Carlos Rodon worked in almost entirely unfamiliar surroundings when he made his major league debut on Tuesday night.
Not only was he in a big league park for the first time, Rodon also pitched out of the bullpen and did so without the aid of trusted slider. All those factors and a wild start in tight spot combined for a less-than-spectacular showing for the team’s top pitching prospect. Rodon allowed two earned runs and three hits with three walks in a 6-2 loss the Cleveland Indians at U.S. Cellular Field on Tuesday night.
“Just glad I got that out of the way,” Rodon said. “It’s something I have to be ready for. No excuses.”
Five days after Cubs prospect Kris Bryant struggled in his major league debut, Rodon didn’t fare much better.
With runners on the corners and two outs in the sixth inning, the hard-throwing left-hander raced in from the left-field bullpen with Muse’s ‘Uprising’ blasting on the sound system.
After mostly looking sharp throughout the spring with five walks in 17 2/3 innings, Rodon had trouble locating his fastball. Throwing a steady diet of hitters -- only two of his 15 pitches in the sixth were sliders -- Rodon walked the first man he faced, Brandon Moss, on four pitches to load the bases. After falling behind White Sox-killer Ryan Raburn 2-0 in the count, Rodon’s seventh pitch went for his first strike. His fastball sat between 95-98 as he and Raburn battled to a full count.
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Raburn fouled off three in a row before he did to Rodon what he does to all White Sox pitchers and got just enough of another 98-mph heater -- despite a broken bat -- to dump it into left field for a two-run single.
Lonnie Chisenhall, who later would become Rodon’s first strikeout victim, grounded out to third to end the sixth.
White Sox manager Robin Ventura turned to Rodon because starter Hector Noesi -- who hadn’t pitched in 11 days -- was at 99 pitches. Asked if he put Rodon in a too big of a spot, Ventura said no. Rodon pitched in the College World Series for North Carolina State and for Team USA in a win over Cuba at Wrigley Field in 2013.
“He’s pitched in some big games,” Ventura said. “He’s pitched in big spots before. So for him, I think its just being in the big leagues. He was amped up and letting it fly.
He was pretty amped up and couldn’t really get it the way he wanted to and place it. But he’s up here for that reason.”
Rodon continued to struggle with command in the seventh inning as he walked the first two batters he faced. Two batters later, Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis gave his team a 5-1 lead with a sacrifice fly and Michael Brantley’s two-out RBI single made it a five-run contest.
“He showed a lot of guts,” catcher Tyler Flowers said. “We were kind of limited on what we could throw. But he kept being aggressive. We tried to get ahead of guys and even when we didn’t, we didn’t give up any hard-hit balls. That’s a compliment to the kind of stuff he has and once he settles down, he’s going to be a good addition.”
The third inning he pitched was the smoothest for Rodon, though he nearly surrendered his first major league homer as Raburn doubled off the top of the fence in right-center field with one out. But even without the slider -- he threw it for three strikes and eight balls, according to brooksbaseball.net -- Rodon struck out Chisenhall and Roberto Perez grounded out.
“A little all over the place and then finally some command,” Rodon said. “Not where I’m usually at.
“Maybe overthrowing, but there are no excuses. Just have to be good in that situation.”