Carlos Rodón finally ‘at home’ in Yankee Stadium: ‘This doesn’t feel overwhelming anymore’

After picking up a win against the White Sox on Sunday, Carlos Rodón admitted that it felt good to defeat the team that drafted him third overall in 2014.

“Going up against your former club is a big deal,” the lefty said following a six-inning performance that saw him total four hits, two earned runs, two walks and six strikeouts in a 7-2 victory at Yankee Stadium. “I definitely wanted to beat them. I’m sure they wanted to beat me as well. I know a lot of guys over there. There’s some good players over there, so it was a treat to play against them.”

Chicago has only won 14 games this season, so the outing didn’t provide some sort of litmus test.

However, Rodón, who fought a cold earlier this week, spent the first seven years of his career with the White Sox. The Windy City served as his first major league home while he went through numerous highs and lows, including a no-hitter, multiple injuries, getting non-tendered and becoming a father.

Rodón’s time in Chicago ended in March 2022 when he signed with the Giants following the first All-Star campaign of his career. The pact he signed with San Francisco – a two-year, $44 million deal with an opt-out – made it likely he would be on the move again with another strong season.

Rodón achieved that, putting together another All-Star campaign in 2022 before signing a six-year, $162 million deal with the Yankees two offseasons ago. The tri-state area, he figured, would be his in-season home for the foreseeable future.

Except it didn’t feel that way.

It didn’t help that Rodón didn’t spend much time pitching, as forearm, back and hamstring injuries limited him to just 14 starts. They weren’t particularly good ones, either, as the projected Robin to Gerrit Cole’s Cy Young-winning Batman finished 2023 with a 6.85 ERA.

“You’re playing catch-up and you’re the guy we brought in to help anchor the rotation,” manager Aaron Boone said, referring to the injuries. “So it was just one of those seasons that snowballed.”

Even Rodón’s emotions left a stain on his first season in pinstripes.

In Anaheim, he blew a kiss to heckling fans. That didn’t go over well.

Neither did Rodón’s decision to turn his back on pitching coach Matt Blake in his final start of the season. That incident, in Kansas City, required a mea culpa and ensured that concerns over the 31-year-old’s ability to handle New York would remain an offseason talking point.

However, Rodón has better resembled the pitcher the Yankees meant to sign in Year 2.

Following Sunday’s performance, he owns a 3.27 ERA and a 5-2 record. Rodón is regularly throwing at least six innings, stepping up – just as the rest of the rotation has– with Cole recovering from elbow inflammation.

“I feel pretty good,” Rodón said when asked how close he is to his previous All-Star form. “I think there’s room to improve. I’m obviously always looking to get better.

“The goal is to start with 18 outs and we’ll go from there. I just want to give my team a chance to win. That’s it. If I can go out there and our team wins on the day I pitch, that’s all I can do. I don’t necessarily need to get the win. I just want the team to win. That’s it.”

The Yankees, 7-3 when Rodón pitches this season, have benefited from the hurler’s offseason work. Rodón spent a lot of time working on his strength and conditioning, in addition to healthier eating.

Rodón also made it a point to communicate closely with the Yankees’ pitching department, something he didn’t have as much time to do two offseasons ago after signing in mid-December. Focused on his movements on the mound – and his mindset off of it – Rodón reported to camp early in noticeably trimmer shape and with a live arm.

He’s also expanded his arsenal since the spring began.

“I always reference going back to the winter with him, because that’s where it all started with just an excellent foundation [that he] carried right into spring training,” Boone said. “He’s continued to just kind of build the house brick by brick. The work’s been good every day. The focus has been good every day. The adjustments have been good every day. And it’s given him the opportunity to go out and let his talent shine.”

Added Jose Trevino, who caught Rodón on Sunday: “He looks great. I think all that starts in the offseason, though. I talked to him every now and then, but I know that he got after it and he wanted to prove something, and he’s doing that right now. For someone to come out like that in this kind of stadium, the fans expect a lot. He’s living up to that right now.”

After fielding several questions about Rodón over the offseason, Boone knew that there would be a lot of noise around the southpaw this season. So did Rodón.

His first spring training start was scrutinized. So was his first regular-season start in Houston and his first start at Yankee Stadium.

Aware that Rodón would be under a microscope, Boone reminded the pitcher of his ability and the work he had already put in.

“‘Keep checking those boxes. Keep chopping wood every day,’ if you will,” Boone said of his message. “He’s done that, and the result has been a nice consistent body of work here to start the season because he’s just been in a good place from a frame of mind and work ethic. It’s been exciting to see him respond to an adverse season.

“Some guys don’t respond well. He has. Credit to him for saying, ‘That’s not me or my expectation.'”

After such a disastrous debut in the Bronx, Rodón’s sequel is off to a far better start.

He’s healthy. Results have been desirable. Boos and concerns have fallen silent.

There’s still a lot of season left to be played, but Rodón finally feels like he belongs.

“I sit down in the dugout now and I look around. I feel pretty comfortable sitting in this stadium,” he said. “I’m like, ‘This doesn’t feel overwhelming anymore.’ This feels like home, which is nice.

“That makes a huge difference.”