MINNEAPOLIS — Carlos Rodon has never pitched more innings in a season, yet he shows no signs of slowing down.
Though he was tagged with the loss on Wednesday night, the White Sox rookie continued an outstanding stretch with six more sharp innings in a 3-0 loss to the Minnesota Twins. Rodon, who eclipsed his personal mark for innings in a season with a scoreless first inning, allowed two earned runs and five hits as he pitched five more frames.
“He’s been great,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “Mentally, tough competitive kid. When he know he has the right stuff to go out there and give you a chance to win. His progression of maturity and getting through with experience, this is good stuff for him.”
When they promoted him in April, the White Sox believed that Rodon’s final step in his development would be pitching at the big league level. His stuff was too good for the minors, and they knew it would benefit him most to face big league hitters.
Not only did Rodon need to see how much the addition of a solid changeup would help, he also needed to know how important it is to get ahead of hitters.
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He struggled early on, walking 37 batters in 60 innings over his first 11 starts. Rodon has since grasped both concepts, and it has made him a much more effective pitcher at a time when he should be showing the signs of a long rookie season.
Over his last five starts, Rodon — who has thrown a combined 128 2/3 innings — has a 1.85 ERA.
“Now he’s actually pitching,” catcher Tyler Flowers said. “There’s a game plan we’re able to execute now. There are situations where we can throw secondary pitches in there for strikes. It’s even turned into where we’re getting guys to strike out on changeups, which is a pitch we couldn’t even throw in the vicinity in spring. So I think it started there and it’s been an impressive job just the growth he’s shown since his time up here, and the sky’s the limit for him. He’s got a great arsenal. If he can just continue to improve the command, he’s going to be pretty good for us.”
Rodon threw 14 changeups on Wednesday night. He didn’t rate the pitch as being good on Wednesday and only six went for strikes. But the fact he has enough confidence to throw gives him an extra element as he can change speeds and not allow hitters to sit on his fastball or his slider.
In his previous start, Rodon threw strikes on seven of eight changeups.
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How far has it come along?
“A lot,” Rodon said. “Last start, it was real good. I tried to use it this start, and it wasn’t as good as it could have been. Just wish it was better. It would have helped a lot.”
Rodon would like to be discussing wins right now and not development.
He would prefer to be helping the White Sox to their first postseason appearance since 2008. But he also realizes that keeping the club within striking distance is his real job, and he’s done that over the last month.
As for the rest of the way, Rodon wants to keep his goals simple: “Just get better, more consistent and just enjoy it. Just have fun.”