Carlos Rodón's explosive energy vs. Astros is why Yankees paid him

(And also his pinpointed fastball and nasty slider.)
May 8, 2024; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Carlos Rodon (55) follows
May 8, 2024; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Carlos Rodon (55) follows / Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Carlos Rodón might be a two-pitch pitcher on his best nights. He might age into mixing in the cutter more regularly or toying with the changeup (and he has a pretty good tutor in Andy Pettitte at his disposal, or CC Sabathia if Pettitte is indisposed). But Rodón's issue in 2023 wasn't that his devilish two pitches had suddenly, overnight, become too predictable. The issue was the back injury that hampered him in spring, robbed him of his release point, and forced every fastball to the center of the plate, as meaty as the one Kyle Tucker mashed to begin Wednesday's game (stop it, Kyle).

Much like in the series opener, though, a first-inning Astros homer was quickly rendered irrelevant (this time by Juan Soto), which allowed Rodón to get to work in an attempt to both match Luis Gil pitch-for-pitch and rebound from his first clunker of the year, when the dam broke late in Baltimore.

How would Rodón respond to the newfound life? 6 1/3 innings of brilliance, marked by dots, darts, and one familiar scream, issued when he left runners on the bags in the fifth by retiring Jose Altuve (!!!) and getting Tucker to swing over a breaker.

Yankees lefty Carlos Rodón having exactly the start to Year 2 he needed

And oh, by the way, Rodón's fastball was the ninth-most valuable pitch in baseball before he toed the rubber Wednesday. If you prefer to judge metrics over mound screaming, that should work.

It was certainly fair to fear this offseason that Rodón would never again be the fire-breathing monster in charge of his own domain who dominated in Chicago and San Francisco. After all, the back issue he suffered from was deemed "chronic" last May, and left him with no pain by the end of that month. Instead, he was left with lingering discomfort; a never-ending feeling that something was wrong. With an unceasing diagnosis of "shrug" and a fear that what once felt mechanical and repeatable might never return, it was only natural that Rodón's temper flared and he spiraled somewhat. Every symptom -- mental, physical, performance -- was related to the root cause. That didn't make the way he negatively channeled that energy acceptable (turning his back on Matt Blake, blowing kisses), but it certainly made it understandable.

How would you act if your "normal" was snatched out from under you by forces you could no longer even feel?

Doubting Rodón was common practice, even into February and March, and no one would blame you if your confidence wavered. But somehow, Rodón's never did. Now, the quotes you might've found grating while he scuffled to resdisover himself are once again endearing. Now, the fire in his belly is directed at the Yankees' enemies rather than inward.

The version of Rodón that can paint the corners with regularity, save velocity for the later innings, and get sluggers like Yordan Álvarez to chase incoherently, doesn't have to be the Yankees' ace. He just has to operate and execute every fifth day, and lurk behind Gerrit Cole in the pecking order, prepared to steal the souls of any playoff team that believes it might have a reprieve after facing off with No. 1.

Having a secondary bedrock will be massive, if the Yankees can reach a short series. Based on the early returns, Rodón is far closer to providing stability this year, even as magma flows below his surface.