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Nestor Cortes

Nestor Cortes embodies Cuban resilience

Yankees lefty Nestor Cortes adds style to substance

HOUSTON – Yankees’ southpaw Nestor Cortes has dealt with numerous obstacles through his major league career. However, that may explain why “resilient” is the one word he always uses to describe himself, his scrappy seven-year career and other Cubans.

Simply, he means that Cubans never give up and always put up a fight.

From Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez and the Gurriels – Yuli, Lourdes Sr. and Jr. – to Yordan Alvarez and Jose Abreu, the young kids consider them as legends on the island. Cortes hopes that he can become a mentor for all kids around the world one day.

Nestor Cortes aims to inspire

“We come from a lot of struggles on the island,” Cortes said. “I just wanna be an avenue for those guys to see me and the struggles I’ve been through. Being able to not give up and see what I’ve been doing, hopefully I can give some motivation to Cubans and Cuban Americans.”

Cortes was born in Surgidero de Batabano, Cuba, and raised in Hialeah, Fla.  He was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 36th round of the 2013 MLB Draft. Major League Baseball has changed the draft rules and made it 20 rounds in 2019. So the Yankees’ All-Star left-handed pitcher wouldn’t have been drafted in today’s game.

The Surgidero de Batabanó native continued to grind and let the naysayers know he was built for the big leagues. Cortes spent five years in the minors before he made his debut with the Orioles. He didn’t find a lot of success until he returned back home with the Bronx Bombers.

Nestor Cortes
Nestor Cortes pitches against the Astros during the 2024 Opening Day at Minute Maid Park. Photo by Juan DeLeon Creative/Our Esquina.

“They always told me I was a fifth starter, maybe a bullpen guy at best,” Cortes said. 

He remembers the detractors within the baseball community. He remembers that some baseball folks would downplay his potential with scouting reports that described him as, “5-foot-10, doesn’t throw very hard.”

Ignoring the detractors

“Just so many negative things that go against me,” he says. “When I came to the Yankees in ‘21, that’s when I found myself and was able to do a lot of good things for myself and the team. When I turned that corner everything else was history. It’s been good for the last two to three years and hopefully I can continue to do that.”

There were 27.8% foreign-born baseball players on this year’s MLB Opening Day rosters. Of those, 18 were natives of Cuba. Furthermore, there was only one Cuban pitcher to start on Opening Day this year: Nestor Cortes.

With reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Gerrit Cole on the injured list, Yankees manager Aaron Boone had no doubt to give Cortes the Opening Day nod.

Cortes finished five innings allowing five hits, four earned runs, two walks and striking out five in his first career Opening Day start. He did not record a decision, but the Yankees defeated the Astros 5-4 in a sellout crowd at Minute Maid Park.

In search of All-Star form

“I feel like it’s a special moment,” he said. “I feel like Boone has given me a lot of opportunities to demonstrate who I am, what kind of player I am, and what competitiveness I have in my game. It felt like every time I’ve been called upon, I’ve tried to show out and try to be that guy for the team.”

The Hialeah Kid is entering his fourth season with the Yanks. He’s battled through injuries and has produced some high and low moments throughout those years. 


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Cortes traveled back to Tampa, Fla., earlier in the year to get an early start in his throwing regimen before spring training. The 29-year-old lefty is looking to revitalize his 2022 All-Star form and help the Yankees compete at a high level this season.

In three starts, Cortes currently holds a 1-1 record, with a 3.50 ERA, 13 strikeouts and a 3.18 FIP. He pitched a gem Monday night, tallying six strikeouts in eight scoreless innings and allowing two hits against the Miami Marlins. 

They don’t call Nestor Cortes “Nasty Nestor” for no reason. 

Cortes is one of the most stylish players in the majors. His style is evident coming into the ballpark and on the diamond. He walked into Minute Maid Park on Opening Day with dark black sunglasses, black jeans, a black shirt and black, red and white low-top Nikes.

Denim cleats

Everyone has different ways of showing their style on the field. From sleeves to baseball cleats, players add touches to their attire. Cortes sported one of the most unique cleats you will ever see with denim cleats in spring training.

“It was something off the grid where I said ‘I wanna do something crazy in spring training,’” he said. “Obviously we’re building up and trying to get right for the season. But it’s also a time where we can do those things and kinda show off a little bit of what we do for our stuff.

“I told my guy down in Miami and said ‘Hey, I wanna do something different with jeans. What can you do for me?’ He sent me the cleats, and I’m like ‘You’re crazy! You’re gonna make me wear this? But, I’m gonna have to now.’ So that’s how the idea came.”

With his performance, determination and style Nasty Nestor Cortes shows his Cuban resilience and flair.

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