The New York Yankees set foot into the season with World Series aspirations.

However, being shaken by a wave of injuries, including Gerrit Cole’s sidelining 60-day IL stint, has cast a dark shadow on those aspirations. In the wake of a shaky start by Nestor Cortes Jr., all eyes turn to another pitcher. Who, you ask? It’s Carlos Rodon.

After all, the 31-year-old lefty is all set to make his season debut tonight (March 29, 2024) against the hitter-friendly Houston Astros. Considering a somewhat underwhelming performance by Nasty Nestor’, one question arises. Can Rodon be better than Nestor in delivering a strong outing to keep the Yankees afloat?

Nestor Cortes Jr.’s Struggles Add Pressure to Carlos Rodon

Before we start predicting Rodon’s performance, let’s glance at Cortes Jr.’s. Typically, he is a reliable arm, with a recorded 2.9 ERA and 166 strikeouts across 178.1 innings last year. But he struggled early in his first start.

He gave up four earned runs in 4.1 innings against the Astros, raising concerns about his ability to handle the pressure of replacing Cole. According to Bryan Hoch, Cortes Jr. “retired 12 of the last 13 he faced after a shaky start.” These early struggles highlight a potential lack of consistency that might, in the future, plague the Yankees’ rotation.

Moving to the next chapter of this discussion, Carlos Rodon, who was acquired in the offseason to bolster the rotation, comes with his own set of uncertainties. On one hand, Rodon consists of a powerful fastball and an impeccable strikeout potential of 33.4% strikeout percentage for 178 innings pitched in 2022 with the San Francisco Giants, as per Baseball Reference.

His spring training, however, was a mixed bag. According to a report by Sports Illustrated, Rodon’s fastball velocity slumped to 93.2 mph at times. This raised concerns about his health and effectiveness

Keeping aside these negatives, one can look at the positives now. Rodon worked on curating a new cutter this pre-season, displaying his willingness to adapt. A solid debut outing tonight could go a long way. He would be able to silence doubts and establish himself as a dependable arm in the Yankees’ rotation.

A Season of Resilience Awaits For the Yankees Albeit Injuries 

The Yankees are no strangers to the adversity they have been feeling of late. Injuries to key players like DJ LeMahieu and the absence of relievers like Tommy Kahnle have posed a huge challenge in the player environment.

But of course, the team has a history of overcoming obstacles effectively. This can be evidenced by their late-season rise in 2023, which catapulted them to a Wild Card berth.

Looking at all these circumstances through a microscopic lens, one can arrive at this question. Can their pitching rise to the occasion as expected? Particularly with Rodon at the forefront?

Well, the upcoming game is going to be more than just a matchup against a division rival. Rather, it’s a chance for Rodon to quieten his naysayers and establish himself as a reliable arm.