Why Nestor Cortes was ‘pretty excited’ about spring outing

TAMPA — Nestor Cortes checked off another box Thursday on his way to making sure a hamstring strain will not delay his availability for the start of the regular season.

The Yankees left-hander threw an inning of live batting practice at Steinbrenner Field, looking sharp and, more importantly, feeling healthy as he faced hitters for the first time during this spring training.

“No issues, no pain,” Cortes said. “Pretty excited.”

After throwing 20 pitches while facing five hitters, including strikeouts of Josh Donaldson and Anthony Rizzo, Cortes progressed to running at about 90 percent and “felt pretty comfortable.”

Cortes has not yet advanced to participating in pitchers’ fielding practice, but he is expected to throw live batting practice at least one more time before pitching in a game.

“I feel like the bullpens and doing flat ground [throwing], you don’t really use your legs as much as you would in a live game,” Cortes said. “So I think that was the biggest hurdle for me, going out there and actually being on a real mound, facing live hitters that are going to swing off you. You’re probably going to use your legs a little more and the intensity’s going to be a little higher.”

Both Cortes and manager Aaron Boone said they were encouraged by how crisp his pitches looked after his brief setback.

Nestor Cortes also struck out Anthony Rizzo during live batting practice on Thursday in Tampa.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

“His stuff and command, that’s as sharp as it gets right there,” Boone said. “Stuff was good, throwing it where he wanted to, mixed in a good changeup, which was encouraging to see. But really good step for him.”

Left-handed pitcher Matt Krook, who was added to the 40-man roster this offseason, also worked two innings of live batting practice on Thursday.

Boone said the Yankees came close to adding Krook to their playoff roster last year as a reliever, because of how effective he is against left-handed hitters. The Yankees are projected to only have one lefty in their bullpen, Wandy Peralta. While Krook is currently being built up to provide length as a possible depth starter, the Yankees may also look to try him out of the bullpen this spring.

“He’s a real problem for lefties,” Boone said. “But he also has enough weapons to be a starter. For him, it’s that next level of command that’s going to allow him to see what he can be from a length perspective. He’s an interesting guy.”

Gleyber Torres, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Oswaldo Cabrera and prospect Jasson Dominguez are among the notable Yankees scheduled to play Saturday in the Grapefruit League opener against the Phillies in Clearwater, Fla.