Sports

Rodon gives up 2 more HRs, lacks zip on fastball

TAMPA, Fla. — Carlos Rodon‘s second Grapefruit League start of 2024 was “a mixed bag” featuring continued experimentation, a lack of zip on his fastball and bookending home runs.

The New York Yankees‘ left-hander gave up three runs on five hits across three-plus innings against the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday. He threw 60 pitches.

His first pitch was a fastball launched over the right-center field wall by Yandy Diaz. The 60th pitch was a fastball blasted by Richie Palacios for a two-run home run. Those were in addition to the home run surrendered in his first spring outing and the four given up in a simulated game last week.

“Didn’t really have the fastball velo I wanted, but … it’s one of those days,” Rodon said. “It’s one of those days you got to be able to pitch without a fastball and kind of use some other things.”

Rodon, 31, is looking to rebound from a nightmare first season in New York after signing a six-year, $162 million contract in December 2022. The left-hander, who didn’t make his Yankees debut until July because of a forearm strain, recorded a 6.85 ERA in 14 starts as the team failed to reach the postseason.

This year, he reported to spring training slimmer and without the mustache he sported last season. His pitch arsenal also has looked different.

Rodon has almost exclusively relied on his fastball-slider combination in his career — he threw one of those two pitches 92% of the time in 2022, his best season as a major leaguer — and he doesn’t plan to dramatically alter his usage. But he has been focused on working on his curveball, changeup and a new cutter this spring to have at his disposal when needed.

“On a day like today, where the fastball wasn’t exactly where I wanted it to be, that cutter could come in really handy for early outs,” Rodon said.

Manager Aaron Boone attributed Rodon’s decreased fastball velocity — it averaged 93.2 mph on Wednesday as compared to 95.3 mph last season — to fatigue expected at this point on the calendar.

“He didn’t have great life on his fastball today,” Boone said. “But I felt, really, in between the first and last pitch, I thought he pitched really well. I thought he pitched, which was good to see.”

Rodon acknowledged this spring is also about building up his confidence. Swagger, he said, is a trait he carries on the mound. Last season dented it. Good health, he said, is all it should take to bounce back to become the pitcher the Yankees envisioned when they signed him.

“I just need to stay on the mound,” Rodon said. “That’s it. I’m pretty good at this game.”

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