Carlos Rodón's unbearable stubbornness could lead desperate Yankees to beg for trade

New York Yankees v Toronto Blue Jays
New York Yankees v Toronto Blue Jays / Vaughn Ridley/GettyImages

New York Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake might be the only adult in the team's clubhouse. Whether he's teaching a reliever to emphasize his forsaken best pitch, or coaxing a young starter through a difficult year with visions of a brighter horizon ahead (as long as he sticks to the plan), Blake's data-driven approach has been communicated seamlessly (it would seem) to numerous "saved" pitchers since he joined the program.

Carlos Rodón, for whatever reason, has been the only Yankee to turn his back on Blake -- both metaphorically and literally.

Nothing will ever approach the disastrous impact of 2023 (fingers crossed!), where Rodón showed up hurt, developed a different ailment while waiting out his initial injury, and returned with a lengthy collection of starts where multiple runs were on the board prior to the first batter he retired, culminating in a finale in Kansas City where nobody was retired, everyone romped, and the Yankees' pitching coach was metaphorically spat upon. 2024 has the potential to be nearly as painful, though, given Rodón's two-month bout of winning the fan base back, followed by a year's worth of regression in a blink.

His FIP and xERA sat above his surface numbers throughout April and May, but while some backslide was to be expected, this is ridiculous; it's been a complete reversion to 2023's failings, which were initially attributed to lingering back discomfort. Somehow, his fastball has the same shape and characteristics from the electric 2021-22 version, yet it's getting routinely manhandled. A Rodón start doesn't really start until he wakes up and starts varying his pitch mix with offspeed. Unfortunately, he never does that until it's too late; four runs hit the board after four batters on Tuesday, evocative of the five runs that did so before an out was recorded in Toronto two weeks ago.

Knowing what we know about Blake, and with full awareness that difficult conversations require a two-way buy-in, it's impossible to feel any differently than this: Rodón, feeling the same way about his fastball that he did three years ago, wants to fight out of this differently. It's not working.

Yankees and Carlos Rodón need to come to an agreement soon: buy in, or we'll eat the contract

Rodón is an emotional pitcher. That's part of the reason he felt like a perfect fire-breathing fit behind Gerrit Cole in New York when he inked his contract last winter. It's also, unfortunately, the reason he can't seem to recover after being dealt a midseason ego blow this year.

With Brian Cashman in the building on Tuesday night to apply a little additional pressure, Rodón wilted familiarly. Of all Cashman's pitching failings in recent years (decades?), this one is difficult to pin on his shoulders. If you foresaw a back-to-back Cy Young candidate maintaining the shape and velocity of his best pitch and somehow still losing everything that made him great overnight, you're a better soothsayer than I.

It's not the baffling hittability, though. It's the refusal to adapt, to grow, to change, even with a world-class pitching guru sitting behind him, gritting his teeth through all of it. The solution is there. It might not always be perfect, but it seems to work in innings two-through-five, after the first inning has all but erased this feckless offense's chance to compete. With Blake counseling him -- and with Andy Pettitte, the ultimate late-career adaptor always nearby -- there's no excuse for what appears to be a lack of faith in a viable process.

Perhaps there's something deeper going on here -- and there'd better be, because nothing else makes much sense. Rodón deserves comfort, but at the end of this season, the Yankees are going to have to have a long and frank talk with him about whether he can ever attain it here. Based on the results of that sure-to-be-heated conversation, Hal Steinbrenner and Cashman may have to admit defeat on this one, eating a large percentage (80? 90?) of this cumbersome deal, to both save a lost soul and give his roster a chance.