Yankees need Carlos Rodón injury bug to end to approach their ceiling

New York Yankees Photo Day
New York Yankees Photo Day / Mike Ehrmann/GettyImages

Of all the dings, cuts, nicks, bruises and injuries the Yankees suffered to various appendages and core muscles this spring, Carlos Rodón's elbow issue was by far the most worrisome (and is already having the largest impact).

Initially, the problem was dismissed as minor, eliciting an exhale from the crowd. And, all things considered, it still is. However, a month missed is a month of Rodón you're not getting back, and with a pitcher who's been prone to the injury bug in the past, it's never as simple a solution as you want it to be.

On Tuesday, another seemingly minor setback arose; Rodón's back stiffened up on him during his otherwise successful rehab, which delays his arrival further by a few more days. At least.

Yes, the Yankees have weathered worse injuries than Rodón's early-season stiffness. And they'd much rather be waiting on him now than saying goodbye to him in September.

That said, the rest of the Yankees' rotation has proven to be the team's weak link (as anticipated) to begin the season, and the more games that get pinned on an also-undermanned bullpen, the further away this team gets from their considerable ceiling.

Yankees need Carlos Rodón (and Luis Severino) to have a chance in AL East

According to the Yankees, Rodón will return about one month after he throws his first live bullpen session. That was supposed to occur Monday, but that plan was scuttled by the back tightness.

Per the manager, Rodón will try again on Wednesday, an outcome that seems ideal, considering the panic incited earlier in the week.

The Yankees can, and will, continue to wait. They've made it very clear they won't rush Rodón back from an injury that he pitched through (poorly) last season. But the longer they're forced to wait, the more distance the flaming Tampa Bay Rays and their rotation packed with studs can create between the two teams.

The Yankees' offense has shown up in the vast majority of their games in 2023. They've been buoyed by unlikely heroes in Jhony Brito and Franchy Cordero. They're not drowning without Rodón and Severino.

That said, neither Clarke Schmidt nor Domingo Germán have looked the part of even reliable innings-eaters, let alone championship-caliber fill-ins. Both have left the bullpen exposed; neither has soaked up the better part of any of their four starts successfully. The Rays? You're not getting an off night, no matter who you're facing. The idea of a "punt day" in Tampa involves throwing out a guy with a 3.00 ERA instead of a walking one-hitter.

There's no need to freak out about the Yankees losing the division in April, but the longer this lingers, the clearer it becomes that the Rays have a leg up on New York that needs mending and sticks out like a sore back -- er, thumb.