Spring training is dead! Long live spring training! It wrapped up in a 3-0 loss at Nationals Park, but what’s most important is that everyone escaped the finale with their health intact. Oh, and Nestor Cortes was sharp along the way.
Although he failed to record a strikeout, Cortes looked like he won’t miss much of a beat when the games actually count the next time he pitches, allowing just two hits and a walk across four innings. He reached 93 mph with his fastball, and in case anyone thought he might be struggling with some of the new pace-of-play rules, well, we have some kind of answer:
Nestor Cortes getting called for a quick pitch...— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 28, 2023
And then the next pitch was like:
Suck it--here's an Extra-Long Pitch. pic.twitter.com/D6ngTLSS6n
Cortes’ cutter was as effective as ever, running a 38-percent CSW% as the complement to his fastball. He mixed in the rest of his arsenal as he’s typically done in recent seasons, relying on a curveball and changeup in equal measure on top of the fastball/cutter and changing pace with the occasional sidearm sinker. The only ding on his line was an Alex Call solo home run that came more from Call’s preparedness to hit a particular pitch than the pitch being bad in and of itself:
Cortes is set to pitch during the Yankees’ second series of the season, when they face the defending NL champion Phillies in the Bronx. We may hope to see much more of what we saw today from him during the coming six or seven months.
Cortes did have the help with some stellar defense from the Yankees new starting shortstop, one Mr. Anthony Volpe:
The starting lineup, however, just couldn’t string anything together against a tandem of Trevor Williams and MacKenzie Gore. The duo combined for 7.2 spotless innings — an even four from Williams, who might pitch his way off the woeful Nats this summer if he commands a true five-pitch mix the way he did this afternoon, and 3.2 from Gore, who struggled with control — with the only blemishes coming on two walks and a single each.
The Yankees did have opportunities, but stranded all seven of their baserunners against the two, with Volpe and the recently-demoted Willie Calhoun failing to bring in runners in scoring position against Williams. Volpe was responsible for one of the Yankees’ two hits against the pair and three on the day, bringing his spring training total to a final of 17, and a .309 batting average. The other belonged to Aaron Hicks. It wasn’t for lack of luck, either: Only Volpe’s single and Anthony Rizzo’s first inning groundout broke 100 mph of exit velocity.
An amalgam of Yankees relievers took the remainder of the game from Cortes, most of whom are ticketed for the minors at the end of today. The rest of Washington’s damage came courtesy of Tyler Danish, who allowed both of their other runs on an Ildemaro Vargas single after a walk and hit to previous batters.
Confirmed Opening Day roster members Jimmy Cordero and Albert Abreu looked to be in high-octane midseason form in their combined five outs of work, though, and Alex Mauricio recorded an out after Cortes left the mound in the fourth inning. Danish aside, Ian Hamilton and Deivi García did the Scranton bullpen proud with scoreless innings of their own.
Old friend Anthony Banda and rookie Thaddeus Ward closed out the action for Washington. Though Andres Chaparro and Rafael Ortega might have begun to make things interesting in the ninth with a single and a walk, Kyle Higashioka put a quick stop to it with a double play grounder to put a stamp on the preseason.
As if I need to tell you, you can find the Yankees playing next at 1:05 PM ET this Thursday as Gerrit Cole takes the ball at the Stadium against San Francisco. Opposing skipper Gabe Kapler will counter with Logan Webb. See you there!