The Yankees’ 5-2 spring training loss at the Toronto Blue Jays featured a rusty 2023 debut by Nestor Cortes as the lefty returned from a hamstring injury.
Five things to know from Saturday’s game
1. Cortes struggled, allowing five runs (all earned) on three hits (two home runs) in 3 1/3 innings. He recorded four strikeouts, his three walks added up. Cortes threw 35 strikes on 52 pitches and squandered a 2-0 lead that New York built in the first inning.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. launched a hanging two-out, 0-1 off-speed pitch over the left-field wall that cut into the Yankees’ early advantage, 2-1. The second inning was more of the same as Cortes — again, with two outs — surrendered a two-run shot to Whit Merrifield that put Toronto up 3-2.
2. How the Yankees got on the board, though, was a positive development as a top prospect Anthony Volpe — leading off — continues to have an impressive spring, getting on base by working a walk. Next, Aaron Judge just missed a two-run homer on a deep double to left-center field that gave the Yankees runners at second and third before Anthony Rizzo and Giancarlo Stanton got the job done in the next to at-bats.
Rizzo’s soft groundball up the middle went for a 6-3 putout, but not before Volpe scored. Stanton’s groundball up the middle found the hole and scored Judge, who advanced to third on the Rizzo groundout, and presented Cortes with a 2-0 cushion.
3. Volpe stayed hot and kept doing his job as a leadoff batter in the third inning when he singled on a groundball to center, although the Yankees did not advance him.
Judge’s 6-4 fielder’s choice put Volpe out at second, but the shortstop ended his day with a 1-for-3 line in the box. Volpe is slashing .297/.422/.568 with two home runs and three RBI in 13 games this spring.
4. Stanton also continued to shine with a leadoff double in the sixth inning as he cemented his 2-for-3 afternoon at the plate. Through nine games this spring, Stanton is slashing .280/.333/.360 with two doubles and three RBI.
5. Notably, after Cortes, right-handed relievers Michael King and Jonathan Loaisiga fired the following 2 2/3 innings out of the bullpen.
King entered for Cortes with one out and two on in the fourth, and allowed two of the runs that were ultimately charged to Cortes. After surrendering the Danny Jansen RBI double and Merrifield RBI single that dug the Yankees’ deficit to 5-2, King worked out of the inning with Kevin Kiermaier‘s F7 and George Springer‘s P3. King settled in for the fifth, grounding out Bo Bichette and fanning a swinging Guerrero before hitting Daulton Varsho with a two-out pitch and Matt Chapman‘s F8 to end the frame. In 1 2/3 innings, King threw 18 strikes on 25 pitches.
Meanwhile, Loaisiga — who returned from the World Baseball Classic with Nicaragua and made his first relief appearance for the Yankees since March 4 — was sharp. He delivered a 1-2-3 sixth by striking out Cavan Biggio swinging, grounding Stevie Berman to short and Davis Scheider to third in the eight-pitch (six-strike) inning.
The Yankees (9-13) host the Baltimore Orioles Sunday at 1:05 pm from George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla.