Yankees' Nestor Cortes pulled from World Baseball Classic in likely Brian Cashman strong-arming

Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees
Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees / Mike Stobe/GettyImages

Just over a week ago, when the Yankees made it clear they didn't want Luis Severino pitching for Team Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, it remained surprising that the team had concurrently cleared Nestor Cortes to pitch for Team USA.

After all, it was the Yankees' stated preference that their pitchers not take any unnecessary offseason risks. Severino's injury history says it all, but Cortes, too, had his innings limited midway through his breakout 2022 season, and ended the year with a groin injury that knocked him out of his ALCS start.

His tenure in the bigs hasn't been as grisly as Severino's, but it was safe to assume the cautious Brian Cashman regime would have a "one size fits all" policy here.

On Monday, we got a bit closer to that reality, as Cortes was pulled from the WBC roster and replaced by Rockies starter Kyle Freeland.

According to Ken Rosenthal, Cortes "recently tweaked his hamstring," which is quite possibly true. The injury does come conveniently after Yankees insider Bob Klapisch suggested Cashman play the bad guy and bug Cortes for the greater good.

Yankees left-hander Nestor Cortes (hamstring) pulled out of World Baseball Classic

As Klapisch recently stated:

""Both Nestor Cortes and Severino both need to be treated gently this spring; they’re 1 and 1-A on the Yankees’ Do Not Disturb list. So, my advice to Cashman is to fully play the role of the bad cop and keep them both out of the WBC. He’s probably mad at Severino, and he should know that Cortes is likely to feel the same way.”"

Bob Klapisch

Last season, Cortes made 28 regular-season starts and went 12-4 with a 2.44 ERA and 4.2 bWAR in 158.2 innings, followed by 12 more in the postseason.

Needless to say, if it were up to Cashman, his pitchers probably wouldn't participate in regular-season showcases like the All-Star Game, either. Both the WBC and ASG are points of pride. Both are honors. But only one comes before a season has even begun, when a pitcher's arm is at its lowest point of readiness. An interrupted routine could lead to all sorts of unwanted worries for the Yankees, especially considering their rotation is thinner than expected and without Frankie Montas.

It's not surprising Cortes was told to rest. It's only surprising it took this long for Cashman to act.

No guarantees Jonathan Loaisiga pitches for Nicaragua, either, you'd assume.