Orioles designate Cortes for assignment - a move that had to happen given bullpen crunch - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Dan Connolly

Orioles designate Cortes for assignment — a move that had to happen given bullpen crunch

Photo credit: Jonathan Dyer/USA Today Sports

It was a decision that had to be made. It probably took a little too long, frankly.

But the Orioles cut the cord on having two Rule 5 picks in their bullpen Tuesday by designating lefty Nestor Cortes Jr. for assignment, a day after he served up a game-shattering grand slam to Toronto slugger Josh Donaldson.

You can give the Orioles credit for trying, I suppose. But short starts and extra-inning games combined to seriously shackle manager Buck Showalter’s ability to properly mix and match with his bullpen.

Something had to happen – and it did Tuesday, with Cortes being designated and right-hander Yefry Ramirez getting the call from Triple-A Norfolk.

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Cortes, 23, is a left-handed, soft-tossing control artist and one that has had success at every level of the minor leagues while in the New York Yankees organization. He’d be a great guy to have at Triple-A to see if he can continue his arsenal and one day develop into a crafty left-hander at the back end of a rotation or the front end of a bullpen.

But he’s not there yet. Not close. And it was tough to expect him to be. He’s barely pitched above Double-A (12 games) and it’s not like he can overpower hitters with his high-80s fastball. He has to have near perfect command to survive in the majors. And he didn’t.

In 4 2/3 innings spanning four appearances with the Orioles, Cortes allowed 10 hits and four walks while allowing two home runs – both grand slams. He was charged with only four runs (7.71 ERA), but allowed all six inherited runners to score.

“We knew it was going to be a challenge. If we could have gotten a little deeper in our games with the starting pitching I think we could have protected him more,” Showalter said. “But we were forced into some things and (I) still think he’s got a chance to be a good pitcher and we’ll see where it takes us.”

It’s possible that Cortes stays with the Orioles’ organization, but it’s probably more likely the Yankees take him back for half the original drafting price (they’d have to pay the Orioles $50,000).

“One of three things is gonna happen with Nestor. He’s either going to be claimed by one of 28 other clubs, you don’t include the Yankees. If he clears there, I know we’d like to figure out a way to keep him if we can and see if there is a trade to be worked out (with the Yankees),” Showalter said. “That would be up to Dan (Duquette) and the Yankees. Or he’ll go back there and be in their minor leagues.”

We’ll know in seven days – or sooner.

I’d imagine he’ll go unclaimed, because a claiming team would have to keep Cortes in the majors all season – and, again, he doesn’t look ready.

The Orioles were a particularly bad fit for Cortes because they also were trying to keep Rule 5 pick Pedro Araujo — who has pitched well – in the bullpen — and have few possibilities that they could option to the minors when they need fresh arms – something that has become the club’s normal modus operandi under Showalter and Duquette.

Plus, the Orioles play in the unforgiving American League East – every day you seemingly face good, deep offenses.

“Regards to what division you’re playing in, it’s the big leagues and, like I said, they’re gonna have to pitch. Like Pedro (Araujo) has and he’s done pretty well,” Showalter said. “And Nestor’s capable of better. I’d still like to have him. I mean, it’s pretty tough situations to thrust guys into. We knew that coming in and we were willing to take the risk.”

In Ramirez, the Orioles aren’t exactly getting a seasoned veteran; the 23-year-old Ramirez never pitched in the majors. But he is on the 40-man roster and has minor league options. Meaning he can help absorb bullpen innings in the next day or two and then go back to the minors.

“He’s right-handed and available and got a chance to help us. Change-up’s his big pitch,” Showalter said of Ramirez. “David Hess just pitched. Left-handers don’t play against (the right-handed-heavy Blue Jays). They’ve got, what, one left-handed hitter? If you look at the roster, it was kind of (Ramirez only). He’s had three days off, and we took him out of his workday, and he’s available tonight.”

The Orioles likely will have to add a left-handed reliever to assist Richard Bleier as the club heads to Boston this weekend.

For now, though, the Orioles are down a left-hander.

More important, they are down to one Rule 5 pitcher (and two Rule 5 players, including outfielder Anthony Santander) on the 25-man roster.

Carrying one Rule 5 guy is a challenge. Carrying two – or three – is a serious handcuff.

We all knew that coming in. And it simply didn’t work out with Cortes.

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Orial

    April 10, 2018 at 5:49 pm

    It had to be done. Don’t know what he did in spring training to impress everybody. Thank God Araujo has seemed to find it or we’d be hearing about another Rule 5 revolt.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 10, 2018 at 7:27 pm

      He had some solid outings in spring training. But the stakes are much different when the games count.

  2. PA Bird Lover

    April 10, 2018 at 7:35 pm

    It was clear the young Cortes isn’t ready for the bigs. Perhaps not even AAA. Find another lefty somewhere.

    • Jbigle1

      April 10, 2018 at 8:37 pm

      I get that we were trying to keep Cortes but this kinda really sucks in hindsight. I’m not sad about losing Alec Asher or Stefan Crichton but that’s a guy you could’ve added to the Norfolk-Baltimore express. Liranzo has the most intrigue too, arguably more than Cortes. I don’t think there’s anyone in the ML who throws 86 and is successful right now.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 11, 2018 at 12:18 pm

      He can touch 89 and is lefty. He just had to be perfect with command. And 23 year olds in their first taste of the majors aren’t.

  3. jkneps63

    April 10, 2018 at 9:29 pm

    Maybe Cortes could have brought a run in as a hitter with Orioles on 2nd and 3rd and no one out in the bottom of the 8th tonight…this lack of basic hitting discipline is really getting old…

    • jkneps63

      April 10, 2018 at 9:39 pm

      The O’s score 2 in the B8, bring in Brach and maybe pick up a W…instead we have this mess. Oy!

    • Dan Connolly

      April 11, 2018 at 12:18 pm

      Yup

  4. Boog Robinson Robinson

    April 11, 2018 at 7:13 am

    And yet Mike Wright remains ….

    • PA Bird Lover

      April 11, 2018 at 11:25 am

      Wright is out of options. He stays or DFA. At the moment he’s needed in the pen to suck up innings on an obvious losing night. My wife says dfa him.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 11, 2018 at 12:18 pm

      Yeah. I assume he stays for a little longer.

  5. willmiranda

    April 11, 2018 at 3:32 pm

    From Eddie Lopat to Jamie Moyer, I can’t remember a “young” crafty southpaw.. When it comes, it can be very good, but crafty takes time.

  6. Dpsmith22

    April 12, 2018 at 12:41 pm

    When the 25th organizational player is taking a roster spot “because he has too”, there is a real management issue. Duquette and his Rule 5 hopes and prayers. Fail, again.

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