Carlos Rodon injury is latest in Yankees’ mounting concerns

Jon Heyman


March 9, 2023 | 5:01 p.m

TAMPA — The Yankees used the word “mild” several times to describe Carlos Rodon’s new elbow problem. That may be the case, but I’ll say this: your general pitching problem is far from mild.

In fact, it’s quite worrying.

General manager Brian Cashman read from a litany of pitching injuries Thursday morning, and Aaron Boone revealed after the game that center fielder Harrison Bader has a side issue and is going to testing for what seemed like the topper on an unlucky day. It’s at the point where both Domingo German and Clarke Schmidt (or anyone below them on the depth chart) will start the year in the rotation. And that’s assuming Nestor Cortes, who skipped the WBC due to a hamstring problem and hasn’t served yet, is fine.

The news wasn’t much better from the bullpen, where Lou Trivino was diagnosed with a sprained elbow and also shut down to join Tommy Kahnle, who is sidelined with biceps tendonitis. And they’ll need to get their best out of the bullpen, with at least two of their top five starters out early in the season.

Assuming you’re not counting Frankie Montas who may be out for the year, of course Rodon is the headline news and the biggest problem for many at the moment simply for being who he is. There are others here whose injuries may not be quite as “mild” but Rodon – who has been described as having a muscle sprain on the outside of his elbow (the UCL is intact on an MRI) – is a surpassing talent for the Yankees for over six years $162 million awarded.

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Carlos Rodon’s injury adds to the litany of Yankees’ ailing arms.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

The immediate concern is not serious, but there is a worrying story here. He’s a brilliant left-hander who has proven brittle on occasion, to the point where the White Sox didn’t write him out ahead of the 2021 season. The very next season in San Francisco, he matched original predictions — he was drafted No. 3 overall in North Carolina State in the 2014 draft — as one of the best in the game. He pumped out 100 mph fastballs and biting sliders like nothing, leading to the Yankees’ signing.

Rodon joins several other employees on the injured list, and when he’s feeling less than 100 percent physically, he’s feeling even worse about the situation. He apologized to the writers, which is consistent with what we’ve heard about him (one White Sox person said he’s apologized to the league for many years), then expressed irritation when his impromptu press conference ended.

“I wish I didn’t feel like shit,” Rodon said on his way back to the clubhouse.

Tommy Kahnle is out due to biceps tendonitis.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Rodon may feel worse emotionally knowing what a big and important piece he is. His own situation really doesn’t seem to be getting any closer – at least not yet. In fact, Rodon said he threw a ball on Wednesday (despite his entire bullpen session being canceled) and could push and throw it if they were in a pennant race. Since this is March, it will be shut down for seven to 10 days and there is hope that it can be activated sometime in April.

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Cashman was characteristically quiet when speaking to the media. But this was not a happy day in Yankeeland.

“It’s clearly not a good situation when you lose a starter that you’ve been relying on,” the GM said.

The Yankees are actually in the midst of a pretty bad streak of recently acquired pitching stars feeling the pain. Montas told Beat writers just the day before that he “wasn’t 100 percent” when the Yankees took him on at trade close last summer, something that’s becoming apparent now but wasn’t clear to the Yankees at the time. Cashman said they did a “deep dive” into medicine and checked everything, including Monta’s shoulder.

The Yankees aren’t expecting to see Frankie Montas on the mound this season.
Corey Sipkin for the NY POST

“Everything was great,” Cashman recalled.

Well, at this point they’ve lost two potential aces.

The Yankees are still looking terrific at the top of the rotation, with Gerrit Cole emerging almost as sharply this spring as he did last October, followed by the 100mph-throwing Luis Severino plus Cortes, assuming he gets out there soon. But after that it’s a mess, especially among the recently acquired ones.

Kahnle, who was signed back this winter, was unable to serve and is without a schedule. It was quite a losing streak. But Cashman said he denied feeling “snakebite” from those recent pitching pickups.

“I think dealing with pitchers is part of the business,” Cashman said.

The other issue is that much of their pitching depth was sent in exchange for Montas and reliever Scott Effross, who is believed to be out for the year due to Tommy John’s surgery. Small starter JP Sears, who sent in the Montas deal, actually put together two starts better than anything Montas produced before going out last year.

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And of course teams don’t exactly offer to trade pitching. Ex-Met Chris Flexen is a rare pitcher who is rumored to be in the trade market, but there are probably 20 teams that need starters.

“There’s nothing hot and heavy that’s going to solve the problem,” Cashman said.

And of course the way their pitching fortunes are developing, who knows if they would even find the sane guy out there.

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