The 26-year-old did exactly that. He followed up his strong outing against the Chicago White Sox on Aug. 15 with a career-high 7.0 IP and seven-strikeout performance against the Minnesota Twins on Friday night. After the game, manager Aaron Boone spoke about what he saw from Cortes throughout the night.
“Yeah, I thought he started out really strong, I thought his stuff was really crisp,” Boone said. “Couple innings there I thought he lost a little command, but was able to make big pitches. They had the one inning they loaded the bases, where I thought he got a little out of whack a little bit, but made a big pitch to get out of that inning.
“And then it seemed like he was tiring a little bit late, just going to go batter to batter with him there in the seventh inning. And he went out and finish really strong, had a real strong seventh inning which was huge. To give us seven tonight, give some guys down there some more rest, that was big.”
Boone went on to talk about Cortes’ unexpected rise to a prominent role in the pitching rotation. He’s gone 2-1 with a 2.56 ERA over 15 games, including the seven starts that he’s made this season.
“He’s been great,” Boone said. “I don’t know if I necessarily envisioned him being a cornerstone right now in our rotation the way he’s pitching. We kind of fell in love with him in ’19 just with who he is and the way he competes. The kind of different look he gives you than most of the people you see. The difference between ’19 and now is he’s a better pitcher, e’s just a better delivery, better command, crisper stuff.
“He’s been good for us all year. When he got called up, whether it was giving us length, whether it was finding himself occasionally in some high leverage spots and then having to go into the rotation out of need. He’s been great every step of the way. Hard to imagine where we’d be without him.”
Boone said that having someone on the team like Cortes gives the Yankees versatility for when pitchers Corey Kluber and Luis Severino come back from the injured list.
“It’s been huge, really,” Boone said. “And I know moving forward, whether it’s continuing to start, whether it’s different roles, he’s been there done it all. He’s been comfortable in all of it, and ultimately just likes to pitch and compete. It’s just a luxury, you feel really good having him part of the staff in any which way. You know you can give him the ball in any spot and he’s going to go out there and give you a good effort.”
After the win, Cortes expressed how he’s feeling during this hot stretch on the mound.
“It’s been fun,” Cortes said. “I first started off trying to give length, trying to get deep into games. Now it’s like pitching into the seventh inning, it’s been good, it’s been nice.”