Yankees: Good news and bad news following 5-2 loss against Toronto

nestor cortes, yankees
Mar 18, 2023; Dunedin, Florida, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Nestor Cortes (65) throws a pitch against the Toronto Blue Jays in the first inning during spring training at TD Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees faced off against the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday afternoon, falling 5–2, picking up their 13th spring training loss. The Yanks are still finding their groove, especially the starting rotation, which has been hit with a number of injuries over the past few weeks.

Nestor Cortes got his first spring training start, having a rocky performance coming off a hamstring injury that set him back a few weeks. Nonetheless, the Yankees did enjoy a few solid outings from individual offensive players and bullpen pieces.

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Good news for the Yankees:

Let’s start with the team’s offensive contributors, notably Giancarlo Stanton and Anthony Volpe. Stanton had a tremendous day, tallying two hits and an RBI, increasing his average to .280 this spring with a .333 OBP. After a troublesome start, Stanton is heating up at the right time as we head into the regular season.

Volpe recorded a hit, a run, and a walk but didn’t strike out twice across three at-bats. Despite the two Ks, Volpe singled to center field, with the ball recording on 106 mph exit velocity. As manager Aaron Boone indicated his week, the team’s top prospect is firmly in the mix for an opening-day roster spot.

As for the pitching, the top performers include Jonathan Loaisiga, Clay Holmes, and Ian Hamilton. The three bullpen arms combined for 3.0 innings of action, giving up just one hit, one walk, and two strikeouts. In fact, Hamilton gave up the hit and walk, so Loáisiga and Holmes produced near-perfect performances.

Bad news for the Yankees:

As mentioned earlier, this was Nestor’s first appearance this spring, pitching 3.1 innings of action. He gave up three hits, five earned runs, three walks, and two homers. He did strike out four batters, but it was obvious that Cortes is shaking off the rust and will need a few more outings before he feels fully comfortable following the hamstring injury.

Cortes is coming off a season where he enjoyed the top ERA among Yankees starters at 2.44. He also posted an 82.8% left-on-base rate, 9.24 strikeouts per nine, and an 8.2% HR/FB ratio over 158.1 innings. That was the most Nestor ever pitched by a significant margin, eventually running out of gas during the playoffs. If the Yankees can pull it off, managing Cortes’ workload to ensure fatigue doesn’t settle in late in the season is ideal.

Michael King pitched 1.2 innings, giving up two hits and allowing two runs to score after Cortes left them on base. Offensively, Josh Donaldson struck out twice across three at-bats, posting a .200 average and .310 OBP this spring.

Rafael Ortega has struggled the past few days, posting a .154 average with a .333 OBP. The Yankees only recorded six hits on the afternoon with 11 strikeouts, but they had several prospects in the lineup, whereas the Toronto Blue Jays had most of their starters in the mix.

The Yanks will look ahead to Sunday afternoon at 1:05 PM against the Baltimore Orioles to get back in the win column.