Carlos Rodon’s masterclass Yankees outing puts 2023 nightmare to rest

Carlos Rodon is on the mound in the Yankees vs. Marlins game at Yankee Stadium on April 9, 2024.
Inna Zeyger
Wednesday April 10, 2024

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With his brilliant Yankees Start against Miami on Tuesday, Carlos Rodon finally exorcises the ghost of 2023 that put his career at stake. His dominant stuff in the Yankees’ 3-2 victory shows the pitcher is ready to reclaim his ace status.

Carlos Rodon’s debut year with the Yankees, following the lucrative six-year, $162 million contract he inked in December 2022, fell woefully short of expectations. Across 14 starts, he posted an alarming 6.85 ERA, prompting swift criticism from media and fans alike, who branded him a bust – a label that only exacerbated the immense pressure shouldered by starting pitchers who fail to live up to hefty contracts.

The much-touted New York Yankees’ pitching acquisition, endured a nightmarish conclusion to his 2023 campaign. On September 29th, in a clash against the struggling Kansas City Royals, Carlos Rodon’s performance etched an unwanted mark in baseball history. He surrendered eight earned runs without recording a single out, becoming just the third pitcher in Major League Baseball’s annals to achieve this ignominious feat. The implosion was further compounded by Carlos Rodon’s visible display of frustration, turning his back on pitching coach Matt Blake during a mound visit, providing a fittingly tumultuous finale to his turbulent inaugural season in pinstripes.

The 2024 spring training also offered little solace for Carlos Rodon. A lackluster performance in a backfield session, where he surrendered four home runs, fueled online ridicule and raised concerns about the diminution of his fastball velocity. With ace Gerrit Cole sidelined due to injury, Carlos Rodon’s ability to rebound became a pivotal, yet uncertain, factor in the Yankees’ season.

However, six months removed from his infamous Kansas City debacle, a rejuvenated Carlos Rodon has emerged. The narrative surrounding him has undergone a dramatic transformation, and his redemption arc has officially begun with the Yankees gem against the Marlins.

Carlos Rodon silences doubters with dominant Yankees outing

Yankees' Carlos Rodon leaves the mound at Yankee Stadium following his brilliant Start against Miami on April 9, 2024.
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The 31-year-old starting pitcher for the New York Yankees finally delivered the kind of performance the team envisioned when they invested heavily in his talents last year. In his inaugural home start of the season against the Miami Marlins on Tuesday, Carlos Rodon silenced his critics and showcased the skills that earned him All-Star recognition in 2022 with the San Francisco Giants.

Effortlessly navigating through six innings, Carlos Rodon dissected the Marlins’ lineup, striking out six batters while avoiding any earned runs. He unleashed his signature high-spin fastball on the outer edge against right-handed hitters, his deceptive slider kept them off-balance, and his changeup induced an impressive array of swings and misses. A newly-introduced cutter, honed during the offseason, further augmented his repertoire, proving to be a valuable asset against veteran slugger Josh Bell, whom Carlos Rodon retired on a three-pitch sequence featuring the changeup, cutter, and changeup combination.

While a walk, an error, and an infield single forced Carlos Rodon’s exit in the seventh inning with a pitch count of only 89, the outing undeniably marked a turning point. It was his most dominant performance since joining the Yankees, and the Yankee Stadium crowd of 37,680 responded with a thunderous ovation, a stark contrast to the boos that accompanied his struggles last season.

Tuesday’s game offered a glimpse of both the pitcher the Yankees envisioned acquiring and an arguably even more polished version. Carlos Rodon himself acknowledged the progress, stating to reporters after the game, “A step in the right direction today. Confidence is growing, for sure.”

Carlos Rodon’s success in 2022 stemmed from his ability to generate weak contact with his fastball’s movement and the uncertainty created by his slider. At his best, he effectively commands different vertical locations for his fastball, keeping it away from right-handed hitters. This strategy was on display in his first-inning duel with Bryan De La Cruz, where two fouled-off four-seam fastballs set the stage for a devastating strikeout slider.

The addition of the cutter to his arsenal provides an extra layer of deception, complementing Carlos Rodon’s existing changeup thrown low and away. This pitch, which he struggled to locate effectively in 2023, now benefits from the presence of the cutter as a complementary weapon.

Carlos Rodon’s dominant performance serves as a launchpad for a potential redemption narrative. The Yankees, having witnessed a revitalized version of the pitcher they invested in, can now anticipate a more consistent and impactful contribution from Rodón throughout the season.

Carlos Rodon gives Yankees hope in Cole’s absent

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AP

In the aftermath of the Yankees’ exhilarating 3-2 triumph over the Miami Marlins, Carlos Rodon reflected on his dominant outing with a hint of satisfaction. Following the game he openly acknowledged that executing the masterful sequence that struck out veteran hitter Josh Bell would have been an improbable feat just a year ago.

“A step in the right direction today,” Carlos Rodon added. “Confidence is growing, for sure.”

“It’s always important for any of us to start out on a good note. I think we’re playing really good baseball right now. I’m looking forward to tomorrow and trying to take a third one from them.”

This stark improvement is a direct byproduct of the tireless efforts Carlos Rodon invested during the offseason. Since he arrived at the Yankees’ complex in Tampa back in January, he has diligently participated in extensive sessions within the team’s state-of-the-art pitching lab, affectionately dubbed the “gas station.” Collaborating closely with pitching coach Matt Blake, assistant pitching coach Desi Druchel, and pitching director Sam Briend, Carlos Rodon has meticulously refined his craft. These dedicated endeavors are already bearing fruit, with Rodón’s season ERA sitting at an impressive 1.72 after his first three starts.

However, the most significant transformation lies in Rodón’s demeanor on the mound. Gone is the tense, almost burdened, pitcher who struggled to adapt to his new surroundings in 2023. Last year, pitching for the Yankees felt like an uncomfortable chore, a restless night on an unyielding mattress. His starts lacked the fluidity and confidence that defined his success.

But Tuesday night marked a turning point. Carlos Rodon commanded the mound with a newfound sense of control and composure. He exuded confidence and a sense of grace that had been notably absent before. While it’s important to acknowledge that the struggling Marlins, currently the worst team in baseball, may not have presented the most daunting challenge, a six-inning shutout is a far cry from the disastrous eight-run, no-out outing of 2023.

This resurgence is a welcome sight for the Yankees. With ace Gerrit Cole sidelined due to injury and his return date still uncertain, the team desperately needs reliable pitching depth. Ideally, Carlos Rodon will solidify himself as the anchor for Game 2 of a playoff series, precisely the role he was envisioned to fill when he signed his lucrative contract. After Tuesday’s dominant performance, that possibility feels more tangible than ever before, offering a glimmer of hope for the Yankees’ postseason aspirations.

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