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Carlos Rodón not putting more pressure on himself as Yankees brace for life without Gerrit Cole

TAMPA — Already essential to the Yankees’ 2024 hopes, Carlos Rodón’s importance to the team reached new heights on Wednesday when it was reported that staff ace Gerrit Cole will miss at least one-to-two months this season.

Aaron Boone declined to confirm that timeline, calling it “speculation.” But with Cole, discomforted by his elbow, already ruled out for Opening Day and set for more testing in Los Angeles, the Yankees must brace for life without the reigning Cy Young winner, at least for a little while.

“That’s just a part of the game we play,” Rodón said of Cole, who has made at least 30 starts in seven of his 11 MLB seasons and logged 591 innings over the last three years. “Gerrit’s been the cornerstone of durability.”

Now the Yankees need Rodón to be a model of consistency more than ever, in addition to being healthy.

The southpaw was neither in his first season in the Bronx, as the two-time All-Star recorded a 6.85 ERA over 14 starts while battling forearm, back and hamstring injuries. That — and some instances of uncontrolled emotions — came after Rodón signed a six-year, $162 million contract.

Because of all that, Rodón was already under a microscope before Cole’s elbow started barking.

“I don’t think Carlos needs any more pressure than the perceived pressure that’s on him,” Boone said. “Coming in last year and going through the injury situation that he had and then having a down year and not performing up to his standard, there’s plenty of noise around that with Gerrit Cole here or Gerrit Cole out. He knows it. He wants to put last year behind him.

“So is there more pressure? I mean, everyone’s watching Carlos right now. We’re making stuff out of spring starts every time. So there’s a lot at stake for Carlos.”

Determined to prove last season was a fluke, Rodón showed up to camp early this year. He brought with him refined mechanics and a better body after an offseason of eating right.

Rodón hasn’t had the best spring, recording a 4.66 ERA over three starts. However, he’s been using those outings to work on a new cutter, among other tweaks.

“The biggest thing is I just want him to focus on the work, and the work’s been really good,” Boone said. “And that work, combined with what we believe his talent is, hopefully gets him back to being a frontline starting pitcher in the league.”

On Wednesday, that work led to Rodón’s best performance of the spring. He totaled four innings, one hit, one earned run, zero walks and three strikeouts over 68 pitches.

The one run came on a Triston Casas homer.

While Rodón faced a weak Red Sox lineup, he also showed some life on his fastball after suffering a velo dip his last time out. His fastball maxed out at 97.3 mph, and it averaged 95.3 mph against Boston.

“I thought he had another gear on it,” Boone said after praising Rodón’s command of his heater. “Especially when he needed it at times. So I thought he was, overall, pretty sharp. Good outing. On to the next one.”

Boone said that Rodón will likely pitch the Yankees’ second game of the season in Houston, so he’s not currently being viewed as Cole’s replacement on Opening Day. However, as Boone suggested, all eyes will be on the 31-year-old for the rest of the season.

The Yankees, with other questions in their rotation, need Rodón to be one of their best starters. Especially when Cole is out.

But Rodón, like Boone, isn’t trying to put any more pressure on himself than what already exists.

“It’s tough, whatever the news is,” Rodón said. “I know it’s never easy getting imaging on the arm and whatnot. But you hope for the best news, that’s for sure. As far as the pressure, it’s part of the game.

“We all care about Gerrit immensely, obviously. Not only as a pitcher, but as a friend and a brother. You never want to see anyone go through struggles or pain or injury or anything. It’s tough, but as you know, we all still have a job to do, and that’s to play baseball.”


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