Carlos Rodon on Tommy John, durability, Yankees expectations

The Yankees signed Carlos Rodon this offseason to a $162 million contract that will keep him in The Bronx for the next six years. With the season fast approaching, Rodon takes a swing at some Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby:

Q: Describe your mound mentality.
A: Intense … just a huge competitor … Refuse-to-lose attitude.

Q: Aaron Judge has referred to you as a bulldog.
A: That’s a good way to put it.

Q: How does that manifest itself?
A: It kinda changes, right? Like, as soon as I step inside the lines to compete it’s one of those things where I’m just gonna lay it all out there. Sometimes you get a little emotional, but I’ve been better about that as of late. Everything I do is just to win a baseball game, right? Be the winner at the end. Last man standing, kinda the idea of it.

Q: What drives you?
A: Baseball’s a game of failure, right? I don’t like failing, so every time I fail seems like I always want to get punched in the face again, so I always come back for more. I always just try to beat the game even though this game will never be beaten, it’ll beat you. You win sometimes, a lot of times you take a lot of punches, I guess … It’s never-ending, it’s always evolving. I can always be better at something else. I can always get better at something in my game. What will make me better? What will make me better than the next guy?

Q: Do you pride yourself on throwing harder as the game goes on?
A: Yeah. Seems like I just warm up and I get a little more, the juices flowing a little more, get a little lather, and I kinda let it all out at the end.

Carlos Rodon smiles at his introductory press conference.
Carlos Rodon smiles at his introductory press conference.
Corey Sipkin for the NY POST

Q: In 2021, you had 10 double-digit strikeout games. What is that feeling of dominance like?
A: I think I had more last year (laugh). It’s fun, it’s fun. ’Cause this game’s not easy, and sometimes there’s days you go out there — “Man, that was fun, I want to do that every time,” and it’s not always gonna be like that. There’s days that you get hit around. You face the Cardinals on ‘Sunday Night Baseball’ and you give up seven runs and it’s kind of a slap in the face and hey, “I’m not that good.” There’s humility, You get humbled fast. Which … you need it.

Q: Do you feel like the best is yet to come for you?
A: I think there’s more. I hope so. As a competitor, I hope any athlete would say that to you. You ask me that question, I’m gonna say yes. I want there to be more. I think there’s more.

Q: Pitching in Yankee Stadium.
A: I’ve always liked pitching in Yankee Stadium, I seem like I throw well there. Obviously putting on the pinstripes it’ll be a lot more special wearing the pinstripes in the Stadium than being on the opposing team.

Q: Pitching on the big New York stage.
A: I think it’s gonna be a lot of fun. I think this team is very special. We have a chance to do a lot of good things and I’m excited to be a part of the ride.

Q: I’m guessing you’re embracing the World Series expectations.
A: I wouldn’t have it any other way, let’s put it that way.

Q: What’s it like facing Judge?
A: I haven’t faced Aaron in a while. He’s big in the box, that’s for sure. He’s a big boy when he steps up there. You can’t really miss much ’cause he’s gonna punish you. The margin for error’s small.

Q: Thoughts on Gerrit Cole?
A: I think he’s an unbelievable pitcher. A lot of us have watched Gerrit throughout his success. He’s the leader of our pitching staff, and he’s very very good at it.

Q: Biggest obstacle you had to overcome?
A: I think for me, the biggest thing was durability. Staying on the field was one of the hardest things for me when I was with the Chicago White Sox, and kinda figuring out what worked for me to keep me on the field and keep me healthy. That takes a mental toll on you, I would say. But it’s good, it was all for the better. I wouldn’t be where I’m at right now without all the experiences I’ve had before. I’m grateful for it, honestly.

Yankees pitcher Rodon's parents Carlos Sr. (l. to r.) and Julie, son Bo, Carlos, wife Ashley, daughter Willow and Carlos' in-laws Lori and Chuck Paddock
Yankees pitcher Rodon’s parents Carlos Sr. (l. to r.) and Julie, son Bo, Carlos, wife Ashley, daughter Willow and Carlos’ in-laws Lori and Chuck Paddock
Corey Sipkin for the NY POST

Q: Your 2019 Tommy John surgery.
A: I threw with it for a little while ’cause I think in spring I was feeling it. I was just trying to throw through it ’cause I’d just come off a shoulder cleanup, and I was feeling good at the end of that year, in 2018 I felt good. I don’t think it stalled my career, I think it helped my career ’cause I got to work on some things, like mechanically on things throughout my delivery that got me to where I am now. It was kinda where you start from scratch and try to find why I was so good at a younger age. I kinda lost the way I moved. … in Major League Baseball you look for results — it doesn’t matter how you get there, right? And if you’re producing some results you stick to what you’re doing, and then sometimes you lose the path of proper mechanics, proper delivery. All these things, they go to the side if you’re getting results. With the Tommy John, I just started from square one and built myself up to where I am now.

Q: What was it like coming so close (one out in the ninth inning) to a perfect game two Aprils ago against the Guardians?

A: (Laugh) Was ahead in the count, and [Roberto Perez] had laced the ball the batter before on a heater I threw up in the zone — he hit it like right at someone. And that kinda stuck within the back of my head, I said, “You know what? I know Perez struggles with fastballs up in the zone still, but today it seemed like he had a good idea of what he wanted to do with it, so I broke off the slider — you could say the perfect slider ’cause we call it back-foot sliders, and of course it hit him right where I threw it just a little too far in. And then kinda after that happened when I lost the perfect game I was like, “You know what? It’s one of those things that if this happens, it’s gonna happen, it’s kinda not up to me at this point. I’m just gonna go up there and throw whatever pitches I have left and if I throw a no-hitter I throw a no-hitter.

Q: Well what was it like when you did have the no-hitter?
A: (Laugh) I guess a relief. It’s just like the weight just like fell off and I was like, “It’s over.” I don’t have to think about (laugh) keeping it together any more, it’s done. It was obviously an amazing moment. I’ll never forget it as you know.

Q: Did you have a chip on your shoulder after your White Sox days?
A: Yeah, I would say I did. I think the whole thing of you being the third-overall pick and all these expectations … the Chicago White Sox fans aren’t quite like Yankees fans but they set high expectations as well, and when I wasn’t meeting those, it definitely put a chip on my shoulder, especially my last year there, having some success and then carrying it on from there.

Carlos Rodon pitching for the Giants
Carlos Rodon pitching for the Giants

Q: The criticism you felt was most unfair or bothered you most?
A: Criticism’s part of the game, right? Criticism is a part of sports. There’s always gonna be a critic. (Laugh) There’s a critic for everybody. You could hit 63 home runs and you’ll still have a critic, right? Even LeBron James, there’s gonna be a critique. The durability issues I had early on in my career, I never really had a fair bout of showing what I could really do throughout a full year. I don’t like when guys get critiqued for being not durable. It’s something that’s out of their control, you know? I don’t ever wish that upon anybody. Not even my worst enemy. I want everybody to have a fair shake and show what they can do on the field, on the court, wherever it is, on the ice, whatever sport they’re playing. As you know there’s been plenty of athletes in this world that we all thought we’re gonna be amazing and something happens to ’em, they never got the chance to do it. Unfortunately it was out of their control. Could be a freak injury, could be a length of injuries. … Sometimes you don’t get a fair shake at it.

Q: You can pick the brains of any pitchers in MLB history …
A: That would be between a Bob Gibson and obviously Nolan Ryan. I think I pitch pretty similar to them even though they’re both right-handed. So kinda that same mentality, that bulldog mentality.

Q: You could face any batter in MLB history to test your bulldog mentality?
A: Mickey [Mantle] would be one of the top ones. There’s a lot of Yankees on that list, I feel like, there’ve been so many great ones (laugh) … Tony Gwynn. Man, if you get Tony Gwynn out.

Q: You were the third-overall pick of the 2014 draft. Did that put pressure on you at the time?
A: To be 21 years old and there were a lot of expectations there. But I learned a lot from going through the experience of having all those expectations set over my head … and failing. I failed a lot early on in my career. And I learned a lot through the whole process, of what it takes to carry that kind of weight. The biggest thing I learned was the only expectations that really matter are the ones I set for myself. I always say this: I say the expectations I set for myself are far, far higher than any of the ones you guys set for me.

Q: North Carolina State advancing to the College World Series in 2013 for the first time since 1968 …
A: That was a big deal for our club. We had quite a few good players on that team, Trea Turner being one of ’em. They remember every time you used to have to punch a code to get into the locker room, it was 1968, and that always stuck with me whenever we’d have to punch the code in. When we did that in ’13, we got to change the code. That was like one of the things I really wanted to do (chuckle).

Q: Boyhood idols.
A: Big home run race, I always enjoyed watching Sammy Sosa … Albert Pujols.

Q: What’s fatherhood like?
A: It’s great! It puts a lot of things in perspective. Someone told me this a long time ago — baseball’s what we do, it’s not who we are. I’m a father. I’m a father first. I love baseball, I really do, and I put my heart and soul in it. But my kids are the most important thing to me.

Q: Willow is 3, Bo is 2. Tell me about your wife Ashley.
A: Let me tell you — the mothers of baseball … us players, we would not be able to do what we do, especially ones with kids, without our wives, our moms, and the women in this game, because my wife takes care of everything off the field. She schedules a lot of things for me, she feeds me right, whether it’s a chef, whether she’s ordering something, whether she’s cooking something. My wife has a lot to do with what comes to the table, and what shows up to the field every day. A lot of my teammates would say the same thing. Without my wife, I would not be where I’m at right now. I would not be a New York Yankee and I would not be talking to you, and that’s the truth.

Q: Favorite New York City things?
A: Pizza. Before we came here probably the middle of January we stopped in Queens to have a slice at like a random place, it was great. My wife’s like, “This crust is so crispy, it’s so good.”

Q: Your dad.
A: My dad never played baseball. My dad loves the game of baseball, loved the Marlins and he loved the Orioles. He’s probably the biggest Yankees fan in the world now. My dad came over to Miami from Cuba. He has two older brothers, they came over in a freedom flight. My dad’s the one that taught me the game of baseball at a young age. We were in the yard in Miami, then I would hit balls off the tee into the canal. Three years old, I’d be swinging the bat, hit balls, hit balls, hit balls, hit balls, hit balls … I wished I was gonna be a hitter (laugh). But I wasn’t good enough at that. I guess I wouldn’t be here without him. He’s the one that taught me how to love this game and play it. The work ethic too. My dad’s always been a hard worker.

Carlos Rodon gets help with his hat from his son Bo.
Carlos Rodon gets help with his hat from his son Bo.
Corey Sipkin for the NY POST

Q: Two dinner guests.
A: Frank Sinatra. Roberto Clemente.

Q: Favorite movie.
A: The Dark Knight.

Q: Favorite actor.
A: Tom Hardy.

Q: Favorite meal.
A: Chicken parm.

Q: Goals?
A: Yeah, just show up and pitch every five days.

Q: You’ve been close to winning a Cy Young award …
A: I show up every time, every year to be the best pitcher in the league, and at the end I’ll let the rest of you guys decide who is. Sometimes they’re right, sometimes they’re wrong. If I can just go out there and give my ability to win, give ’em a chance to win every time, whenever I come out of the game, whether it’s the ninth inning, whether it’s the sixth, seventh or eighth, whatever it is. If I put them and I’m out and we’re winning or we have a chance to win, then I think I’ve done my job. I don’t vote on Cy Young. I just go out there and pitch. The rest will take care of itself.

Q: Your message to Yankees fans.
A: Just know that whenever I step on the mound, and I walk out to the field, you know I’m gonna lay it all out there, I’m gonna give you all I got.

Q: Yankees fans.
A: I think they’re great. They set high expectations, they care. I signed here for a reason. I’m here to take it head-on, whatever they throw my way. They care — what’s so wrong about that, you know (chuckle)? There’s nothing wrong about caring so much. I want to win as much as they do.

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