NORTH PORT, Fla. — The real debut will likely come on April 1 in The Bronx against his former team, but until then, Sunday will have to suffice for Carlos Rodon’s first game as a Yankee.
It proved to be a test of his patience.
The $162 million left-hander made his spring debut against a nearly regular Braves lineup and got hit around on a day when he was tasked with trying to keep his velocity in check as he builds up for the regular season.
The result was giving up five runs on six hits, including two home runs, and a walk while striking out two across two-plus innings of work, though he came out of it feeling healthy.
“Thank God it’s spring training,” Rodon said as the Yankees came back to beat the Braves 10-6 at CoolToday Park.
The Yankees looked back at Rodon’s last normal spring training, in 2021, when his fastball velocity was still somewhere around 92 mph at this point on the calendar — below the 95.4 mph it averaged during the regular season — so they asked him to stay around that mark on Sunday.
Admittedly excited for his first start in a Yankees uniform, Rodon came out in the first inning and sat mostly around 93 mph with his fastball while touching 95 mph once, according to the stadium radar gun.
It was a 93 mph fastball that he threw to Matt Olson that landed in the right-field seats for a two-run home run.
After the first inning, manager Aaron Boone went to Rodon and told him to stop trying to reach for fastballs.
The lefty obliged in the second inning and threw a 1-2-3 frame. But after Ronald Acuña Jr. led off the third inning with a double, Rodon felt tempted.
“I wanted to reach back and throw harder,” Rodon said. “But I told myself to trust the process, I guess. But a younger me would have said, ‘Eff that, I’m going to throw one as hard as I can right here.’ I’m glad I didn’t do that.”
Instead, Rodon took his licks as the Braves jumped on him for three more runs, including a two-run homer from Austin Riley, before his day ended with a pair of runners on base and no outs in the third inning.
“The thing I don’t want him to do is start reaching because he’s supposed to throw 96, 97, 98,” Boone said, adding that the Yankees had Rodon at 91-95 mph on Sunday. “This is in line with where he is every spring. So I don’t want him to feel like he’s got to impress us on March 5 and overdo it and get in a bad spot mechanically or start to do something.
“My message to him was, ‘Stay in your mechanics and execute, and you’ll get to that spot as you can continue to work.’ Hopefully as the month unfolds, he’ll start climbing and get to that point.”
Rodon, who had a lengthy injury history before staying healthy and breaking out in 2021 and 2022, came to the Yankees known for wearing his emotions on his sleeve.
That came out as he stewed in the dugout for a bit after he exited the game.
“I sat there on the bench and I was like, ‘OK the game doesn’t count, but I don’t like losing,’ ” he said. “Then I tried to tell myself, ‘I paced myself, I made some pitches, and then I got humbled a little bit.’ So I kind of needed that.”
More important than the results was the fact that Rodon built up his workload to about 46 pitches.
He had thrown three live batting practice sessions before Sunday, but Boone wanted to get him into game action.
Now, the Yankees hope his stuff will catch up before long.
“It’s getting there,” catcher Kyle Higashioka said. “He’s not yet in midseason form, but you could see flashes of it. The important thing for him is that he doesn’t try to do too much early. Because we’re not trying to win the Grapefruit League, we’re looking to win the World Series.”