Nestor Cortes yankees
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Gerrit Cole and Nestor Cortes are a strange 1-2 punch for the New York Yankees.

We all know Cole at this point. The unquestioned ace after a strong performance in Game 1 of the ALDS. He set a new team record with 257 strikeouts and is, by all accounts, obsessed with pitching.

Nestor Cortes, meanwhile, is more of a cult hero. He doesn’t have ace status, but put up a 2.44 ERA compared to Cole’s 3.50 mark this year. Cortes also won fans over with his variety of pitching motions and is popular in the clubhouse too. His “Nasty Nestor Cafe” is where he and his teammates share Cuban coffee, what he called “the best coffee in the world” in a piece for The Players Tribune.

Whereas Cole is the mound warrior, the field general leading his troops, Cortes is different on the days he starts. As he says himself, he’ll do everything from chatting with teammates over coffee to messing with clubhouse attendants. It’s all about having fun and staying relaxed until an hour or so before game time when, as Cortes puts it, it’s “time to lock in”.

Now, none of this is to say Gerrit Cole is a robot of a person incapable of feeling joy. You don’t keep a sign you brought to Yankee Stadium as a child to your introductory press conference without having some semblance of a soul. The big righty is also a complete “Star Wars” nerd. But on days he pitches, it’s all about the game.

The differences even extend to the types of pitchers they are. The 6’5″ Cole loves his blazing fastball and complementary slider and curveball. On the mound, even as he gave up 33 home runs this year, he was and is methodical, almost to a fault.

Cortes is 5’11” on a good day, averages less than 92 mph on his fastball, and uses varying windups and arm slots much like another former Yankee favorite, Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez. He’s just a good, fun-loving dude. Just look at what he did pitching in the All-Star Game this year:

You watch Gerrit Cole on the mound and he’s all business. It’s about winning the game and little else. Nestor Cortes is very much the same, but it’s easy to see he’s also visibly enjoying himself.

To put it another way, is Gerrit Cole the Yankees’ Roy Kent? Well, then Nestor Cortes is their Sam Obisanya (And for those wondering, Oswaldo Cabrera is Dani Rojas), the fan favorite whose unbridled joy trickles down to the rest of his teammates and, more importantly, the fans. It was ever-present during Game 1, while Cole was locked into his start and Cortes kept everyone loose in the dugout.

These are the dynamics that shape winning teams. If you ask Cortes, he thinks the Yankees are “about to do something special over the next few weeks.”

The fans already love Nestor Cortes, but if he helps bring World Series title No. 28? Well, let’s hope Gerrit Cole has a firm grip on the ace’s throne.

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Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.