Is Nestor Cortes' IL stint fake or is it actual reason for Yankees' struggles?

New York Yankees v Seattle Mariners
New York Yankees v Seattle Mariners / Alika Jenner/GettyImages

Nestor Cortes was supposed to start for the New York Yankees on Wednesday, the team's second contest against the Chicago White Sox. But on Sunday, his slot was changed to "TBD" and news soon followed that the left-hander was dealing with a shoulder issue.

He's now expected to land on the injured list and miss "1-2" starts (though the move hasn't been made official yet) and fans are wondering if this means one of two things.

Is this a classic phantom IL stint the Yankees love to orchestrate to allow a player to reset with some time on the shelf? Or is this a legitimate injury that has hampered Cortes all year, especially as he's pitched later into games?

Expected to have some pressure lifted with the presence of Gerrit Cole, Carlos Rodón, Luis Severino and Frankie Montas, Cortes didn't get that once Rodón, Sevy and Montas started the year on the IL. Sevy's been back for three starts, and the other two haven't stepped on the field. The burden's been on Cole and Cortes to carry the load.

That's called for a greater dependency on them to pitch deeper into games, but Cortes has been unable to face the third time through the order. He's gotten shelled from the fifth inning and beyond, and the numbers are jarring.

Yankees News: Nestor Cortes shoulder injury likely to land him on IL

In addition to mislocating as the game progresses, Cortes typically experiences a decline in velocity -- one that's detrimentally obvious. Shoulder fatigue would make a ton of sense as the culprit, but it feels a bit overdue that it's being discovered now. Cortes hasn't been himself for over a month now, and he really hasn't looked the 2022 part whatsoever.

His Statcast page has shifted from mostly red to mostly blue year over year. He's getting hit harder. He's walking more batters. He's striking out fewer batters/getting them to chase less frequently. Sure, regressions happen, but Cortes is coming off an All-Star season and uncharacteristically cannot shake these jitters once the fifth inning arrives.

It really seems more mental than anything, given the nature of the issues -- unless, of course, Cortes was hiding injury concerns from the team. And the fact Cortes is claiming the shoulder doesn't have anything to do with his troubles the third time through the order further suggests that.

If there are legitimate shoulder concerns holding him back, then we have an answer, but you'd think the injury would've worsened as time went on to affect him earlier in games. If it's a phantom IL stint designed to give him a mental reset, then we at least know the team is doing all it can to help the lefty get back on track.

Whatever Nestor needs to do to rediscover his All-Star form is fine with the fans ... it just better not involve surgery.