TAMPA, Fla. -- A blue spiral notebook with the Yankees’ interlocking "NY" on the cover rested upon Brian Cashman’s lap as the general manager sat in the home dugout at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Thursday morning, each detailed line within representing a new injury concern that will alter the Opening Day roster.
Most prominently, left-hander Carlos Rodón -- envisioned as the club’s No. 2 starter after signing a six-year, $162 million contract this past winter -- has been diagnosed with a mild left elbow strain and will begin the season on the injured list, Cashman said.
“I can go out there and perform, but am I performing at my best and how long am I going to last throughout the season if I continue down this road?” Rodón said. “I’m not here to pitch until the All-Star break. I’m here to pitch well into October and whenever this team needs me. If it’s Oct. 5th or it’s the ALDS, I’m taking the ball. I want to pitch.”
Rodón underwent an MRI on Wednesday after experiencing discomfort while throwing sliders during his Grapefruit League debut, in which he permitted five runs over two-plus innings against the Braves in North Port and was clocked between 91-94 mph. During that outing, manager Aaron Boone cautioned Rodón against trying to manufacture velocity.
“I’m glad he said something,” Cashman said. “This could have been much worse. Trying to pitch through [injuries] is not a good thing, especially this time of year. If this was obviously in-season, pennant race, late in the game, he’s still probably up and running.”
Cashman said that Rodón’s strain is to the brachioradialis, a superficial muscle that flexes the forearm at the elbow, and that the ulnar collateral ligament is not a concern. Rodón told Cashman that he pitched through a similar issue last May with the Giants; he will not throw for 10 days, beginning on Thursday.
"It's a bummer," Boone said. "But sitting around waiting [Wednesday] night and then getting the news today, it's also a sigh of relief. I don't think it's going to be a long-term thing. The timing of it is better now than at another point."
Right-handers Tommy Kahnle (right biceps tendinitis) and Lou Trivino (mild right elbow ligament sprain) will also begin the season on the injured list. Trivino’s absence is expected to be longer than those of Kahnle and Rodón, Cashman said. Boone later revealed that outfielder Harrison Bader is experiencing discomfort in his left oblique and has been sent for tests.
“In a perfect world,” Cashman said, Rodón could make his Yankees debut sometime in April. An All-Star the past two seasons, Rodón was 14-8 with a 2.88 ERA in 31 starts in 2022.
“I’m hoping this goes by fairly quickly,” Rodón said. “I can’t put a number on any of this. I feel better than I did after I threw against Atlanta, for sure. But as you know, some of these things take time.”
At the time of the signing, Cashman acknowledged the risk of Rodón’s lengthy injury history. He appeared in only 11 games from 2019-20 as he returned from Tommy John surgery, and missed significant time from 2017-18 as he recovered from left shoulder surgery.
However, Rodón had seemed to assuage those concerns by making 55 starts over the past two seasons, going 27-13 with a 2.67 ERA for the White Sox and Giants.
The Yankees are now down two starting pitchers, with right-hander Frankie Montas (right shoulder inflammation) not expected to return until after the All-Star break following arthroscopic surgery performed in February.
Right-handers Domingo Germán and Clarke Schmidt, who were thought to be competing for the final rotation slot, project to both open the season as starters. Schmidt permitted two runs over three innings on Thursday against the Red Sox, and Boone said that he believes Schmidt has pitched better than his 8.10 spring ERA would indicate.
"I've always wanted an opportunity to be a consistent starter in the big leagues, and I always felt like that would come," Schmidt said. "I'm just trying to be myself, go out there and get outs, and help this team cover a lot of innings."