Nestor Cortes will not pitch for Team USA in the upcoming World Baseball Classic after suffering an injury to his right hamstring, the Yankees pitcher revealed while speaking to reporters at the team's complex in Tampa, Fla. on Monday, Feb. 13, 2023. Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

TAMPA, Fla. — A Yankees rotation expected to be among the best in the American League took another hit Monday.

Just how significant isn’t yet clear.

Nestor Cortes, coming off a career season in which he went 12-4 with a 2.44 ERA, will not pitch in the upcoming World Baseball Classic after suffering what he said was diagnosed as a “low-level Grade 2” strain in his right hamstring.

Cortes, who expects to be down at least “a couple of weeks,”  believes he’ll be ready for the regular season.

“I think it's something that's definitely doable, to start the season off healthy and in the rotation,” Cortes said Monday afternoon after working out at the club’s minor-league complex. “So hopefully we can get [going] and the training staff will help me get to that point.”

The rotation, fronted by Gerrit Cole and free-agent signee Carlos Rodon, will be without Frankie Montas for at least the first month of the season as he deals with the right shoulder issue that bothered him much of last season.

On the surface, Cortes’ setback doesn’t seem that serious, but hamstring and back injuries can be tricky when it comes to predicting recovery times.  

Cortes, who is able to play catch but is being kept off a mound until further notice, said he first felt discomfort in the hamstring the previous Monday while running sprints at his home in Miami.

After initially dismissing it as “a cramp,” Cortes said he felt “a little pull” while putting on a shoe  that same night. Upon arriving at the minor-league complex last Wednesday, he told the training staff he was “a little banged up.” An MRI taken on Friday showed the strain.

“I've been throwing, doing some stuff in the weight room, moving around, mobility, stuff like that,” Cortes said of the impact of the injury on his workout regimen. “Just not [throwing] off the mound yet, so that's kind of where we're at right now. We've been taking it day by day. As I progress and as I start feeling better with the hamstring and being able to do a lot of running and off-the-mound stuff, I guess we'll take it from there . . . We haven't gotten to that point where we have a set date to be back on the mound. But I'm sure it's in the plans of, the more I progress, the [better] I feel.”

Cortes, who threw a career-high 158 1/3 innings in 2022 — far exceeding his previous career high of 93 in 2021 — was mostly healthy last season, when he made 28 starts. He did have to deal with a left groin injury that kept him out for nearly three weeks from late August into September and forced him from his Game 4 start against the Astros in the ALCS.

“Offseason was down in Miami, rehabbing it throughout the whole offseason,” Cortes said of the groin. “Feels great, no issues, no soreness. This year, I think I'm going to make it . . . where I take care of my legs a little better.”

With Cortes pulling out of the WBC, three Yankees will be participating in the event: catcher Kyle Higashioka for Team USA, second baseman Gleyber Torres for Team Venezuela and reliever Jonathan Loaisiga for Nicaragua.

“Obviously, very sad that I can't participate,” Cortes said.

He added: “The ultimate goal here is to get ready for [World Series] number 28. I think it's kind of a letdown for the country, but I think the biggest goal right here is to get healthy and be ready for the start of the season.”

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