HOUSTON -- The work Carlos Rodon put in between starts made a significant difference on Friday night.
Focused on command of his fastball and slider in two bullpen sessions with pitching coach Don Cooper, Rodon mostly worked ahead in the count during Friday’s 11-inning White Sox win over the Houston Astros. After he walked 15 batters in 16 innings the previous three starts, Rodon walked none in 6 1/3 innings as he threw strikes on 58 of 92 pitches.
“Those sides with Coop really helped,” Rodon said. “Made some adjustments and down to basics, just throw strikes. That’s all you can do and all you can control.
“Attacked the zone fine today. Lot of early swings seemed like. Just fastball command was good and got guys out, got ahead.”
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Before Friday, Rodon hadn’t pitched since May 20. Though longer layoffs normally can disrupt a pitcher’s rhythm, Cooper felt this one was necessary.
The pair used the time to do specific work. Though the White Sox eventually want Rodon to develop a feel for his changeup, his fastball and slider command first needs to improve. In the previous starts, Rodon threw 55 of 99 four-seam fastballs for strikes, 65 of 107 sinkers and 53 of 94 sliders, according to brooksbaseball.net, meaning he only got strikes with his best pitches 57.7 percent of the time.
They also focused on paying more attention to base runners.
On Friday, Rodon threw strikes on 55 of 83 (66.7 percent) of his sliders, four-seamers and sinkers. He also kept Houston’s running game in check even though the Astros -- whose 42 steals are second in the American League -- had plenty of chances.
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“Work days are real work days with him,” Cooper said. “We need to get some work in there to work on a few things. Work on all of his pitches for strikes, work on being quicker to the plate to hold the running game, to address everything we’re seeing as things that need improvement. To have the two sidelines we did, I was happy with that.”
Rodon limited Houston to three runs (one earned) and eight hits. He struck out five and looked more like the pitcher who tamed the Cincinnati Reds threw weeks ago than the one who labored against Oakland and Cleveland.
“Kid threw great,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “Carlos battled. Did everything, had some bad breaks. I thought he pitched great, throwing strikes, commanding stuff. Had to deal with the chopper over first. But with a team here that swings it like they do, he did a good job.”