Yankees' Carlos Rodón takes small step forward, vents some frustration: 'No way'

NEW YORK — New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone stood at the top of the dugout steps. Carlos Rodón was in disbelief. If the starting pitcher’s frustration wasn’t clear from his furrowed brows and intense glare, what he uttered over and over left no doubt:

“No way. No way. No way. No way.”

This time, Rodón couldn’t talk Boone out of pulling him from the middle of an inning, and as he walked back to the dugout, he put his glove over his face. He appeared to yell into it.

The dramatic scene capped off an otherwise shrug-worthy night for Rodón, who wasn’t terrible, giving up three earned runs in 5 1/3 innings in a 3-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday.

“I definitely wanted to stay in the game,” he said.

But he wasn’t great, either, coughing up a pair of home runs to give him 18 on the season — tied for the third most in the majors. He fell to 9-6, and his ERA inched up to 4.45 — not exactly the return on investment the Yankees hoped for in Year 2 of his $162 million pact, especially after his disastrous 2023.

With 47,646 fans selling out Yankee Stadium — it was fireworks night, after all — Rodón wasn’t a dud. He was much better than he had been in his previous three starts, in which he had a combined 13.17 ERA, allowing at least five runs in each of them. The lefty struck out eight batters. He walked two. Yet he was out-pitched by second-year righty Andrew Abbott, who gave up just one earned run in 6 1/3 innings against a lineup that has struggled mightily lately.

And yet it was a rebound of sorts for Rodón, who worked his first scoreless first inning since June 10 in Kansas City and who leaned on his secondary offerings in ways different from how he has for most of his career. Of his eight whiffs, only one came on a fastball. The rest came on sliders (three), curveballs (two) and changeups (two).

“I thought he threw well tonight,” Boone said. “Had the strikeout ball going. Obviously, hurt him with the slug again with the two homers, but he gave us a chance to win a ballgame tonight.”

Rodón was still clearly working to regain the form that put him at least on the outside of the All-Star conversation for much of the first half as he went 9-2 with a 2.93 ERA over his first 14 starts. He’s working to erase memories when he went just 3-8 with a 6.85 ERA in 14 starts in his injury-plagued and inconsistent Yankees debut.

Rodon worked a 1-2-3 first inning before he gave up a one-out single to Tyler Stephenson in the second inning. Immediately, Noelvi Marte made him pay when he didn’t get a fastball inside enough, and Marte crushed it deep into the left-field seats.

Then after retiring eight of the next nine hitters he faced, Rodón was burned again when Stuart Fairchild launched a fifth-inning leadoff homer to left field on a slider that hung over the plate in a full count.

In the sixth, Rodón walked Jeimer Candelario with one out, ending his night at 95 pitches with the Yankees down 3-0. But Rodón wanted to stay in. Against the Toronto Blue Jays on June 27 — his most recent start — Rodón convinced Boone to let him continue pitching though Boone appeared to come out of the dugout ready to remove him from the game. He had no such luck this time around.

Rodón said his reaction to Boone’s walking out to remove him Wednesday was just how he felt in the moment, but that he understood why Boone did it.

“I probably should have put the glove over my face on that one, but just a reaction to coming out,” Rodón said. “I wanted to stay in and get those last two outs.”

Boone said he was “pretty convicted” he was going to end Rodón’s night.

“Especially after he pitched well again,” Boone said. “I didn’t want to get him into a bad spot where a mistake could hurt him there.”

The move worked as reliever Michael Tonkin got the Yankees out of the inning.

Rodón was thankful he at least pitched better than he had in his three prior starts.

“Some pitches I’d like to have back,” he said. “Thought (catcher Jose Trevino) and I worked well together. Wish I would have kept some runs off the board and given the boys a better chance. But on to the next one now.”

(Photo: Wendell Cruz / USA Today)

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