Yankees lefty starter takes big step forward in recovery

nestor cortes, yankees
Sep 8, 2022; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Nestor Cortes (65) reacts during the fourth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees have had to manage without their ace left-handed pitcher Nestor Cortes since early June due to a left shoulder strain. Placed on the injured list on June 8, retroactive to June 5, it’s the second time Cortes has found himself sidelined this season. His previous absence was at the commencement of spring training.

Diagnosis: A Left Rotator Cuff Strain

Nestor Cortes, or ‘Nasty Nestor,’ as he is often referred to, was diagnosed specifically with a left rotator cuff strain. The Yankees attempted to mitigate the discomfort by administering a cortisone shot just before placing him on the injured list. After several days of rest, he is set to take an important first step towards recovery.

Yankees insider Bryan Hoch tweeted, “Nestor Cortes could begin playing catch again on Sunday, Aaron Boone said. Best guess for his return would be sometime in July.”

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A Healthy Nestor Cortes: Vital for the Yankees

Assuming there are no complications along the way, Cortes will have to achieve a series of objectives before the Yankees can reinstate him from the injured list. These include playing catch, gradually increasing the throwing distance, bullpen sessions, live batting practice, and eventually, a rehab assignment.

Cortes is expected to regain full strength at some point next month. His return will supply the Yankees’ rotation with a much-needed bolstering.

However, Cortes’s performance to date has not matched his notable 2021 and 2022 levels. With a 5.16 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP over 59.1 innings, he has struggled when encountering opposing lineups for the third time.

Questioning Performance Factors

Several factors could be contributing to Cortes’s performance dip. It’s possible his shoulder never fully recovered, or perhaps the pitch clock’s pressure has disrupted his rhythm. Once he’s fully fit, Cortes will need to demonstrate that he can dominate a lineup for six or seven innings, as he did in the past two years.

For the Yankees to achieve their season objectives, they need the Nestor Cortes of yesteryears — fully fit and dominating at his best.