WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Carlos Rodon is getting close to a return to the mound — the bullpen mound, that is.
The Yankees left-hander, who hasn’t pitched since he was diagnosed with a mild left forearm strain on March 9, is in line to throw his first bullpen session “over the next day or two,” pitching coach Matt Blake said on Wednesday.
Rodon, who will open the season on the injured list, had been shut down from throwing in the aftermath of his only Grapefruit League start on March 5.
But Wednesday marked Day 5 of his throwing program and Blake said he was making good progress.
“Overall, it feels like he’s in a strong spot now and whatever he had going in his forearm is resolving, which is good to see,” Blake said before the Yankees lost to the Nationals at Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.
Once Rodon gets on the mound, he will start another progression that is expected to include throwing two to four bullpen sessions before he faces hitters in live batting practice.
After “a couple” of live batting practice sessions, Blake said, Rodon could then be ready to start a rehab assignment if he continues to show he is healthy.
While that schedule likely means Rodon’s return to the Yankees still is at least a month away, the team is hopeful it avoided something more serious because Rodon spoke up in the days after he faced the Braves.
“Just knowing that it’s something he kind of felt at the end of [last] year, he was aware of it early,” Blake said.
“Coming out of the Atlanta game, just felt like he was probably a little bit overheated on some of the sliders. So it was, ‘OK, now let’s back up and make sure we get this knocked out so it’s not just lingering into the start of the season.’ ”
Michael King was so efficient across 2 ¹/₃ scoreless innings of relief Wednesday that he had to go back to the bullpen to throw 10 more pitches.
Building his pitch count into the 35-40 range, King continued a strong spring in which he has not allowed a run over 8 ¹/₃ innings in his comeback from a broken elbow.
“And I still think he’s got another gear to get to,” manager Aaron Boone said. “I certainly have been pleased with how he looks and how he’s thrown the ball. Stuff’s there. The scary part is I still think there’s a little room in there for him to get to. … He’s almost there. But I just always feel like when he doesn’t wipe [batters] out, ‘What happened?’ ”
Tommy Kahnle received a cortisone injection on Tuesday for his biceps tendinitis.
Following a shutdown period of 48-72 hours, the Yankees hope to then start ramping the reliever back up.
After throwing five perfect innings his last time out, Clarke Schmidt got more work out of the stretch on Wednesday as he pitched 3 ²/₃ innings while giving up six hits and three runs.
“Sometimes it’s good to have a little bit of traffic and have to work out of stuff,” he said.