Rule 5 draftee Nestor Cortes Jr. slow plays Twins in solid Orioles exhibition debut

Sarasota, Fla. — Left-hander Nestor Cortes Jr. made his Orioles exhibition debut Saturday night at Ed Smith Stadium and showed the Minnesota Twins that you don’t have to throw hard to make a good first impression.

He pitched two innings and allowed just one hit, but the one hit was a ground-ball double down the left-field line that set up the first run of the game in the second.


“Very professional,’’ manager Buck Showalter said. “He does a lot of little things well. Good start for him. I thought he pitched well today for the most part. I was happy with him. As advertised.”

The Orioles would score the only other run on Austin Wynns’ home run in the seventh inning and the game ended in a 1-1 tie before a crowd of 6,118.


Cortes faced seven batters and allowed three ground balls and three flyouts to the left side. Just one ball was hit to the right of second base, which he said was pretty much par for his pitching style.

“Yes, I think I attacked the strike zone real well, commanded all my pitches,” Cortes said. “Just one mistake pitch left out over the plate, good contact. That was it.”

Cortes, 23, isn’t known for a sizzling fastball. He’s a control/contact guy who’s hoping to parlay his Rule 5 draft selection (from the New York Yankees) into a place in the Orioles rotation and he isn’t alone. He’s one of three Rule 5 pitchers in camp, and it would be unusual for more than one of them to go north with the club.

“It is an unusual situation,’’ he said. “There’s three guys fighting for a spot, or couple of spots. I wish them the best and whoever performs the best may have the job. That’s what we are looking for in a competition.”

The stadium radar clocked a few of his pitches in the 60s and low 70s, which Cortes acknowledged is not unusual.

“Those are the sliders,” he laughed. “They usually go down low. Much lower than that honesty. The 67 was a side-arm slider I threw. It might go lower.”

Pressed to say how low he can go, he said he once threw a slider that was 47 mph.

Did the guy swing twice?


“He did fall over,” Cortes answered. “But, no, just one swing.”

Showalter knew what he was getting when the Orioles took Cortes off the Yankees’ unprotected list — a soft thrower who can change speeds, locate pitches and get a lot of minor league hitters out.

“A guy like him can’t really have an ego about pitching,’’ Showalter said. “If he was smug, he’d say, ‘Check out the numbers.’ It’s a matter of seeing if it’ll play at the next levels. He’s a guy that’s going to do a lot of little things to potentially make you trust him.”

NOTE: Showalter said after the game that outfielder Austin Hays has been sidelined briefly with a sore lat. He’s scheduled to play Sunday against the Boston Red Sox.