ST. LOUIS — This is an important weekend for the Yankees’ hopes of getting a pair of left-handers back in their rotation — one more imminently than the other.
Carlos Rodon will make his third and likely final rehab start on Saturday with High-A Hudson Valley before potentially making his Yankees debut next Friday in The Bronx.
Nestor Cortes, meanwhile, threw his first bullpen session on Friday since joining Rodon on the injured list in early June with a rotator cuff strain.
Cortes, who could be back by late July, has more hurdles to clear than Rodon, but called Friday’s pain-free session at Busch Stadium “a big leap for me.”
“Just because as far as I can remember, a couple weeks back or a month back, it was hard for me to even do what I did today,” Cortes said after throwing 20 pitches, most of them fastballs and cutters with a few sliders. “The day after I started, I really had to focus on recovery for me to be able to pitch my bullpen in between starts. I think today tells me I’m on the right track and hopefully everything’s out of the way.”
Assuming he bounces back as expected, Cortes will throw another bullpen session on Monday and likely another on Thursday before advancing to facing live hitters and then a rehab assignment.
Rodon, after signing a six-year, $162 million contract, has yet to pitch for the Yankees because of a forearm muscle strain he suffered in spring training and then subsequent back discomfort.
But he is expected to build his pitch count to around 60 on Saturday — with Hudson Valley because Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and Double-A Somerset are both on the road — after which the Yankees hope to insert him into their rotation.
“Excited to think about getting him back and know that that’s right on the horizon,” manager Aaron Boone said. “He’s one of those guys we feel like is a difference-maker. Hopefully we have a few of those guys trickling in in the second half of the season.”
Had Friday’s game been played, Anthony Rizzo was not going to be in the lineup because of a left elbow that was still stiff after being hit by a pitch in Thursday’s win over the Athletics. The veteran first baseman spent Friday receiving treatment but the Yankees hoped to have him back in the lineup on Saturday.
“Shouldn’t be too big of a deal,” Boone said. “But he woke up still pretty stiff today.”
Aaron Judge (sprained right big toe) played catch for a third straight day, long tossing in the outfield at Busch Stadium on Friday afternoon.
Boone said he did not yet know when Judge might add more to his plate in terms of baseball activities.
“I’m sure he’ll probably start introducing things,” Boone said. “But today was good to see him out there really long tossing and getting into the throws a little bit. I know he’s doing better.”
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