TAMPA — After a disastrous night across the bay, there was good news for the Yankees. Nestor Cortes threw three simulated innings Saturday morning and came out expecting to be activated off the injured list next week and potentially pitch in the series against the Twins at the Stadium.
“I still have to talk to [Aaron Boone], and he just left, so I think whenever he wants. I think my 15 days are up on Monday, if I’m not mistaken, and can come off on Tuesday. Maybe somewhere along the Minnesota series,” Cortes said.
Cortes was placed on the injured list with a left groin strain retroactive to Aug. 22. He has maintained it was a slight strain and has continued throwing and even running during the IL stint.
He threw 45 pitches in three simulated innings against minor league hitters at the Yankees minor league complex. He also fielded some bunts and threw to first base. Pitching coach Matt Blake, bullpen coach Mike Harkey and Boone sat in the stands to watch.
Nestor Cortes, seen here working out in Oakland last week, has been testing his groin and feels ready to return. (Godofredo A. Vásquez/AP)
Cortes was encouraged he can pick right up where he left off when he is inserted back into the rotation.
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“The reason why I went three with 45 [pitches] was so maybe I can come back and throw four or five innings right away and have a good pitch count still up there because like I said, I never stopped throwing,” Cortes said. “So it’s not like I shut down and had to build back up.”
Cortes said he really tried to test the groin as he threw, using all his pitches.
“I was doing even the sidearm stuff because I feel like it takes a little bit more to my groin when I dropped down,” Cortes said. “So I wanted to test that out to make sure I checked every box.”
The plan going forward for now is that Cortes will throw a bullpen on Monday or Tuesday and the Yankees really could use something to go as planned.
While it is mostly their offense to blame, the Bombers have spiraled from a 15.5-game lead in the American League East to being embarrassed on Friday night as the Rays shut them out 9-0 and cut the lead to five games.
The pitching is thinned though with Luis Severino on the injured list and not expected back until Sept. 12 having been out of pitching in games since July 14. They traded Jordan Montgomery away at the deadline to acquire center fielder Harrison Bader, who is still rehabbing his plantar fasciitis and has not played a game yet. The Yankees also traded away all their significant, near major-league ready pitching from the minor leagues.
Clarke Schmidt was pulled out of an already taxed bullpen to make what would have been Cortes’ start against the Rays on Saturday night. The loss of Michael King from the bullpen with an elbow fracture has been a big blow and even though he is no longer being used in high-leverage situations, the loss of Aroldis Chapman is taking a toll.