Nestor Cortes saw all the World Baseball Classic had to offer as a teenager.
Still a student at Hialeah Senior High School in Florida, he didn’t have to travel far for the 2013 tournament, which included games in Miami at what was once called Marlins Park. Cortes, writing in a long and heartfelt Publication Instagram Wednesday said those contests had created a “hunger.” He wanted to play in international competition one day.
Cortes, of course, made the post to celebrate his sated appetite. A decade after watching the WBC games as a fan, the Yankees southpaw will pitch for Team USA in the 2023 bracket.
Cortes called the invitation a “full loop moment,” which “honored and humbled” him. The 27-year-old went on to explain that while he hoped to play for Cuba in the past – he was born in Surgidero de Batabanó – he is grateful for the consideration of the American team.
“In the past, I said play for Team Cuba one day, but when Team USA contacted me towards the end of October, I immediately said YES! I was born in Cuba and came to the United States at a very young age as my parents pursued the American dream they believed in so strongly and still support,” Cortes wrote. “Today I can say another dream of mine has come true as I will represent Team USA at the 2023 World Baseball Classic. I love my Cuban roots and the Cuban blood that runs through my veins, but the land of opportunity has once again put me in a position to be a part of what i once only saw as a dream, and for some that dream is more than just baseball, but all i am is a baseball player, and I will represent this great country with honor and gratitude because nothing less should be expected.
Cortes has seen a lot of dreams come true over the past two years, as the former 36e-the round draft pick and Rule 5 returnee made the most of his third stint with the Yankees.
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A former cleaning man best known for his randomness on the mound, Cortes became more than an oddity when he worked his way into New York’s rotation in 2021. He finished the year with an ERA of 2.90 before earning his first All-Star nod in 2022. He kicked the 2.44 ERA rune last year and finished eighth in American League Cy Young voting, one spot ahead of Yankees ace Gerrit Cole.
Cortes’ season ended when he aggravated a groin injury in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series.
Now, the left-hander’s 2023 campaign will begin in March with a tournament he once envisioned. The WBC will be taking Cortes away from spring training a bit, and the Yankees will surely want to watch his workload while he’s gone.
Team USA’s rotation has only two other commitments so far: Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright and Diamondbacks right-hander Merrill Kelly.