There was a time when Nestor Cortes was afraid to be himself.
This fact is a bit hard to believe when it comes to Ramy Yankees who are known for the idiosyncrasies he brings to the heap. Curtis is a supporter who thrives on turbulence, an anomaly among the creatures of habit that baseball generates.
Curtis uses a variety of arm angles, leg kicks, hesitation movements, and fast pitches. His portfolio of tricks made him an amusing hour before his numbers deserved attention, yet he tried to go mainstream when the Yankees first gave him a major league shot in 2019.
“When he’s called up, he’ll be too scared to do it in the big leagues,” Kyle Higashioka, who first caught Curtis in Class AA Trenton in 2016, said of his teammate’s dribbles. “I kept writing to him like, ‘Dude, you must be yourself when you come here. “
It didn’t take long for Curtis to heed Higashioka’s advice. Soon, the popular Twitter account of Rob Friedman, ninja monument, shares Curtis’ recurring stunts alongside videos of some of baseball’s most sinister stadiums. But Curtis did not consider his usual repertoire to be bad at the time. He was right.
Returning to the Yankees after a short 2018 stint with the Baltimore Orioles as a 5-draft base, Curtis posted a 5.67 ERA in 33 games with the Yankees in 2019. In the off-season, he was traded to Seattle, where he allowed 13 runs in seven and two-thirds. roles only.
A return to minors was clearly waiting for Curtis in 2021. But a move away from baseball never crossed his mind. He’s seen a lot of talented players give up too soon. Instead, he landed a minor league deal with the Yankees, the team that drafted him in the 36th round in 2013 from Hialeah (Florida) High School.
“All it takes is one chance or one injury,” Curtis, 27, said before a final game at Yankee Stadium. “You don’t wish it to anyone, but it’s the truth. That’s how you exercise. You get the chance, you seize it, you run with it, and you make the best of it.”
get his chance
Curtis amassed a solid 15 rounds in the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre class in 2021 when the Yankees found themselves at the end of May. But promotion to the major league seemed illogical at the time.
2022 MLB Season
The season that was in doubt became suddenly on high alert.
He was an assistant to the Scranton Shuttle on his first assignment with the Yankees, and the team simply needed new weapons. But after walking four times in his first game, Curtis found an unexpected groove, first as a thinner, then as a short rookie, and then, eventually, as a member of the Yankees rotation. His last 12 starts, and he finished the 2021 season with 2.90 ERAs and 103 strikes over 93 runs.
Curtis capitalized on that performance in a spinning spot this spring, and it continues to confuse speculators. He has a 1.15 ERA during his first three starts of 2022, and has made 25 strikes over 15 innings while only going three strikes. Twelve of those hits came on April 17, when Curtis grabbed the Orioles aimless — and they looked pure. He recently cheered for eight of the Cleveland Guardians while allowing twice earned rounds over six innings and a third on Saturday.
Curtis has become a cult hero of sorts – Yankees manager Aaron Boone recently used the phrase “The Legend of Nestor” – as his success appears to have come out of nowhere. But the truth is, Curtis had to wait and struggle for years before he could shine.
“I feel like I’ve fallen a few times. I’m back for the worst And “For the better,” said Curtis, who is expected to start against the Kansas City Royals on Friday in Missouri. “This time, since last year, fortunately, everything is going well, which is much sweeter. It is so much nicer to be here and to do it for a big league team.”
So what has changed? How did Curtis go from the sidelines of the MLB lists to a pitcher who is only half-jokingly called an ace?
First, turnover at all of Curtis’s courts has improved over the past two years, according to Baseball Savant. He’s also adopted the cutter, which is his favorite pitch this season, and no longer plays curveball. Cortes fastball also gained around 2 mph, although he still only averaged 90.5 mph.
“I understand my presentation package a little better,” Curtis said. “I know what to do to get right and left equally, no matter who is in the box. I know what my strengths are and I will attack them every time.”
There’s no denying that Curtis’s things have improved, but his deceptive tactics also help with an arsenal that pales in comparison to all-star baseball shooters.
“The art of pitching is just to disrupt the timing of the hitters. You can do it in a lot of different ways,” fellow rookie Jameson Tellon said, listing examples like changing speeds, position, arm angles, speed, and delivery. “It kind of takes all of that into account.”
Reliever Clay Holmes added: “Hitters are closed to seeing the pitches from some tunnels and angles. When he can change those, that can be a huge advantage.”
Curtis has seen this feature repeated over and over again.
“Once he is able to allow himself to play his own game and do the things he does, such as unconventional timing and unconventional finishing, he prepares for his potential,” Higashioka said. “Once we were working together in ’18 and ’19 and I saw what he was capable of in Triple-A, I knew he could do it. It was about being comfortable enough to be himself here. I think he’s been doing it the last couple of years, and it’s good Really see it.”
At 5 feet 11 and 210 pounds, Curtis is not one of the “physical specimens” of the Yankees, in the words of Holmes. There is an element to his closet mate, Holmes said, something Curtis admitted after diving awkwardly into first base to secure an exit against the guard. “Under this body, there is an athletic man,” he said sarcastically.
“People don’t see the prototype of being 6-foot-5 and throwing 98,” Curtis added the next day. “So I feel like some people are going to take longer than others to believe in me.”
However, there is no confusion about Curtis’ sporting style in the Yankees locker room. His colleagues revere his machinations on the hill and the skill required to pull them off effectively. Most shooters—Holmes and Tylon included—won’t want to deviate from the moves they’ve spent their careers perfecting. Curtis does this without a second thought.
“I think he’s very athletic,” Taillon said, noting that he was “very afraid” of trying Curtis’ stunt. “When I watch him do these things, I pay attention to what the mechanics are doing. It’s unbelievable that he can hesitate, kick his leg, keep his back knee over his ankle, keep his glutes confined and stay strong. The nerd inside me is fascinated by watching what he’s doing.”
In terms of deciding when to mix it up, Cortes is often left to his own devices. It feels very big, and attitude plays a role. Doubles after making mistakes in a few standard pitches is the best of times, but hitters know Cortes are unpredictable.
Sometimes Higashioka indicates deception, but the catcher no longer has to push the shooter. Curtis’ alleged performances have improved, but he has no plans to ditch his unusual ways.
Not this time.
“I’m honest with who I am,” Curtis said. “I understand who I am as a player, Karami. And if it’s working at the moment, I don’t see why anything should change.”