Nestor Cortes feels good. The Yankees southpaw pitched five solid innings Saturday in the Bombers’ 8-2 win over the Royals at Yankee Stadium. With that, he has thrown 106.2 overall this season and is closing in on where he topped last season.
This had been a concern for the 27-year-old entering the season. He has never thrown more than 93 in the majors and only threw 108 between majors and minors last year.
He pitched a career-high 115 innings in the minors in 2018.
“I feel good, I don’t feel it at all,” the All-Star pitcher said. “Between 2018 and 2019 I kicked the winter ball, so I feel like I had more innings than what’s actually recorded.”
Cortes held the Royals to two runs on five hits and two walks on Saturday. He withdrew five. He’s allowed three or fewer earned runs in 16 of 19 starts this season and two or fewer in 14 starts.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone admitted they were managing his workload in the second half of the season.
“Being 90-for-five there,” Boone said, “it was on my mind to send it back there at least for Hunter Dozier and then the southpaw. [Vinnie Pasquantino]. I was thinking about it, but I kind of worked with it [coaches Carlos Mendoza and Matt Blake]. He worked hard today, it’s a hot day… Do I really want to push him through two batters? We were quite well settled with [Aroldis Chapman] and we had Clarke [Schmidt] there for the length if we had a lead.
TRUST IN CHAPMAN
Chapman, who has struggled lately, pitched his third straight scoreless inning, striking out two. It was just the second consecutive successful appearance for the closer former Yankees since coming off the injured list on July 2. The other consecutive scoreless innings were against the Pirates on July 5 and 6.
Boone is encouraged.
“He throws his fastball again for strikes and I think it has to do with the delivery. I think it’s related to focus, not that he’s not focused, but I mean, he’s just focused on the effectiveness of his delivery,” Boone said.
Chapman spent six weeks on the injured list after sustaining an ankle and Achilles tendon injury. Much of that time was spent on his delivery after giving up two earned runs and only being able to save one on May 22. The 34-year-old said he made some mechanical changes which gave him more confidence in the fastball.
Ron Marinaccio worked his way into high leverage rounds. The Yankees right-hander was dominant in his rookie season and although he struggled in Sunday’s 8-6 loss to the Royals at Yankee Stadium, manager Aaron Boone saw something he liked there -inside.
The Toms River native hadn’t given up a hit since June 7. Hunter Dozier ended that streak and his 19 scoreless streak in one fell swoop. Dozier started the eighth with a home run, the first run Marinaccio had been responsible for since April 28.
“He didn’t flinch,” Boone said of Marinaccio after dropping out of the circuit. “It wasn’t a perfect day for him……So on one outing where he was struggling a bit with his command and was immediately ambushed with the home run, I thought his balance was good and he just kind of kept the blinders on and kept throwing he throws a big throw to get out of the inning with his head and just as good as he did and kind from a dominant little run he’s been on, to having a little bit of adversity there and a big late spot, I thought he did a good job of keeping his composure and still making throws .
Before giving up the hit to Dozier, Marinaccio had failed to allow a hit in the previous 56 batters he had faced, the third-longest streak in the majors since 1974. Dennis Eckersley struck out 71 consecutive batters in 1997 and Dwight Gooden shot 57 in a row in 1996
DJ LeMahieu hit his 11th home run of the season, his second in as many games on Sunday. It was the first time he had homered in consecutive games since hitting three consecutive homers from Sept. 15-17, 2020. He went 2-for-5 with two RBIs on Sunday. He’s hit base multiple times in his last 20 starts this season. He’s batting .349/.462/.477 with two doubles, three home runs and 10 RBIs in that span.
BUILDING ON SUCCESS
Matt Carpenter went 2 for 3 with two doubles on Sunday. Of his 35 hits, 23 went for extra bases. He has eight doubles and 15 homers.
“I think he’s back to being the All Star level hitter he was for most of his career,” Boone said.
The Yankees picked up Carpenter, who had opted out of a minor league contract with the Rangers, in late May.
Aaron Boone said Giancarlo Stanton would begin baseball activities “early this week”. Stanton was placed on the disabled list with left Achilles tendinitis on Tuesday.
“Probably in the next few days,” Boone said. “They’ll probably start, whether it’s throwing, probably doing tee shots and upper body shots and stuff like that. Talking to him briefly yesterday, I think he’s definitely been encouraged by the past few days. He noticed an improvement and I think he moved the needle in the direction he was hoping for. So hopefully it will start to pick up speed this week.
Stanton is hitting .228/.309/.498 with an .807 OPS and 24 home runs this season.
BRITTON ON THE HUMP
Zack Britton will take a big step in his recovery from elbow reconstruction surgery this week. He will face batters for the first time next week.
“I don’t want to put a hold on that. He’s fine,” Boone said. “He’s about to get to the live-hitter portion of the rehab return. So we continue to be encouraged. but what all of that means, we’ll just wait and see.
The Yankees continue to believe Britton will be an option for them at the end of this season. The 34-year-old southpaw is a free agent after this season.
Right-hander Luis Severino is expected to begin his pitching program on Monday after going 14 days without pitching. Severino has been on the injured list since July 14 with a strained lat muscle. While the Yankees won’t reveal the expected timeline for Severino’s return, they’ll likely be very careful with him. It will be weeks before he’s ready to pitch again in a major league game.
Severino will start out playing catch on flat ground, probably 60 feet and will come back to 120 feet. Then he will start pitching in a bullpen, the next step is to face live hitters in a controlled situation. Having already been out for two weeks, Severino will have to make rehab appearances in minor league games.