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Carlos Rodón wins 6th straight start for Yankees, putting miserable first season in New York behind

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NEW YORK (AP) — Carlos Rodón has put his miserable first season with the Yankees behind, pitching like the All-Star expected by New York when it lavished a $162 million, eight-year contract on the left-hander.

Rodón retired his first 16 batters and won a career-best sixth straight start Wednesday night, helping the Yankees beat the Minnesota Twins 9-5 for their seventh straight victory.

“We want to write a script on somebody so often,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “One thing Reggie Jackson used to always say to me is he always felt like his bat — that was his pen. He could always change the narrative. He could always write the final story.”

Rodón is 8-2 with a 3.08 ERA, striking out 71 and walking 20 in 73 innings with a .217 opponents’ batting average. The 31-year-old left-hander has 39 strikeouts on sliders, 24 on fastballs, six on changeups and two on cutters.

“All his pitches were effective today, so it’s not one thing that he did. They were all working. I think they played off of each other well,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “We were swinging a little bit before we knew what he was coming with.”

Rodón struggled in his first spring training appearance last year and was diagnosed with a strained left forearm. He was slowed by back stiffness in April, had an injection on May 9 and didn’t resume throwing bullpen sessions until May 29.

After three minor league games from June 20 to July 1, Rodón made his Yankees debut on July 7 and lost his first three starts. He finished 3-8 with a 6.85 ERA in 14 starts, the lasting image his season finale at Kansas City on Sept. 29. Rodón allowed all eight batters he faced to reach base and eventually score in a 12-5 loss.

When pitching coach Matt Blake came out the dugout in an attempt to get him on track, the two exchanged a few words before Rodón turned his back on Blake and gestured for him to return to the dugout, even though the coach was still talking.

“I was obviously very frustrated with my performance and even the attitude I had leaving the season,” Rodón said. “It made me hungrier going into the offseason. All I want to do is win, and I want to perform well for for my teammates. I don’t want to let my teammates down.”

They tried to keep his spirits up.

“It’s not like one magic thing that you can say that makes it’s all better,” Yankees ace Gerrit Cole said. “I think it’s just the everyday aspect of connecting with him on a human level.”

Rodón had a normal spring training this year before his 10th big league season, making five starts and pitching 19 1/3 innings. He didn’t get a decision in his first two outings of the season, then started to find a groove.

“Everybody still knew that the guy we signed, he was still there. Just had to be a little patient,” closer Clay Holmes said. “There was still some of that confidence deep down in there.”

Since allowing seven runs in a loss at Baltimore on May 2, Rodón has a 2.48 ERA, part of a Yankees staff that leads the major leagues with a 2.79 ERA.

“You go through times in your career where you get your lunch handed to you,” Boone said, “but that doesn’t have to be the end of the story, especially when you have ability like Carlos does. And to his credit — last year did not go well by any stretch. but he got to work to make sure he put himself in a great position to give himself a chance to have success.”

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB

By RONALD BLUM
AP Baseball Writer

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