Yankees’ Nestor Cortes takes big rehab step | Aaron Judge positive injury update

nestor cortes, yankees
Apr 20, 2023; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Nestor Cortes (65) pitches against the Los Angeles Angels during the fifth inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

With the All-Star break just a week away, the New York Yankees are gradually returning to health, player by player. As Harrison Bader is fully back and Carlos Rodon is expected to return on July 7 following one more rehab game, the Yankees should have the majority of their impact players available, aside from Aaron Judge and Nestor Cortés.

Progress in Cortés and Judge’s Rehab Process

Both Cortés and Judge took significant steps forward in their rehab on Friday. Max Goodman of NJ.com reports that Cortés is once again throwing off the mound and starting to intensify his process.

Before suffering a shoulder injury, the 28-year-old posted a 5.16 ERA, nine strikeouts per nine, a 68.2% left-on-base rate, a 25.9% ground ball rate, and a 10.3% HR/FB ratio across 59.1 innings. Regrettably, Cortés made substantial progress this season, but the injury required a significant amount of time off.

Adding Cortés back to a rotation that currently includes Gerrit Cole, Luis Severino, Clarke Smith, and Domingo German should be a tremendous benefit. Rodon has excelled during his rehab assignment, demonstrating the lethal pitch sequence the Yankees invested in over six years and $162 million.

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Judge’s Recovery: A Crucial Player’s Journey Back

Judge has also started long tossing, and while he is still weeks away from a potential return, he is making good progress after tearing a ligament in his right big toe.

The 31-year-old signed a nine-year, $360 million contract this past offseason to stay with the Yankees for the foreseeable future. Despite spending significant time on the injured list this season, he still made it to the All-Star game, hitting .291 with a .404 OPP, including 19 homers, 40 RBIs, and a 188 wRC+ across 49 games.

Health: The Key Factor for the Yankees’ Success

While general manager Brian Cashman may make some moves at the deadline in a few weeks, health is the most critical variable for the Yankees, particularly concerning current roster players. If they can maintain their health for the rest of the season, the Yankees can match any team, despite several high-priced free agents struggling this year due to inconsistencies at the plate.

Minor Setback for Anthony Rizzo

In addition to the key players listed, starting first baseman Anthony Rizzo picked up an injury on Thursday after being hit in the elbow by a pitch. While he’s still experiencing some stiffness, Rizzo’s X-rays came back negative, and he should be back in the lineup on Saturday.