'I want it': Rodón's gutsy finish impresses Yanks after rough start

June 28th, 2024

TORONTO -- ’s miserable night was approaching the finish line as he eyed his manager ambling from the first-base dugout, a new arm hot and ready. The hurler bowed his head and muttered. He wasn’t ready to leave.

“I want it,” Rodón told Aaron Boone, who mulled the request briefly, then nodded. Jogging across the outfield grass, reliever Phil Bickford whirled with confusion and retreated to the bullpen, where he watched as Rodón completed the fifth inning in the Yankees’ 9-2 loss to the Blue Jays on Thursday night at Rogers Centre.

“I just wanted to get through five for the bullpen, and just prove something to myself,” Rodón said. “That even though I get knocked down, I can get back up and just keep going.”

Perhaps that conclusion gives Rodón something to build upon, because there isn’t much else the left-hander will want to bring home from this one. Rodón was hammered for eight runs, including a pair of three-run George Springer homers, as the Yanks’ pitching woes continued. New York has lost a season-high four straight games and 10 of its past 13.

For a third consecutive start, an opponent feasted upon Rodón’s fastball, with the Blue Jays following a similar game plan to the Red Sox and Braves. Rodón has allowed 21 runs (20 earned) over those 13 2/3 innings; he held teams to just 11 runs over a seven-start winning streak prior to that.

“Clearly, some teams game-planning are doing a good job against him,” Boone said. “While he’s wearing it right now and going through it, it’s also kind of a gutsy effort to not want out, to want to finish through five, especially with what we’re going through as a team right now.”

Blue Jays manager John Schneider lauded his team’s tactics against Rodón, saying that his hitters “stayed on the fastball really well.”

“I just thought we had a really good plan,” Schneider said. “You could kind of see him adjust after the second inning with a couple more cutters and changeups, but we were on the heater pretty well.”

Rodón acknowledged that he trusted his secondary pitches more after the second inning, similar to the Braves start. He believes he is missing locations with his fastball, which touched 98.1 mph and sat 95.6 mph on Thursday.

“The command is just not great right now,” Rodón said. “There are some adjustments to be made this week. I just need to be better.”

Yet Rodón still hung around through five innings, which Boone appreciated.

“To us, that’s a big deal, especially with what we’re going through,” Boone said. “His teammates see that, I see that. I respect the way he went out and competed tonight when it didn’t go his way those first two innings. These are little things in the season that suck right now, but also make me continue to feel really good about this group and where we’re going.”

Toronto batted around in the first inning against Rodón, building a rally on soft contact as lucky breaks continued to elude the Yanks. Batting with a run already in, Justin Turner squibbed a ball up the first-base line that Ben Rice watched hit the bag for a run-scoring single, a play that immediately preceded Springer’s first homer of the night.

A converted catcher, the rookie Rice is a relative neophyte at first base, having been pressed into duty when Anthony Rizzo sustained a fractured right forearm on Sunday at Fenway Park. Boone said that he believes Rice has handled the challenge well, calling Turner’s roller “a wonky play.”

“I’ve seen my fair share of those, but usually those do stay fair,” Rice said. “I just kind of thought it was going to start eventually kicking past the line. I probably should have come and gotten it.”

Rodón coughed up three more runs in the second inning. He hit Isiah Kiner-Falefa with a 1-2 slider, issued a one-out walk to Turner and then grooved a fastball to Springer, whose multihomer performance turned back the clock in what has been a difficult season for the veteran outfielder.

Down eight runs early, the Yanks had little response against Toronto starter José Berríos, who worked seven strong innings.

Held quiet after Anthony Volpe’s leadoff single in the first, the Yanks did not manage another hit until Trent Grisham connected for a fifth-inning homer. Set to receive more playing time in the wake of a left hamstring strain to designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton, Grisham has hit five homers among his first 10 Yankees hits.

“It’s a tough night when you’re pretty far behind, trying to play catchup,” Boone said. “We’re still trying to get a couple of guys going, but I think more of late it’s just been us frankly giving up too many runs.”