New York Yankees News: Yankees sign Nestor Cortes Jr., and old friend lefty pitcher

New York Yankees, Nestor Cortes Jr.
Mar 10, 2019; Lakeland, FL, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Nestor Cortes Jr. (76) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Detroit Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees made only one move during the Winter Meetings period, and it wasn’t all that newsworthy. Nevertheless, it was a special day for Nestor Cortez Jr. it was his 26th birthday, and he signed with the New York Yankees. Cortez is a mostly lefty reliever that has been with the Yankees twice before.

The Yankees drafted Cortez out of high school in the 2013 draft. He signed and made his professional debut with The Gulf Coast Yankees of the Rookie League. In 2014, he returned going 1–2 with a 2.27 ERA in 11 games (two starts). Cortés spent 2015 with the Pulaski Yankees, where he compiled a 6–3 record with a 2.26 ERA in 12 games (ten starts). In 2016, he pitched for the Charleston River Dogs. 2016 was a busy year for Cortez Jr. as he worked his way up the Yankee Minor League system, first with the Class A Tampa team, then the Trenton Thunder, and ended up at the AAA Scranton/Wilkes Barre Rail Riders.

With the Rail Riders in 2016, he was 7–4 with a 2.06 ERA in 30 games (13 starts).  After the 2017 season, the New York Yankee bullpen was strongest in all of baseball. That being the case, they did not protect Cortes Jr. from the 2017 rule 5 draft. The Baltimore Orioles took advantage of that and picked him up from the Yankees. After pitching for the Orioles in the minor, they promoted him to the majors. He made his Major League debut on March 31, 2018. That year he pitched only 4.2 innings with an ERA of 7.71.

Nestor Cortes Jr.’s second stint with the New York Yankees. On April 13, 2018, he was returned to the New York Yankees. He played in one game for the Trenton Thunder before returning to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, combining for a 6–6 record and a 3.68 ERA in 24 games. Before the 2019 season, the Yankees invited Nestor to spring training with the big club at George M Steinbrenner Field; he pitched well but did not make the team and started the 2019 season back in Scranton.

The Yankees promoted him to the major leagues on May 9. On June 15, he earned his first Major League win, striking out 7 batters and allowing 2 earned runs in 5 innings. 2019 turned out to be his workhorse season in his career. He pitched over 66 innings, mostly in relief, although he did have one start. Although his 5-1 record was impressive, his ERA of 5.67 wasn’t. Again Cortes Jr. found himself on the short end of the stick. The Yankees were not wanting for an extra hand in the bullpen, and he was traded to the Seattle Mariners.

Cortes Jr. was a horrible flop for the Seattle team. He pitched in relief for 4.2 innings in five games with an incredible 15.26 ERA.  Cortes found himself on the injured list on August 15 with a left elbow impingement, and he missed the remainder of the regular season as a result of the injury. When he returned from the IL, he was dropped from the 40 man roster and elected free agency.

Now Nestor is a Yankee again for the third time and has said on Instagram that he is delighted to be back with the team. In the Yankee move, you have to assume that general manager Brian Cashman has knowledge that his poor showing in 2019 was because of his arm injury. This is surely not a blockbuster announcement but does give manager Aaron Boone another option in the bullpen that will be missing Tommy Kahnle all season while he is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. The Yankees also know that the big stage at Yankee Stadium is not a problem for Cortes Jr.