Cody Poteet performance showing Yankees that Nestor Cortes likely belongs in bullpen

When the time comes, of course.
New York Yankees v San Francisco Giants
New York Yankees v San Francisco Giants / Brandon Vallance/GettyImages

At the moment, the New York Yankees are down two starters in Gerrit Cole, who could return in a couple of weeks, and Clarke Schmidt, who just went down and is expected to miss two months. And yet, all is well.

The Yankees' group of Schmidt, Carlos Rodón, Marcus Stroman, Nestor Cortes and Luis Gil, up until Schmidt's injury, was the best rotation in baseball. It turns out New York has another seamless replacement, too.

Gil won the No. 5 starter job out of spring training after Cole went down, and the young right-hander is ... putting up Cole-esque numbers. It's like the Yankees never suffered a loss in production. That was the big obstacle for the team to navigate, and they did in a stress-free manner.

Prior to Schmidt's injury, fans were intensely discussing who might move to the bullpen when Cole returns. Schmidt going down conveniently solved that problem — the answer is nobody, for now.

But perhaps Cody Poteet's Saturday outing, when lined up next to Nestor Cortes' Sunday outing, could give the Yankees some clarity. When Cole and Schmidt come back and the Yankees need to make room in the rotation, it's Cortes who should probably head to the bullpen.

Cortes has had a fine season in 2024, but it just hasn't met the standard of what the rest of the rotation is putting forth. The Giants are among the most underwhelming offensive teams in the league and Nestor was getting knocked around before being removed after just 4 1/3 innings.

Cody Poteet performance showing Yankees that Nestor Cortes likely belongs in bullpen

This outing alone, however, is not the culprit. Over his last five starts, the left-hander has managed to go beyond 5 1/3 innings just once. He hasn't consistently provided length in a month, and his issues with giving up a lot of hits and hard contact remain.

Only Cortes' walk percentage remains elite. Everything else leaves a lot to be desired, most notably his ground ball rate (4th percentile), average exit velocity (6th percentile) and hard-hit rate (12th percentile). And oddly enough ... there aren't any clear "answers" to Nestor's problems. He's getting shelled in the first and third innings of most of his starts and then he's largely good beyond that. Oh yeah, and he's also terrible on the road, pitching to a 6.17 ERA and 1.51 WHIP in seven starts compared to a 1.12 ERA and 0.72 WHIP in six home starts. That discrepancy is hard to justify.

If that wasn't enough evidence to suggest he's probably the long-relief option come mid-August, perhaps the showing from Cody Poteet the day before might help put this into context.

Poteet, who was promoted upon after Schmidt's injury, got the call and made the trip out to California. It was his second start of the season for the Yanks, with his last being a success (and win) against the Central-best Guardians. He tossed six innings of one-run ball, allowing just six hits and no walks.

On Saturday, Poteet wasn't overly impressive, but he got the job done. He went five innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on three hits and a walk while striking out six. He did exactly what he needed to do as a Triple-A emergency option. He faced the same lineup and was more effective than Cortes.

In fact, Poteet flew through his outing, and if not for an error by Anthony Volpe that allowed an additional run to cross the plate, we could be talking about the right-hander lasting six or seven innings, since his pitch count was only at 78. While their starts looked somewhat similar in the box score, they couldn't have been more different from a viewership standpoint.

The Yankees ended up sweeping the series in emphatic fashion, which has put this conversation rightfully on the backburner, but the more Nestor scuffles and fails to improve upon his struggles, it won't be avoidable for much longer.