Carlos Rodon’s spring setbacks fail to dilute his confidence for a good season

Carlos Rodon is pitching for the Yankees against the Phillies on March 23, 2024,
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Michael Bennington
Sunday March 24, 2024

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The spring training journey of Carlos Rodon has been a rollercoaster ride, marked by moments of euphoria and frustration, mirroring the ebbs and flows of a typical baseball season. However, it fails to unnerve the pitcher despite the Yankees universe raising red flags over this.

On Monday, Carlos Rodon’s performance against the Phillies was nothing short of impressive, as he pitched 5 2/3 hitless innings, prompting a standing ovation from the Yankees faithful at Steinbrenner Field. This outpouring of support ignited speculation that Rodón could potentially fill the void left by the injured ace, Gerrit Cole.

However, the honeymoon period was short-lived. In a subsequent outing against the same Phillies team on Saturday, Carlos Rodon’s performance took a nosedive. His exit from the game was met with deafening silence, a stark contrast to the earlier cheers, reflecting his subpar performance. The southpaw surrendered six runs (five earned) on seven hits over four-plus innings, managing only one walk and two strikeouts. This outing contributed to his less-than-impressive spring training ERA of 4.66, raising concerns about Carlos Rodon’s consistency.

With Cole sidelined for the start of the regular season, the Yankees are relying heavily on Carlos Rodon to step up. His spring training journey has provided a glimpse into both his potential and the challenges he may face. To replicate the hero’s welcome he received early in the spring, Carlos Rodon must find a way to build upon his initial success and deliver more consistent performances as the regular season approaches.

Carlos Rodon looks beyond results to focus on health

After his final exhibition game in the Grapefruit League, Carlos Rodon expressed disappointment with his on-field performance – a sentiment likely shared by many Yankees fans. However, for the seasoned pitcher, the broader concern revolves around maintaining his physical well-being.

“That’s a good sign that I had more in the tank,” he said. “It’s nice to go through a whole spring training and just get those up and downs and get that pitch count up.”

Despite surrendering runs and exiting the game earlier than desired, Carlos Rodon emphasized a crucial positive aspect – his endurance. Completing the entire spring training regimen and throwing 82 pitches represents a significant milestone for him.

This focus on building stamina stems from his injury-riddled past. Carlos Rodon underscored the importance of gradually increasing his pitch count throughout the exhibition season to establish a consistent rhythm. This ability to effectively manage his workload was hindered by injuries until late last season, leading to inconsistent outings earlier in his career.

By prioritizing his health and systematically working on increasing his pitch count, Carlos Rodon aims to avoid a repeat of those struggles. While the final spring training outing may not have yielded a victory, the emphasis on long-term health and developing endurance could prove to be a more valuable takeaway for Carlos Rodon and the Yankees as they embark on the regular season.

Carlos Rodon focuses on consistency vs. whiff rate

Carlos Rodon, player of the new york yankees
USA Today

Carlos Rodón’s impressive outing in his final exhibition game has positioned him to take the mound for an extended stint of five or six innings in his regular season debut. This debut is likely to come in Game 2 on Friday against the Houston Astros, with Nestor Cortes slated to be the Yankees’ opening day starter.

Manager Aaron Boone has expressed confidence in Carlos Rodon’s physical conditioning, highlighting his steady progress over the past several months. Boone believes this solid foundation will translate into on-field success for the pitcher.

The key to Carlos Rodon’s triumph as the season unfolds will be his ability to maintain consistency. Taking the ball every fifth day and delivering strong performances will be crucial. However, his final spring training outing was not without its challenges. Carlos Rodon struggled to generate weak contact from Philadelphia hitters, only managing to induce four whiffs on 36 swings. Throughout his entire exhibition season, his whiff rate hovered around 19.25%, a stark contrast to the impressive 31% plus mark he achieved with the White Sox in 2021 and the Giants in 2022.

Yankees pitcher Carlos Rodon at Yankee Stadium during the 2023 season.
NYY

Despite these statistics, a wait-and-see approach might be more appropriate. The transition back to the major league atmosphere is likely to lead to an increase in Carlos Rodon velocity, offering a more accurate picture of his capabilities this season. Evaluating his regular season numbers and analyzing how hitters react to his pitches will provide a more definitive assessment of his performance.

Carlos Rodon himself acknowledges the shift in importance as the season begins. The time spent in spring training holds no weight moving forward. His focus is solely on the upcoming games, where the stakes are significantly higher.

With a foundation of strong health and a season-opening appearance on the horizon, Carlos Rodon enters the regular season brimming with confidence, ready to prove his worth as a key contributor to the Yankees’ rotation.

Poteet’s rotation bid takes a hit

Right-hander Cody Poteet‘s pursuit of a spot in the starting rotation encountered a setback during Saturday’s split-squad game in Lakeland. In his first spring outing, Poteet struggled mightily, surrendering eight runs on eight hits and three walks, including a pair of home runs. While Poteet was not considered a frontrunner for the fifth starter role compared to Luis Gil and Will Warren, this subpar performance certainly did not bolster his case. The bullpen appears to be a more likely destination for Poteet, although with multiple minor-league options remaining, a demotion to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre could be in the cards.

Jones strengthens push for bench role

In the same Lakeland game, outfielder Jahmai Jones solidified his case for a spot on the active roster. The right-handed hitter enjoyed a strong outing, going 2-for-3 with a single and a home run, raising his spring average to a respectable .280. Both of his hits left the bat at over 106 mph, showcasing his raw power. Jones’ versatility and his existing spot on the 40-man roster position him favorably for a potential bench role with the Yankees.

Stanton and Judge flex muscles

Yankee superstars Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge reminded everyone of their offensive prowess in the team’s loss to the Phillies in Tampa. Stanton stunned Phillies’ pitcher José Ruiz with a scorching 118.7-mph single up the middle, forcing Ruiz to stumble in his attempt to field the ball. Judge wasn’t to be outdone, launching a booming 114-mph line drive for a double that reached the center-field warning track.

LeMahieu and Rizzo on the way

Infielder DJ LeMahieu continued his recovery from a significant bone bruise on his right foot by participating in ground ball drills on Saturday. This is a positive step forward as he works his way back onto the field.

First baseman Anthony Rizzo, sidelined with lat tightness, also showed improvement according to manager Aaron Boone. While Rizzo might see some action in the final spring training game on Monday to prepare for Opening Day, the Yankees will prioritize his complete recovery and won’t rush him back onto the field.

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