TAMPA, Fla. -- Nestor Cortes will not participate in the upcoming World Baseball Classic due to a Grade 2 strain of his right hamstring, but the Yankees left-hander remains optimistic that he will be ready for the beginning of the regular season.
Cortes said that he sustained the injury while running sprints on Feb. 6 near his home in Miami. He will not throw from a mound for at least two weeks.
“I was very excited for [the tournament]; I wanted to represent Team USA,” Cortes said. “It’s a country that has given me a lot of opportunity to do a lot of stuff that I’m doing today. I’m very disappointed and very sad that I can’t participate.”
The Rockies’ Kyle Freeland replaced Cortes on Team USA’s roster. The Yankees now have three players participating in the WBC: catcher Kyle Higashioka (Team USA), right-hander Jonathan Loáisiga (Nicaragua), and infielder Gleyber Torres (Venezuela).
Cortes has continued throwing and weight-room exercises and said he believes there will be enough time to prepare for the beginning of the season. He envisions needing to throw about 15 or 20 innings this spring. The Yankees open their regular-season schedule on March 30, hosting the Giants at Yankee Stadium.
“I think the ultimate goal here is to get ready for No. 28,” Cortes said. “I think it’s kind of a letdown for [Team USA], but I think the biggest goal right here is to get healthy and be ready for the start of the season.”
The 28-year-old Cortes is coming off a career year in which he was named to the American League All-Star team, going 12-4 with a 2.44 ERA in 28 starts.
“I think as long as I stay healthy, I can be as good as last year,” Cortes said. “Maybe better, who knows? I think the biggest issue here is being healthy. I think if I’m healthy, everything follows, and I can be the same guy, or just like that guy.”
Cortes sustained a groin injury in August that necessitated a stint on the injured list and was aggravated in the playoffs, but he said he has had no issues during his offseason training.
“I was down in Miami rehabbing it throughout the whole offseason, and it feels great,” Cortes said. “No issues, no soreness. This year, I think I’m going to take care of my legs a little better.”
Cortes’ injury is the second to the Yankees’ rotation, with right-hander Frankie Montas not expected to be ready for the start of the regular season due to inflammation in his pitching shoulder. Cortes said he expects big things from a staff that also projects to feature right-hander Gerrit Cole, left-hander Carlos Rodón and right-hander Luis Severino.
“On paper, we look pretty solid,” Cortes said. “I’m excited to embark the season with these guys. Hopefully we can make something special.”