The Yankees’ Nestor Cortes is sharp as hamstring concerns fade
JUPITER, Fla. — When Nestor Cortes arrived at spring training with a strained hamstring, it didn’t seem like much of a threat to his availability for the start of the regular season.
However, the way the Yankees played his return slowly didn’t leave Cortes much room for error, and it wasn’t out of the question to use the day off after opening day to skip his first round through the rotation.
But a week before the start of the regular season, Cortes looked very crisp at his second and penultimate spring practice session now that it’s his first turn through the rotation.
Facing a Cardinals lineup composed almost entirely of regulars on Thursday, Cortes pitched four scoreless innings, conceding just two singles and batting seven in a 1-1 draw at Roger Dean Stadium.
“It was encouraging,” Cortes said. “I felt like them [velocity] was consistent throughout the race and I hit my spots really well.”
Although the results were strong, manager Aaron Boone thought Cortes looked just as good.
“Really, it’s consistent with what we’ve been seeing of him all spring, even when he originally came back from the Achilles tendon,” Boone said. “When it was set up, it was really sharp. Today he was really sharp. The stuff was really good, popped a 94 [mph] even inside. But his command and his mix, he was in command today.
“It was crisp, it was spicy. He threw the ball where and how he wanted.”
Boone said he’s leaning towards Cortes making his next start Tuesday in an exhibition against the Nationals in Washington that would set him up for the fourth game of the regular season on April 3 against the Phillies. The Yankees have some leeway, however, since Domingo German also started in a minor league game Thursday in Tampa, meaning each of them could get an extra day of rest before starting game five of the regular season.
Until then, Cortes will focus on continuing to build his pitch and keep his hamstrings healthy. He threw 66 pitches Thursday after throwing 52 on his Grapefruit League debut last Saturday.
“I feel good,” Cortes said. “I think now it’s all about counting the pitch and being strong on the third time around the lineup or on the fifth and sixth innings. That will be the next hurdle for the next mission.”
Cortes also got a light test of his Achilles tendon in the second inning. Lars Nootbaar hit a ground ball from first base and while Cortes eventually got over first base, Anthony Rizzo dealt with it himself. Cortes and Rizzo laughed as they walked back to the shelter.
“Just conservative cover over there,” Cortes said. “It felt good though, which is encouraging. I feel like I can try better, but obviously I didn’t want to go all out and test this. I felt like next time there’s a ground ball I can cover.
Boone said the Yankees told Cortes not to bust it now while they’re still in spring training. So there wasn’t much effort in running to the first and diving to mark the bag like Cortes did at a game that grew his legend in a game against the Guardians last April.
“Yes, I would do without that today,” said Cortes, laughing. “March , I would do without it. But in the first week of April, I’m sure I’ll make it.”
https://nypost.com/2023/03/24/yankees-nestor-cortes-sharp-as-hamstring-worries-fade/ The Yankees’ Nestor Cortes is sharp as hamstring concerns fade