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Yankees place Nestor Cortes on 15-day IL, recall Matt Krook

One lefty swaps in for another, and Randy Vásquez is expected up to take Cortes’ rotation spot tonight.

New York Yankees v Texas Rangers Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

The Yankees have known since Sunday that lefty starter Nestor Cortes was going to need a stint on the injured list. The only question was the extent of the damage on his shoulder, and how they would manage their roster in the meantime.

Cortes received a cortisone injection on Tuesday, and after an MRI, the team officially diagnosed him with a strained left rotator cuff. Considering how dangerous shoulder injuries can be, it could’ve been a lot worse, but the lefty will still need to rest for two weeks before he can throw again. Although the 2022 All-Star has struggled in 2023, he did still bring a relative comfort to his rotation spot, which seems like a good bet to be filled in the interim by a couple different starters.

Assuming that the Yankees get this doubleheader in today amid serious air quality concerns (no guarantee), Randy Vásquez will serve as the Game 2 starter in Cortes’ place, though since he’s only being called up as the special doubleheader “27th man,” New York may well elect to try fellow Triple-A starter Jhony Brito when the rotation spot comes up again. Brito had fallen into a tailspin after a strong first couple starts in New York earlier in 2023 though, so it’s anyone’s guess. The Yankees do have offdays coming up on June 12th, 15th, and 19th; expect them to skip Cortes’ slot when they can.

As for Cortes’ 26-man roster spot, the Yankees will add lefty Matt Krook to the bullpen. He came up on May 27th but never actually got to make his MLB debut before being demoted when Tommy Kahnle rejoined the bullpen off the IL less than a week later. Because I wrote about Krook right when he was initially recalled, I will shamelessly crib from what was discussed then for background, as he’s only made one Triple-A appearance since then.

It’s been a long road for the 28-year-old, who the Giants drafted out of the University of Oregon in the fourth round of the 2016 MLB Draft. He was dealt to the Rays in the December 2017 Evan Longoria trade, and after a few seasons of middling numbers in A-ball and Double-A, the Yankees selected him off waivers in December 2020.

Krook has done a nice job of catching eyes in the organization since his arrival and he’s spent parts of the last three seasons at Triple-A Scranton, needing only seven sterling outings at Double-A Somerset in 2021 to put that level behind him. The Yankees converted him to the bullpen at the start of 2023 and the southpaw has really taken to it.
Krook has a 1.04 ERA and 1.79 FIP in 17.1 innings of work, with an electric 47.9 strikeout percentage and 17.6 K/9. He has yet to get a handle on his control though, as he’s already walked 12 batters for an unsightly 16.9-percent walk rate and 6.2 BB/9. He does have yet to allow a homer in 2023 though, and his sinker/slider combo features some impressive movement.