Carlos Rodon has allowed three or fewer earned runs in 10 of 16 starts this season. He has allowed a maximum of two earned runs nine times in 2016.
Yet as he heads into the All-Star break, the young White Sox pitcher does so with a 2-7 record and a 4.50 ERA in 92 innings. He has pitched better than his numbers would indicate and yet, as he endures the final stage of his development, Rodon hasn’t seen the results. In short, it has been a trying first half for Rodon, who was selected third overall in the 2014 amateur draft.
“It hasn’t been what I wanted, that’s for sure,” Rodon said. “Frustrating, especially when you have a good team like this. You want to be able to win for them. You want to be a part of their winning. You got guys like (Chris) Sale and (Jose) Quintana shoving it ... and pitching well. It’s tough to sit there and watch your start when you’re not doing what you’re doing.”
Pitching coach Don Cooper isn’t surprised by what he has seen from Rodon this season.
While Rodon excelled down the stretch in his rookie season, Cooper knew he wasn’t a finished product and said so in spring training.
Rodon went 5-2 with a 1.81 ERA in his final eight starts of 2015. But as Cooper saw it, Rodon needed to do much more than simply cut down on his walks, and he’d do all of it at the major league level.
While Rodon has lowered his walk rate significantly — he’s averaging 3.13 per nine innings, down from 4.59 in 2015 — many of the other areas have surfaced and caused problems this season.
When he allowed five runs in Tuesday’s loss, Rodon fell behind 15 of the 29 batters he faced, which left the Yankees in hitter's counts. That has often been an issue for Rodon this season, and opponents are hitting .291 against him, up from .246 last season.
“We want them to put the ball in play,” Cooper said. “But we want to dictate how that ball is being put in play, and we can’t quite do that too much if (the count is) 2-0, 3-1.”
As they head to the break, Cooper’s current list of items for Rodon to improve is specific:
— He wants better fastball command from the southpaw.
— He wants him to continue to develop and use the changeup more often (Rodon has thrown it 5.6 percent of the time, down from 9.3) — “We’re not using it enough,” Cooper said. “But it’s a lot easier to use, too, if you’re ahead in the count and getting strikes.”
— Rodon needs to get better at holding runners on base, too.
— And Rodon’s plan of attack would be enhanced if he could drop his slider in for called strikes early in the count.
“There’s so many things that we’re addressing here because this is where he’s learning,” Cooper said.
While Rodon has pitched well in nearly two-thirds of his starts, he has also had four in which he has yielded six runs. On Tuesday, Rodon was so frustrated that he threw his glove to a fan in the stands rather than throw it in the garbage.
“(It) was kind of one of those days where his stuff was just a little bit flat and not as explosive as it has been over these past few starts,” catcher Alex Avila said. “But there will be days where he’s going to have that, and he has to figure out how to get through the game. That’s something that he’s still learning.”
The process has been trying at times for both the pitcher and his coach.
“He’s still young and learning,” Cooper said. “I have patience, but I have the same emotions he has. Last night he was frustrated, and so was I.”
The pair has a nice span ahead to work out some of the kinks and also to rest.
Rodon has one more side session before the team breaks for four days. But the earliest Rodon could pitch again would be 10 days after his previous start, and that’s only if the White Sox gave him the first turn out of the All-Star break.
Rodon doesn’t have any big plans for the break. He just wants to recharge and prepare for a potential second-half turnaround.
“I’m just gonna relax,” Rodon said. “Take a little break and come back.
“Come back after the All-Star break and think of it as a new season.”