'The stuff showed up': Rodón gains confidence in latest start

March 13th, 2024

TAMPA, Fla. -- can tell you all about the vacancy that now exists at the top of the Yankees’ rotation. He has listened and learned in the clubhouse all spring, where Gerrit Cole has sat just four feet to his right, delivering frequent soliloquies on the art of pitching.

Rodón gestures toward Cole’s locker; the empty chair there now has nothing to say.

“I can’t tell you exactly what Gerrit is thinking,” Rodón said of his teammate, who flew to Los Angeles on Wednesday for another opinion on his ailing right elbow. “But in my case, there’s anxiety: ‘What is this going to show? What is it going to be?’ You always hope for the best.”

As the Yankees contemplate life without the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner, at least for a month or two, Rodón understands why there is even greater pressure for him to rebound from a dismal first season in pinstripes, calling it “part of the game we play.”

“He wants to put last year behind him. Everyone's watching Carlos right now,” manager Aaron Boone said. “We're making stuff out of spring starts every time, so there's a lot at stake for Carlos.

“I just want him to focus on the work, and the work has been really good. Combined with what we believe his talent is, hopefully it gets him back to being a frontline starting pitcher in this league.”

That’s the objective for Rodón. One start after he acknowledged that he was still restoring his confidence and swagger, the left-hander stacked a few more blocks to build upon.

Rodón navigated four solid innings against a lefty-heavy Red Sox lineup, touched only by Triston Casas’ fourth-inning homer during the Yankees' 9-4 loss at George M. Steinbrenner Field. He walked none and struck out three, throwing 44 of 68 pitches for strikes, generating four whiffs on his fastball and two on the slider.

“I thought he executed a lot and was throwing to lanes that he wanted to get the ball to,” Boone said.

Provided two extra days of rest, Rodón’s fastball velocity averaged 94.6 mph and maxed at 97.3 mph. That was an encouraging sign of progress, one start after it sat 93.2 mph and maxed at 94.8 mph against the Rays on March 6.

“Obviously there is room for improvement, but the velocity was there,” Rodón said.

Rodón had been a bit salty after his previous effort, one bookended by a pair of home runs, prompting him to remark that the exhibition was one that “no one really gives a [crap] about, because it doesn’t matter.”

In theory, that should also hold true for the games in which players perform well. But everyone loves to produce positive results, even if the statistics don’t count.

Just watch the highlights around the league; there’s usually a bat flip or a slow trot after a long homer, even if it’s in the Cactus or Grapefruit Leagues. It’s fun to succeed. And as Rodón walked out of the stadium on Wednesday, he was no exception.

“Today I got to build some confidence; the last start was a little rocky, as we know,” Rodón said. “Today, the stuff showed up. It was nice.”