Yankees Coach Revisits On-Field Confrontation with $162 Million Star

Yankees starter Carlos Rodon (middle)

Getty Yankees starter Carlos Rodon (middle)

The incident was very public, and the reports of an apology and reconciliation came not long thereafter. Still, the incident that ended the 2023 season for Yankees pitcher Carlos Rodon last September lingers, a worrisome bit of punctuation on what was a miserable first season in New York.

The incident started with a mound visit by pitching coach Matt Blake just six batters into Rodon’s final start of the season, in Kansas City on September 29. He gave up five hits and a walk, including a home run, at that point and the Yankees were down, 4-0, without recording an out. When Blake came out to the mound and began talking, Rodon turned his back on him.

That’s a no-no in polite society, as well as in a coach-pitcher relationship. Rodon did apologize. Blake was asked about the incident last week, though, on “The Show” podcast, hosted by the New York Post’s Jon Heyman and Joel Sherman.

“Carlos and I are fine, I think. Obviously, a lot was made of that at the end of the year and rightfully so. It’s one of those moments at the end of the year you wish you could have back, he wishes he could have back,” Blake said.

Yankees Handed Out Disappointing $162 Million Deal

There were many reasons behind Rodon losing his cool at that point. He had been hoping to finish off the year strong, after struggling with injuries and a lack of rhythm throughout the season, his first in New York after the Yankees had given him a six-year, $162 million contract the previous December.

He had put together three decent starts in the two-and-a-half weeks before that, going 5-plus innings for three straight outings for the first time all year. He had gone 1-2, but with a 3.50 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 18 innings in those starts. A good finale in Kansas City would have given him some momentum heading into 2024.

Instead, he bombed. And as he was bombing, Blake walked in.

“There was a lot of things bubbling up for him as the season came to an end on a negative note,” he said. “But I think, in my role, the people and personalities you deal with, any time you walk out onto the field, it’s like walking into a lion’s den. So it’s like, these guys are full of emotion and when things are not going well, these things can happen. Now, do I wish he handled it differently? Of course, and we’ve talked about it and he knows it is not the way to approach it.”

Carlos Rodon Still Under Pressure in 2024

Rodon should have known better, of course, having been a 30-year-old veteran with nine years’ experience behind him. But his final line—3-8, 6.85 ERA—was unquestionably frustrating, especially with the massive contract he’d signed after back-to-back All-Star appearances with the White Sox and Giants.

Blake said the injuries Rodon suffered early in the year, with an elbow problem in Spring Training and a back injury that followed, put him in a hole from which he could not crawl out.

“It takes a little while to get into a rhythm and I don’t know if we every got that last year. So I think that there are a lot of things at play there—big contract, injury, trying to get going, stop/start,” Blake said.

But of a bigger concern for the Yankees is the notion that maybe the league has figured out Rodon a bit. His stuff is pretty simple, and he will need to keep evolving to stay ahead of hitters.

“I do think that there is a little bit of, you know, the league is adjusting as well, which is compounding on the problem that the fastball/slider mix has always been his bread and butter,” Blake said. “The league had adjusted for the fastball up, they know him. There’s an archetype for who Carlos Rodon is.”

He has come back with a new pitch in his arsenal—a cutter—and did have a relatively successful first outing against the Astros over the weekend, allowing one run over 4.1 innings. But he have up five hits and three walks and was forced to work his way out of several jams.

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