Nestor Cortes did what Nasty Nestor does. He got outs. The Yankees fifth starter, the quirky left-hander who baffled hitters with different deliveries and quick pitches just to try and stick with the team, has grown into one of the team’s most reliable pitchers as a starter or a reliever.
Tuesday night was no different. He dealt 4.1 scoreless innings against the dangerous Blue Jays lineup and the Yankees bounced back for a 4-0 win at Yankee Stadium.
Aaron Hicks, playing left field for the first time since 2017, hit his first home run and helped snap two straight losses for the Yankees (3-2).
Cortes scattered three hits, did not walk a batter and struck out five in his season debut. In 14 starts last season, Cortes pitched to a 3.07 ERA. Out of the bullpen he had a 2.29 ERA.
Once known for his quirky deliveries, Cortes has made a place for himself in the Yankees rotation and bullpen just because he is effective.
“I think his confidence has grown and again his experience has grown and he understands that he has an arsenal that is capable of getting big league hitters out at a really high level and as a starter,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “So yeah, I think I think we’ve, again, a young man that’s grown in his craft and in his confidence, he still has the gimmicks, he still does the hesitations and the drop downs and that’s all part of it.
“And I think because he’s athletic enough to do that kind of stuff, it’s something that works for him. I don’t know necessarily that he’s toned it down. It’s still a part of his mix, but I don’t think there’s any question that his experience and his confidence has continued to grow and know that he has what it takes to get these guys out regardless.”
Cortes said that comes from being a low-round draft pick who was fighting every day to not get released. The Cuban native knows that was key to his learning to be an effective pitcher and even this spring, assured a spot on the big league roster, Cortes came into camp thinking he just had to get outs to stick with the club.
“I was a 36th rounder, I’m 5-10 and throw 90 miles per hour,” Cortes said. “For me, it was like, living day by day trying not to get released. I signed in 2013 and the first three or four years were like, ‘I need to prove myself’ And even then, like, I had my second, third and fourth year were really good, but it’s still coming into fifth year. Like, I couldn’t take things lightly and I couldn’t think about developing pitches. My five years in the minors were “get outs, get outs, get outs’ That’s my mentality.”
After a successful run with the Yankees in 2019, Cortes struggled with the Mariners in 2020. In his return to the Bombers last season, he didn’t make his first appearance until May 30 and then from there his 2.90 ERA was the third lowest in the American League.
And this year, he gets a chance to prove he belongs here from the start of the season
“I think I’m more prepared than last year. I put up a lot of good innings and hopefully this year I can do that and hopefully start the whole season and give quality innings,” Cortes said.
WAY OUT IN LEFT FIELD
Aaron Hicks made his first start in left field since Sept. 29, 2017 on Tuesday night. The outfielder said it was different.
“Just like my first route, it was kind of shaky in the beginning,” Hicks said with a smile. “But I mean, when I kind of got started to get a little bit more comfortable out there. It was alright, the four-man outfield kind of messed me up. But overall, I feel like it was pretty, pretty good.”
The Yankees used four men in the outfield twice Tuesday night. The first was against Blue Jays’ third baseman Matt Chapman. Gleyber Torres moving from second base to left field with Hicks. The Bombers used it once in the spring training, but not with Hicks.
Source: Berkshire mont