Home USA News Nestor Cortes, shoulder feeling good as he builds up Yankees workload

Nestor Cortes, shoulder feeling good as he builds up Yankees workload

Nestor Cortes, shoulder feeling good as he builds up Yankees workload

TAMPA — Nestor Cortes started picking up frequent flier miles in an attempt to finally get past his shoulder issues. 

The Yankees left-hander may not be fully out of the woods just yet from the rotator cuff strains that derailed his season last year, but he is feeling good in the first week of spring training thanks to a change in his offseason rehab regimen. 

After taking November off from throwing — he had built back up to throw two bullpen sessions by the end of October after the second rotator cuff strain ended his season in August — Cortes began throwing again Dec. 3 back home in Miami.

About 10-15 days into his throwing program, though, he felt like he wasn’t making any progress with his shoulder. 

“[So] I decided to come here to Tampa with the [Yankees’] training staff and work on some stuff to potentially get over the hump with my shoulder,” Cortes said Friday. “It worked out great.” 

New York Yankees starting pitcher Nestor Cortes #65, throwing in the outfield during practice at Steinbrenner Field, the Yankees Spring training complex in Tampa Florida. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

Cortes got into a routine of flying from Miami to Tampa every Sunday or Monday, spending the week rehabbing and working out at the Yankees’ player development complex, and then flying back home on the weekends. 

The Yankees’ training staff knew Cortes’ arm and how it moves best, which made it better for them to prescribe exactly what he needed in order to strengthen it.

He would do shoulder stretches in the morning, then lift weights, “almost to fatigue just to get that shoulder stronger.” 

“I think it spooked him a little bit, but in a good way,” pitching coach Matt Blake said of Cortes needing to get past the hump with his shoulder. “Sometimes they get scared straight on stuff like that — and it’s better to have all the resources around you so that if you do have questions, they can get answered. You do get all the treatment. I think he just knows how important it is for him to be able to stay on the field. So it was great that he made that decision [to come to Tampa].” 

So far, the results have been encouraging to Cortes and the Yankees. 

Cortes’ troubles last season — when he posted a 4.97 ERA across 63 ¹/₃ innings — stemmed from having a hard time recovering in between starts.

He is still early in the process of building up his workload this spring (he threw two innings of live batting practice Wednesday), but his recovery has not yet been an issue. 

“I feel good about where he’s at,” Blake said. “Obviously, he’s got to keep building volume and that’s always the scariest part of the year for anyone. I think it’s just making sure that he is doing everything he needs to do in between while the build is still going up and managing the volume increases.” 

Cortes said there was not a point during the offseason when he considered having shoulder surgery.

New York Yankees starting pitcher Nestor Cortes #65, with pitching coach Matt Blake, during practice at Steinbrenner Field. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

Those thoughts came toward the end of the season, when he wasn’t getting any better “and I was a little scared.”

But he asked for second and third opinions, none of which recommended surgery immediately.

The consensus, he said, was that rehab could fix his issues, even if it took him a little while to “get over that hump.” 

“I think sometimes it’s a little bit you keep the governor on because you’re unsure,” Blake said. “So I think coming in here, getting reassured, getting the full treatment and starting to feel better, then it manifested in the right direction.” 

The Yankees plan to give Cortes an extra day between starts on occasion this spring, but still expect him to build up fully to around 90 pitches by the time the team breaks camp.

His recovery in between outings will bear watching as camp progresses, but Cortes is hopeful that the work he put in during the offseason will allow him to stay healthy. 

“Seeing all these guys here motivated me to come [to the Yankees’ complex] even more because I saw they were getting ready and I wanted to make sure I checked all the boxes so if I did get hurt, I know it wasn’t because I didn’t try,” Cortes said. 

Nestor Cortes is hoping to “get over that hump” as he works his way back. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

The Yankees certainly need the healthiest version of Cortes, too, especially as part of a rotation that has some question marks behind Gerrit Cole.

Cortes believes he is still capable of pitching like he did in 2022 when he was an All-Star with a 2.44 ERA across a career-high 158 ¹/₃ innings. 

“Once I’m healthy, once I feel everything is right, I can be as good as anybody,” Cortes said. “That’s my mentality.”


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