Trenton, NJ — Trenton Thunder relief pitcher, Nestor Cortes, began his baseball career at Hialeah High School, a school with a history of winning back to back Florida state titles in baseball. He is now an up and coming prospect for the New York Yankees— a team which is always in need for left-handed pitchers.
Nestor Cortes has been playing baseball, with the encouragement and support of his father, since he was four years old and started pitching to help out his little league team, at the age of seven. In high school, he played outfield until his junior year when he started pitching again. Many former position players who are now pitching, in the American League, tend to miss hitting. However, Cortes claims that he does not miss the opportunity to bat because pitching is what he loves to do most.
Cortes prefers being a starting pitcher because he feels he has more control over the game, but he makes it known that “[he’ll] do whatever the organization needs for the win,” being a real team player. A more expedient path to the Bronx wouldn’t bother him either.
He had a breakout season in 2016, where he played mostly at low and high A, but also made a few appearances with the double and triple A affiliates. Trenton Thunder Manager, Bobby Mitchell, explains how Cortes was looking last season:
“He pitched some really good games last year and then in the spring I saw the same kind of stuff. He controls the strike zone with a different number of pitches, plus he works really fast.”
At training camp this spring, Cortes worked on his pitching speed and other skills that he felt needed improvement to remain successful for the 2017 season.
Cortes states, “I think my slider has gotten a lot better. At spring training, I was trying to make my slider look like a fast ball, and it only goes back one year from now, when I didn’t have a slider at all, and Jose Rosado (Thunder Pitching Coach) told me I needed something quicker, because I have a slow curve ball, and a fast ball. He said, let’s get you something in between. We worked on it and it’s come a long way.”
This season, Cortes has been off to a slow start with some rough patches. Mitchell, is in agreement and explains what he has been struggling with so far this season:
“Right now he’s just not quite back to where he was last year, but it’s early. He’s struggling a little bit with his command and his pitches and he really needs to get left handed hitters out because if he can, he is going to be a really successful reliever.”
Mitchell makes note of his expectations for Cortes this season:
“My expectation of him is to come in and really get lefties out as a reliever. I mean, that’s going to be his job. Lefties need to get lefties out, and if they can, sometimes they become left handed-specialists. When a righty comes up, they may elect to bring somebody else in.”
Moving forward, it seems as if Nestor Cortes is heading in the direction of a situational lefty: a relief pitcher that specializes in pitching to left-handed batters, weak right handed batters, and switch-hitters who bat poorly right-handed.
Cortes had already proven to be successful at the double A level, last year, but Mitchell feels he really needs to focus on speed of his slider, in particular. This is something Cortes is aware of and addressing. He is, however, content with the velocity of his other pitches:
“My fast ball ranges from maybe 85-91. My curve ball is anywhere from 70-74. My slider is from 76-81. I think that’s a good range. My slider is definitely a lot slower than most. I am trying to learn how to snap it from the side.” Nestor Cortes is not one to give up when struggling.
When asked what advice he would offer to baseball players of all skill levels, Nestor said: “You just got to grind out every day. It’s not a struggle because you are doing what you love, but it is a job and every day you need to come out and prepare for what you got to do. You just got to set up your priorities.”
He recently pitched well in a Thunder victory, but as a spot starter, his pith count after 4.2 precluded him from being credited with the win. He was disappointed, and as he said “all pitchers like getting that W”, but was happy that the team was victorious.
At 22-years old, Nestor Cortes has the mind-set and potential to have a long, productive career in professional baseball. His strong work ethic and sense of team will be instrumental in his advancement through the Yankees system.