In a year that has seen so many New York Yankees underachieve, the story of Nestor Cortes Jr. reads like something out of a fairytale. A former relief pitcher who was discarded by the Yankees, Orioles, and Mariners in a three-year span, Cortes has not only worked his way onto the roster, but established himself as one of New York’s most effective pitchers.
Cortes came into his start against the Boston Red Sox with a 2.79 ERA in 20 games and 12 starts. In fact, the only qualified pitcher in the American League since May 30 with a lower ERA than Cortes is Blue Jays ace and Cy Young candidate Robbie Ray.
Cortes might not have a ton of experience as a starter, and his high 80s and low 90s stuff doesn’t really fall in line with the fireballer archetype becoming more prevalent nowadays, but he’s been nothing if not effective and consistent, and that should be rewarded when he gets to the postseason.
If the Yankees make it to the postseason, Cortes not only has to be a member of the pitching staff, but he should be entrusted with a very unique role perhaps as important as being the fourth starter. Even if he gets axed from the playoff rotation, he could make an impact as a long relief pitcher that can get big outs out of the bullpen.
The Yankees could use Nestor Cortes effectively in the playoffs.
As good as Cortes has been this season, he has only reached seven innings in a start once and has topped 6.0 innings in only two starts. Going deep into games might not be a trait the former relief pitcher has in his arsenal right now, but that could still make him a very valuable commodity in the postseason.
Think of how the Dodgers used Kenta Maeda over the years, or even how they use Julio Urias last year.
Cortes is platoon-proof, as his batting average against is nearly identical for both righties and lefties, and that ability to come in as a reliever and eat up multiple innings effectively could bail the Yankees out of a jam or two in a one-game playoff or best-of-seven sprint.
Gerrit Cole will obviously be the lead dog in the rotation, followed by Jordan Montgomery. Corey Kluber will likely be in the playoff rotation, and if Jameson Taillon returns and looks good, players like Cortes and Luis Severino might get shifted to the bullpen.
Cortes can still be of service to the Yankees in this role, as his unusual style of pitching has been baffling hitters. The Dodgers have had success in the playoffs using a converted starter as a long reliever, and Cortes could follow that plan.