Cortes had 66 strikeouts in his 63.2 innings pitched for the Pulaski Yankees in 2015, averaging just over one strikeout thrown per inning. The 2015 season was a huge success for Cortes, but there is always room for improvement.
“Last season I think overall it went well," Cortes said. "I wanted to do the things I wanted to do. I think I managed to throw a lot of strikes and pitches in the strike zone and as the results show I think I did a pretty good job.”
The key to Cortes’ success on the mound is his pitch location and his commitment to who he is as a pitcher, and his consistency.
During Extended Spring Training this year, Cortes once again located his pitches very well which is why he is able to throw strikes consistently.
“All my pitches, I think I’ve located them well for strikes,” Cortes said. “I don’t throw very hard but I locate them well [on the] inside and outside part of the plate and I think that has been what’s working for me so far.”
Along with his great pitch command, Cortez also knows how to stay cool, calm and collective in the midst of a dilemma, which is something that he was able to improve on during Extended Spring Training.
“I think the mental part of my game has improved the most because when we get rattled up, our mind goes off somewhere else," Cortes said. “I think I’ve done a pretty good job of trying to slow down the game a little more.”
Elvys Quezada, one of the pitching coaches in Extended Spring Training, saw Cortes’ improvement on his ability to control the game even more.
“He really takes hold of the time between pitches and he’s ready to go with each pitch,” Quezada said. “Having a quick tempo on the mound, that’s something that I really like about him.”
Cortes was also very consistent throughout Spring Training and Extended Spring Training, according to Quezada.
“[In] Spring Training he was very consistent with his performances, that’s one thing he did have in Spring Training was consistency in his performance,” Quezada said. “Consistency is key. That’s really what differentiates guys at this level from other levels, is their consistency.”
Even with his successful 2015 season, Cortes continued to work hard and try to perfect his mechanics. Cortes felt as though his mechanics were not fully developed and that was a key problem for him to work on during the offseason.
“Last year I thought my mechanics were a little bit off,” Cortes surprisingly said. “I really worked on it a lot in the offseason and I think it was a better transition for me and for my pitches.”
In order to prepare for this season, Cortes’ spent the offseason training in Miami at the Fast Twitch training facility where he worked on getting stronger and having better control over his body to improve his mechanics. During the offseason Cortes also saw changes in his strength and weight; he gained a few pounds of muscle.
“I worked out in Miami this offseason I spent three months in a facility called Fast Twitch,” Cortes said. “Those guys out there really helped me with my body and to get stronger for this season.”
Cortes also believes that he plays a role with his leadership skills in Extended Spring Training.
“My extended Spring Training has been pretty good," Cortes said just a day before his promotion to Charleston. "I think I played a big part in leadership here and I keep on trying to work with all the other guys that come in from other countries and I think I’ve pitched pretty well, and just keep on working over here."
Cortes has high confidence and trust in his abilities. He also knows what he can and can’t do, and he sticks with his strengths on the mound, including his excellent perception of his pitch location. He knows what type of player he is and that is one key to his ongoing success.
“I throw a lot of strikes, I’m aggressive in the strike zone,” Cortes said. “I try not to do too much and don’t change much of what I already do, I trust my stuff and trust my body.”
Quezada also sees Cortes’ ability to stick to his strengths as a great quality too.
“He understands who he is as a pitcher and he’s able to mix his pitches very well,” Quezada said. “That’s the type of pitcher he is; that’s really what gives me confidence, he knows the type of pitcher he is and that’s good.”
Cortes did not immediately get promoted to Charleston after his successful 2015 season. However, he mentioned just a couple of days ago that he does believe that his time is coming. He has complete trust that the coaching staff is providing the proper guidance and they know what is best for him.
“Obviously it’s not what I thought it would be but I trust the system and trust whatever the coaches and the coordinators have in store for me,” Cortes said. “I just got to sit around and wait and see what happens.”
Making up for lost time, he got finally got promoted to Charleston on Sunday and allowed just one earned run on four hits in six innings with six strikeouts in his South Atlantic League debut against the Hickory Crawdads.