It’s coming later in the season than Carlos Rodon or the Yankees would have liked, but the left-hander, who signed a six-year, $162 million contract in the offseason, is finally set to make his debut with the team on Friday.
After he suffered a forearm strain during spring training before his comeback was stalled by back tightness, Rodon is now healthy and should give the Yankees’ a boost to their rotation.
“I think he’s in a good spot,” manager Aaron Boone said before the Yankees lost 14-1 to Baltimore on Thursday.
“I’ve been excited, really, by his last few [rehab games],’’ Boone said. “He looks really good to me. He looks ready to me.”
The Yankees will find out at the Stadium on Friday against the Cubs.
Gerrit Cole said he has watched Rodon “from afar” throughout his time in the majors, and because they are both represented by Scott Boras, they trained together at the agent’s facility in California one offseason earlier in their careers.
“He’s really strong,” Cole said. “Like outlier-type strength. He has a big motor. He’s a big bull, the same as he was 10 years ago. And he’s a winner, so it’s certainly something to look forward to.”
All of that is true, but Rodon has also had trouble staying healthy.
After battling injuries and ineffectiveness throughout much of the first part of his career, Rodon set career-bests last year by making 31 starts and pitching 178 innings for the Giants.
He has battled shoulder injuries, and also had to come back from Tommy John surgery, which he underwent in 2019.
Rodon returned in 2020 and pitched just 7 ²/₃ innings for the White Sox, who designated him for assignment before re-signing him a few months later.
The third-overall pick out of North Carolina State in 2014 finally blossomed with the White Sox in 2021 before he signed a two-year, $44 million deal with the Giants prior to last season.
In each of the past two seasons, Rodon — now 30 years old — struck out at least 12 batters per nine innings.
He led the majors in that category in 2022.
Rodon also cut down on his walks.
The change came when Rodon became basically a two-pitch pitcher, using a devastating four-seam fastball and a slider.
Last season, he threw the four-seamer a career-high 61.2 percent of the time and the slider 31.1 percent, according to Fangraphs.
Not surprisingly, Rodon opted out after his career-best season and was the Yankees’ top priority after they re-signed Aaron Judge.
They are anticipating a second-half comeback from Judge as he recovers from the torn ligament in his right big toe that has kept him out for a month, and they have massive expectations the rest of the way for Rodon.
“It’s gonna be good to see him on the mound,” said Kyle Higashioka, who caught Rodon during the spring before he got hurt.
Higashioka was impressed with Rodon’s mindset, as well as his stuff.
“I just like how aggressive he is out there and how much he trusts his stuff,’’ Higashioka said. “It’s something I always like to see in a pitcher.”
Rodon reminds the catcher a bit of Luis Severino.
“They have the same kind of mentality,’’ Higashioka said. “They don’t care who the hitter is, they’re gonna attack.”
Most important, according to Cole, Rodon “is a winner.”
“He has that feeling of responsibility, which I love,’’ Boone said. “More importantly, physically, he’s in a good spot to go out there and be Carlos Rodon.”
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