Carlos Rodon to start season on IL, latest hit to Yankees rotation

ByMarly Rivera ESPN logo
Thursday, March 9, 2023

TAMPA, Fla. -- Carlos Rodon, the Yankees' $162 million winter signing, will start the 2023 season on the injured list because of a left forearm muscle strain in what is yet another blow to New York's starting rotation.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Rodon underwent an MRI on Wednesday that revealed a mild strain of the left brachioradialis, a superficial forearm muscle -- a similar injury to one he suffered last year while with the Giants.

"The finding was something, but not significant or serious," Cashman said Thursday. "Obviously, trying to pitch through stuff is not a good thing, especially this time of year. If this was in-season -- pennant race, late in the game -- he's still probably up and running. He had this last May with the Giants, and he didn't miss any time with it."

Cashman said that Rodon will have a no-throw period of seven to 10 days that will "push him back into April, time to be determined," and that all imaging showed the left-hander's ulnar collateral ligament was intact. Rodon underwent Tommy John surgery in 2019.

"You just have to prevent looking at the calendar and force-feeding it and speeding the process up because you feel the outside pressure of it's a new organization, fan base, stuff like that," Cashman said. "[Rodon] understands that. He's a pro. But like anything else, it's the human nature of, 'I want to get out there and pitch.'

"When I was dealing with him, he's like, 'I dealt with this in May, and it didn't stop me.' But it's not May, it's March, and we don't want to play this into something different."

Rodon said he felt optimistic about the injury, particularly because of it cropping up during the spring, specifying that he would pitch through it had it happened at a crucial point in season.

"[Last year] it popped up early in May, the first time I ever felt it in my forearm, the top of my forearm," Rodon said. "Worked with some people, did some treatments, luckily. I woke up, it was my fifth day getting ready to pitch ... and I felt nothing.

"Arms can be so finicky, so you never know what route it's going to take. In May I felt fine. I didn't miss a start. It's just kind of early to throw through things right now. ... Like, if it's Oct. 5 or it's the ALDS, I'm taking the ball and going to pitch."

In terms of a possible timeline for return, Rodon said he "hoped it would go fairly quickly."

"But as you know, some of these things take time," he added. "I'm hoping it goes by quick, but you know how injuries go -- you never know what happens down the road."

Rodon struggled with his velocity Sunday during his spring debut against the Atlanta Braves, allowing five runs on six hits -- two of them home runs. Cashman said that being around "91-94 mph" was not something unusual for Rodon in his first outing, but that the Yankees did not see any red flags then.

"But now when you package it all together and the recovery wasn't there and now the image shows a mild strain, it all adds up to maybe that's why that day didn't go as well," Cashman said.

It had been an uneventful spring for the Yankees until Thursday afternoon, when Cashman not only announced that his prized left-hander would start the season on the IL, but also revealed that relievers Lou Trivino and Tommy Kahnle would join Rodon on the injured list.

Kahnle's announcement was not unexpected, given that he had been dealing with biceps tendinitis. The right-hander is currently scheduled to resume his throwing program sometime next week and be back at some point in April.

The news was more concerning on Trivino, who was diagnosed with "a mild elbow ligament sprain," an injury that Cashman said will keep the right-hander out until at least May.

The Yankees' short-handed rotation was already missing last year's trade deadline acquisition,Frankie Montas.

Montas joined the Yankees while dealing with a shoulder issue that never resolved itself, eventually leading to surgery Feb. 21. Montas will likely miss most of the 2023 season.

Domingo German and Clarke Schmidt had already been vying for a fifth spot in a rotation rounded out by Gerrit Cole, Luis Severino and Nestor Cortes, and are the front-runners to slot in for Rodon. Cashman also mentioned one-time prized prospect Deivi Garcia as one of those pitchers who could make a name for himself this spring and fight for a spot.

"We're going to find out," Cashman said of the Yankees' rotation depth. "I feel good about what we're seeing from the guys down here so far, and especially the pitchers trying to vie for the back end.

"Ultimately, outside of Montas, we haven't lost anybody for significant time yet. But clearly it's not a good situation when you're down a starter that you were counting on. But at the same time, it's March and it gives us time to allow it to heal and recover."

In other injury news, Harrison Bader, who was supposed to be the starting center fielder in Thursday afternoon's game against the Red Sox, an eventual 11-7 win for Boston, went for testing because of discomfort in his left oblique.

Manager Aaron Boone said that Bader "kind of swung and felt something in there," in reference to the center fielder's fifth-inning strikeout against his former team, the St. Louis Cardinals, on Wednesday.

The Yankees are waiting on Bader's imaging results before determining next steps. Boone said that reigning AL MVP Aaron Judge would be an option in centerfield for the Yankees should Bader miss time, as well as embattled outfielder Aaron Hicks, former prospect Estevan Florial and spring invitee Rafael Ortega.