Business as usual for Nestor Cortes in ALCS – The Denver Post


Hearing Nestor Cortes speak right now, it seems like he’s enjoying this Yankee postseason run more than anybody.

For fans, watching the team need five games to get rid of Cleveland, then falling in an 0-2 hole against Houston, has invited a lot of unwanted stress into their lives. For the players that are struggling, the weight is starting to set in. But Cortes, who turned in two brilliant starts against the Guardians in the Division Series, thinks that trying to change things up now or let himself feel the magnitude of playoff games would disrupt everything he has going.

“I tried to keep the same kind of game day routine,” Cortes said of his game plan for the Cleveland starts. “Those two games were just like starting a regular season game for me. I knew the stakes were higher, everything was going to be more magnified. But as far as the way that I went about it, it was kind of the same through the day.”

Things are no different as Cortes gets ready for his Game 4 start on Sunday, facing a Houston team much punchier than the Guardians that has established themselves as the undeniable best team in the world.

“Obviously [it’s] the ALCS for the first time, but I think I’ll approach it the same way,” Cortes assured. “I don’t think nothing changes. The goal’s still to go out there and throw as many quality innings as I can. I think that’s the way that I’ve done it the whole year and that’s why I’ve had the success I’ve had.”

Cortes also used his media availability to shower praise on Aaron Judge, astutely recognizing that the team would not be anywhere close to this position if not for the big man and his god-like season. Cortes even went into somewhat of a recruiter mode, noting that should Judge decide to come back, the team should be ready to bestow a major honor on him.

“He’s meant everything,” Cortes said of Judge. “I think I’m able to say that if he’s back here next year, he’s our captain, he’s the next captain. We follow everything he does. He leads by example. He’s not really a guy that comes out and screams at anybody. But if he has to, that’s his job. I think he’s earned that right to keep us in check.”

Judge’s looming free agency has definitely been somewhat of an unspoken x-factor during this season, but his teammates, especially Cortes, haven’t let that impact their admiration for him.

“Sometimes I ask myself, how does he have so much time to stop for interviews and signatures? But he finds a way,” Cortes said. “That’s what makes him great.”

For the glass-half-full fans, the pain of losing the first two ALCS games was ameliorated by the knowledge that Gerrit Cole would pitch Game 3 and Cortes would have Game 4. Very few teams can put a combination of that caliber on the mound in back-to-back postseason games, something that Cortes appreciates, especially because he looked like he might be out of the league in 2020.

“It feels great to know that fans are actually excited to watch me pitch or to have me in that role. And to have that, I guess that optimism for me to go out there and pitch well, I think it’s good to have that pressure. Because you know you’re liked around the city and hopefully in the community of Hispanics and Cubans from where I’m from.”

“We’ve talked a lot about his journey,” Yankee manager Aaron Boone said. “It’s a great story. But here we are in the middle of October and he’s a critical figure to our team, a critical person, player to our team, and I think at this point over the last couple of years he’s proven that he is just a frontline impact pitcher in the game.”

Cortes laughed when asked how his life has changed in the past couple of years, especially as he tries to navigate the Big Apple. He said as soon as mask mandates eased up, he started getting recognized at a much more frequent rate. He also used to regularly take the subway, but that has had to stop to avoid being swarmed. The unlikely star hasn’t gotten big time enough to complain about his newfound fame, though.

“I think it was this year, maybe like three or four starts into the season, I remember going shopping one day and getting stopped a few times to take pictures,” he beamed. “So that felt kind of cool. Now it’s just, everywhere I go I have a little hoodie on and stuff.”


As Cortes’ star was growing, a major part of his reputation came from being the short dude with a mustache and some funky deliveries. While he hasn’t grown in stature, and the mustache is still glued to his face, Cortes has limited the exaggerated leg kicks and hesitation moves on the mound.

Asked when he typically decides to unleash them, Cortes said it’s usually a snap decision after getting the ball back from his catcher.

“Usually, as soon as I get the ball back and I’m walking towards the rubber again to get ready, is when I decide. And then depending on the pitch that he calls it allows me to either okay, like confirm that we’re going to do it, or just shut it down and go with what pitches he calls.”



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