The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)

Yanks’ Rodon making good first impression

Cole hopes southpaw can help end Astros jinx

- By James O’Connell NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

The Yankees will likely be answering plenty of questions about the Astros over the next eight months after being eliminated by Houston in the ALCS for the third time in six seasons.

Are they finally good enough to close the gap after the fourgame sweep? It appeared to be as large a gap as at any point during the recent rivalry as the third installmen­t of the playoff matchup wasn’t particular­ly a close contest either, just ask Gerrit Cole.

“I mean, we got waxed,” Cole said Thursday at George M Steinbrenn­er Field in Tampa. “Anytime you get waxed, it doesn’t feel good, whether you’re going to the salon or you’re on the baseball field.”

The 32-year-old is entering his fourth season with the Bombers and is still in search of his first World Series title. Cole, who pitched to a 3.50 ERA in 33 starts last season, feels like the club that is reporting to Tampa this spring is good enough to be the last team standing by emphatical­ly saying he “believes in our team.”

The biggest difference between last season’s club is the man who will likely be taking the ball behind Cole in the rotation. Carlos Rodon was the prized possession — outside of retaining Aaron Judge — of the offseason. The 30-year-old inked a six-year, $162 million contract after his stellar year with the Giants — 2.88 ERA in 31 starts — in 2022.

The Bombers’ new southpaw has already made a good impression on his fellow ace.

“I first met Carlos a handful of years ago, working out,” said Cole. “I was struck by just his raw strength and intensity. And I think everyone’s kind of gotten to see that a little bit more as he continues to take the mound over and over again and prog

ress and get stronger and settle into his career.

“Just talking to him a few times since he’s been signed and since we’ve been down here (Tampa), some of those things I mentioned are still there. And I think that he’s in a position to keep getting better and hopefully for us get a lot better.

“It’s also kind of a cool time where a culminatio­n of a lot of hard work for him over the last seven to 10 years has kind of come to fruition and now he’s able to settle down and be a Yankee for the rest of his career.”

Rodon arrived at the Yankees facilities in Tampa last week in pursuit of getting another taste of pitching in the postseason. The No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 MLB draft has pitched just twice in the playoffs — his last appearance coming in 2021 — totaling 2 2⁄3 innings.

A driving factor for Rodon to sign with the Bombers was making sure that postseason inning number gets a lot bigger.

“The biggest thing for me coming over and being a New York Yankee was just the track record where there’s always a chance to be the last one standing,” Rodon said Thursday. “I’ve never really had that shot. I’ve been on a couple of winning teams but I’m excited to see what it’s like to pitch in an ALCS or eventually pitch in a World Series ...

“Every time I step on that mound, I’m going to leave it all out there. And do everything I can to win, because that’s what I’m here for.”

Cole and Rodon create arguably one of the most formidable top of rotations in baseball. Followed by Luis Severino and Nestor Cortes, pitching — assuming health does not become a concern with Frankie Montas already down due to shoulder surgery — appears to be a premium for Aaron Boone’s club this season.

With four guys having ace-like track records, that could create internal competitio­n, something Rodon is looking forward to this season with Cole.

“Yea (I’m looking forward to being on a staff with Cole), I’ve watched Gerrit for a while, a lot of us have,” Rodon said. “We know how good he is and I think it’s going to be a fun competitio­n between him and I.”

Pitching wins championsh­ips, as displayed by the Astros during their World Series run last season posting a 2.29 team ERA in the postseason. With Cole and Rodon anchoring the top of the rotation, the Bombers have their eyes on finally getting past the Astros and ending their 13-year title drought.

 ?? Adam Hunger/Associated Press ?? The New York Yankees’ Carlos Rodon speaks during his introducto­ry news conference at Yankee Stadium on Dec. 22 in New York.
Adam Hunger/Associated Press The New York Yankees’ Carlos Rodon speaks during his introducto­ry news conference at Yankee Stadium on Dec. 22 in New York.

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