillon has largely been bad even with his last two good outings. Domingo German has been bad. Jordan Montgomery has arguably been the team’s most consistently pitcher, but he’s nothing more than solid.
Somehow, that’s allowed Nestor Cortes Jr. to shine. Once a reliever, the Yankees were in a bind and opted to use him as a starter on two separate occasions after they demoted the struggling Michael King. Cortes Jr. has delivered both times.
Yes, it was only two starts, but Cortes Jr. has bailed the Yankees out and/or given them a chance when they needed it most. In nine games this season, he has an impressive 1.05 ERA and 0.97 WHIP. The Yankees won the two games he started, which featured eight total innings, zero earned runs, four hits, two walks and six strikeouts.
Those outings came against the Mets and the Astros, which could’ve easily gone horribly based on how badly the Mets were knocking around the Yankees last weekend in addition to how potent Houston’s offense is even without some of their top guys.
And most of all, Cortes Jr. has been fun to watch. He possesses a quirky delivery, always smiling between pitches, but has also shown confidence in his pitches that should make it clear he’s worthy of assuming the No. 5 spot in the rotation.
It’s fascinating to think that the southpaw pitcher was drafted by the Yankees in 2013. In 2018, he was selected in the Rule 5 draft by the Baltimore Orioles, but was eventually returned to New York. In 2019, he was traded to the Mariners but found his way back to the Bronx for the 2021 season.
Maybe that was a sign that he was meant to be a Yankee. Maybe this stretch is a sign he was meant to be a starter.
Manager Aaron Boone is out of choices, at least until the trade deadline. For now, Cortes Jr. has earned his spot every fifth day even though he hasn’t provided length. The Yankees don’t need length each and every night — they just can’t be falling behind multiple runs after the first and second inning.
As long as the lefty can keep going three and four scoreless, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be a starter for a team that’s dying for quality innings for the first half of games.