'Terrible' night ends Rodón's rocky first season in pinstripes

September 30th, 2023

KANSAS CITY -- ’s shoulders slumped, his uniform top soaked with sweat, as he handed the baseball to manager Aaron Boone and began a slow and seemingly dazed trudge toward the visitors’ dugout. Gazing toward the seating area, the Yankees pitcher mouthed one word: “Wow.”

Wow, indeed. In an outing that he described as “terrible,” Rodón faced eight batters and could not retire any in a nightmarish first inning, concluding his trying first pinstriped season with a 12-5 loss to the Royals on Friday evening at Kauffman Stadium.

“It’s pretty disappointing,” Rodón said. “There’s not much else to say about it. Whenever your performance is bad, it’s never easy to flush.”

The worst inning of Rodón’s career featured six hits, including a two-run Edward Olivares homer, and two walks.   

The sequence also included Rodón turning his back on pitching coach Matt Blake during a mound visit, then later brushing past Boone after surrendering the ball, their shoulders making what appeared to be accidental contact. Boone said that he would have liked to see “better mound presence.”  

“It wasn’t great; definitely not the best move,” Rodón said. “It shouldn’t happen. I was frustrated with myself and my performance. It’s really embarrassing. Then doing that with Matt, coming out and trying to help me, I turned my back. I was not in the right mind, that’s for sure. That’s on me.”

Boone noted that Rodón’s velocity dipped (his four-seam fastball averaged 93.6 mph, down from his season average of 95.3 mph, and all his other pitches were down as well). Rodón said that he “tried to step on it a little bit,” but “nothing was really working.”

“He just didn’t have the life on his fastball, and [his] location was in the heart of the plate a lot,” Boone said. “It’s a tough way for him to end.”

The 10 Royals to reach base opening a game established a new Kansas City franchise record, surpassing their mark of eight (May 8, 2018, vs. the Orioles). It equaled the record for a Yankees opponent; 10 straight Cleveland batters reached on July 27, 1978, vs. Catfish Hunter and Bob Kammeyer.

With Rodón lifted after 35 pitches (21 strikes), three inherited runners came around to score against reliever Matt Bowman. The eight runs allowed matched Rodón’s career high, done four times previously.

He’s just the fifth pitcher in Major League history to allow at least eight earned runs and not record an out, most recently done by the Reds’ Paul Wilson on May 6, 2005, against the Dodgers.

“He’s been a great pitcher in the game for a while now,” said catcher Austin Wells, who hit a three-run homer in the loss. “Throughout anyone’s career, there’s going to be ups and downs. I think he’s shown that he can be a great pitcher and that he is a great pitcher. Today is a very large outlier in that.”

Signed to a six-year, $162 million contract this past offseason after starring for the Giants, Rodón’s first campaign as a Yankee was derailed by injuries, seeing him finish with a 3-8 record and 6.85 ERA in 14 starts.

Sidelined this spring with back tightness, Rodón didn’t make his debut until July 7, then missed time in mid-August with a left hamstring strain.

“I’m not going to make any excuses about starting off the season with an injury,” Rodón said. “My job is to show up and compete when I’m available. Unfortunately, that was halfway through the season. There were some OK starts sprinkled in, but mostly, it was pretty bad.”

For Rodón, next year began immediately. As the clubhouse emptied, he remained in Boone’s office, the door closed to their conversation.

A few moments earlier, Boone said he has “no doubt” about Rodón’s talent, noting, “Hopefully, we’ll have this year be one of the things that throws a log on the fire to motivate you.”

“I’m looking forward to taking a little bit of time for myself, getting away from baseball,” Rodón said. “When the time is right, hopefully in a couple of weeks after that, I’ll get back into training. I’m really focused on what I want to do on the mound and establish that.”