Yankees’ $162 million pitcher finally starting to look the part

MLB: Spring Training-Philadelphia Phillies at New York Yankees
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

When the Yankees acquired Carlos Rodon last off-season on a six-year, $162 million deal, most imagined he would be a lethal number two behind Gerrit Cole in the starting rotation.

Instead, Rodon picked up a number of injuries, including a forearm strain that completely disrupted his throwing program during spring training. He was never able to recover fully, rushing back and immediately being diagnosed with a chronic back injury and, later on in the season, a left hamstring issue.

Since then, Rodon has taken a significant number of precautions to help stifle any further injury, dropping a significant amount of weight and improving his flexibility.

The 31-year-old is headed into the second year of his six-year contract, and with Cole expected to miss a few months after suffering nerve inflammation in his throwing elbow, he has no choice but to step up.

The Yankees Are Seeing Glimpses of Rodon’s Upside

The Yankees acquired the player who tossed 178 innings in 2022 with the San Francisco Giants, hosting a 2.88 ERA and striking out 12 batters per nine. He has the capacity to be an ace for them, and the Yankees are paying him $27 million in luxury tax salary to do that.

Fortunately, Rodon is having a solid spring and is coming off his best performance as spring training quickly comes to an end. He’s made four starts this spring, tossing 15.1 innings and hosting a 2.93 ERA with a 100% left-on-base rate and a 33.3% ground ball rate.

In his most recent appearance, Rodon pitched 5.2 innings, striking out five batters and walking one without giving up a hit. This is exactly the type of outing the Yankees needed to see, especially after he gave up only one earned run against the Boston Red Sox last week over four innings.

He has only given up one earned run over his last 9.2 innings pitched, so there’s plenty of reason to believe he will enter the season in a good spot. His most recent start included a heavy reliance on his fastball, tossing at 49 with 16.9 inches of vertical movement and averaging 94.5 mph, which is below his in-season velocity but ramping in the right direction (it is higher than his velocity last spring by a big margin).

Rodon has also been toying with a cutter, throwing it three times at 90.6 mph with 8 inches of vertical movement. He’s known primarily for his fastball/slider combination, a duo that failed him in 2023 due to injury.

Nonetheless, the Bombers feel as though he’s trending in the right direction. A fully healthy Rodon should be an extremely productive arm and allow him to follow his program without any deviations.

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