Carlos Rodon admits ‘need to be better’ but when as Yankees stare at doom

New York Yankees starter Carlos Rodón asks for a new ball during the first inning of a baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays Tuesday, July 9, 2024, in St. Petersburg, Fla.
AP Photo/Steve Nesius

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Another outing of Carlos Rodon ended in a nightmare. The Yankees pitcher struggled right out of the gate, surrendering four runs before recording an out in the first inning on Tuesday. This early setback proved too much for the Yankees to overcome, marking their 17th loss in their last 23 games.

Following the Yankees’ 5-3 loss in Tampa Bay to the Rays, Carlo Rodon made a repeat admission of his fault and noted “I need to be better; just not really giving my team a chance to win, giving up runs early.”

“It seems like we’re behind the barrel every time,” the pitcher continued. “I put the offense behind. It’s hard for them to claw back from. It’s hard for them to win games when you’re down by four, five, six, seven, eight runs early on.”

But the question remains when. In his last five starts, this has been a routine story. His latest outing ended in 5 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, and 5 Ks in 4 innings. Carlos Rodon’s ERA has soared to 10.57 over the past five starts, a stark contrast to his 2.93 ERA in his first 14 starts this season.

Despite lead-off man Ben Rice providing a glimmer of hope with a two-run homer in the seventh inning, narrowing the gap to 4-3, the Yankees were unable to complete the comeback, allowing the Rays to snap their own three-game losing streak.

Carlos Rodon’s performance was unplugged before owner Hal Steinbrenner and General Manager Brian Cashman, who were present for the game. Before the first pitch, Cashman addressed the media, recognizing the team’s recent struggles but expressing optimism about a potential turnaround. But Carlos Rodon might be eager to remind him of the folly he made for six years with a $162 million contract.

Yankees starter carlos rodon pitches against the tampa bay rays, tuesday, july 9, 2024.

Yankees’ Carlos Rodon problem turns bigger only

Carlos Rodon’s first-inning troubles have become a worrying pattern, with his ERA in opening frames now at 9.00 over 19 starts. In four of his last five starts, he has allowed significant early leads. Although his performance improves in later innings, the early deficits have been costly for the Yankees.

The loss drops the Yankees to 55-38, while the Rays improve to 45-46.

Carlos Rodon admitted to over-relying on fastballs in the opening frame and recognized the need to incorporate his entire pitching repertoire from the start.

“I think it’s partially, I try to attack with fastballs in the zone, and they’ve been getting on some heaters,” the Yankees pitcher explained. “We get out there in the second, we start mixing, we mix changeups, we mix curveballs. I got to make that adjustment as the game begins, just ready to use the whole arsenal from the get-go.”

Manager Aaron Boone suggested Carlos Rodon’s issues stemmed more from command than pitch selection. His first 14 pitches, which led to a 4-1 deficit, were predominantly fastballs and sliders before he began mixing in other pitches.

The Yankees‘ initial 1-0 lead quickly evaporated. Yandy Diaz singled and scored on Randy Arozarena’s double, followed by Amed Rosario’s RBI single. Isaac Paredes then hit a three-run homer off a misplaced fastball from Rodon.

Expressing disappointment in his performance, Carlos Rodon highlighted the importance of delivering shutdown innings after his team scores. His outing was cut short after four innings due to high pitch counts in the first and third frames.

Back to the drawing board

Yankees starter carlos rodon pitches against the tampa bay rays, tuesday, july 9, 2024.

Boone mentioned that the coaching staff, led by pitching coach Matt Blake, would work closely with Carlos Rodon to resolve his first-inning struggles. Despite early setbacks, the Yankees manager noted the pitcher’s effectiveness once he settled into the game.

The loss extended the Yankees’ slump, marking the worst record in the majors since June 15 at 5-16.

Boone took responsibility for the team’s performance, emphasizing the need for proper preparation and placing players in the best position to succeed. He stressed the role of the coaching staff in setting a positive tone and fostering a winning environment.

“It starts with me,” the Yankees skipper said. “I filter in through the coaches, and it’s about us trying to get these guys prepared the best we can, setting a tone with how we present ourselves. But it’s on us as coaches to put our players in the best position possible to go out there and be successful.”

But Carlos Rodon’s problem is growing bigger only.

As the Yankees search for solutions to their early-inning pitching issues and overall performance, the focus remains on addressing these critical challenges to turn their season around.

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