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“Nasty” Nestor Finishes Strong

Bill Menzel/ Latino Sports

Bronx, NY – Analyze the Yankees starting rotation for the upcoming postseason and realize manager Aaron Boone and others involved in the decision process are weighing their options in their final five games. But after Saturday afternoon in the Bronx, Nestor Cortes needs to be considered as a Game1 starter when the Yankees open the best-of-five Division Series.

There is time for the decision making, the Yankees open the ALDS in the Bronx October 11, though Cortes appears to be ready for the task as the starter after 7-⅓ innings and allowing one hit in the Yankees 8-0 win over the Orioles.

You can vouch for Gerrit Cole, after all he has a huge contract and is the ace, situated for the role. However, Cole, and with struggles of giving up the home run ball, has not been dominant nor has he been consistent with the fastball.

So look at Cortes Saturday and his final start of the season at Yankee Stadium: 7.1 innings, 1-hit, 0 runs, 2 walks, 12 strikeouts. Those numbers are sufficient for an ace. Numbers that deserve consideration and more than Cole as their starting pitcher to open the ALDS.

Though, remember, as we all do, October baseball is different. Cortes had an innings limit down the stretch and the Yankees hierarchy played this one right to the book. Cortes is ready for the role.

Bill Menzel/Latino Sports

“I just wanted to give a strong showing to finish the regular season on a high note,” Cortes said. “There’s still more work to be done, but I’m happy it ended this way.”

He finished the season strong as if the work was not done. And of course the first pitcher in Yankees history to complete a season with an ERA below .2.45, and a WHIP below 0.94 is consideration to get that starting role.

Cole, though, has one more start in one of two games of a doubleheader Tuesday in Texas against the Rangers, and perhaps Boone and his staff will weigh in more on the makeup of this rotation for the beginning of what the Yankees expect to be that long run to a championship.

“He’s been huge,” Boone said about Cortes. “He loves wearing the pinstripes and playing here.”

Of course, Boone would not comment about that ace role for Cortes in the postseason but numbers show he has that makeup to be. 12-4, 2.44 ERA that ranks fifth in the AL. Only Cy Young Award candidates Justin Verlander (1.80), Dylan Cease (2.06), Alek Manoah (2.24) and Shohei Ohtani (2.35) are better.

Bill Menzel/ Latino Sports

Added to the Cortes fastball of 94, consistent, the fastball and cutter contributed to tying a career high 12 strikeouts.He has earned the name “Nasty” and in spring training there was uncertainty about Cortes ability to crack the starting rotation.

Now, though, with the uncertainty a foregone conclusion Cortes has to be considered the number one or following Cole as the second starter as the Yankees begin their run to another championship.

But there won’t be any answers at least for another week or days after. Cortes is quiet, goes about his work, and vouched his case with a dominant final start.

“I got a chip on my shoulder,” he said about a sense of urgency to always top his last start. “The season I had doesn’t matter. Every time I go out there and pitch, I always feel like it could be the last one. That’s how I go about it.”

Bill Menzel/ Latino Sports

But this was not his last start and that all spells good for the Yankees. The others in the clubhouse also take notice, and not necessarily all of his cohorts that follow in the rotation and down in the bullpen. Giancarlo Stanton helped Cortes with his 29th home run. He has noticed the Nestor Cortes season that has been consistent as the Yankees won their 97th game of the season.

“He continues to get better, nonstop, always looking for some way to improve,” said Stanton. “He’s fun in here, always laughing, always having a good time and then he goes out and shoves every fifth day.”

And this could be starting that first game of the ALDS, then again, all of those decisions are forthcoming. The Yankees could use Cole as a stopper in a Game 2 home situation in the event they are down 0-1 as the series moves to the opposing ballpark.

Decisions for the manager and his staff. A decision to start Cortes as that first game starter. You be the manager, Cole or Cortes? In the postseason, regardless, Cortes will be “Nasty Nestor.”

Rich Mancuso is a senior writer Twitter@Ring786 Watch “Sports with Rich” live on Tuesday Nights at 8pm EST on The SLG Network/Youtube with Robert Rizzo Available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify under The SLG Network.


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