CLEVELAND — He probably won’t win the American League rookie of the year but Carlos Rodon’s future is as bright as any of the frontrunners.
The White Sox pitcher continues to excel late in his rookie campaign as he posted 7 2/3 more dominant innings on Saturday night. Rodon paced his team to its best game of the week as the White Sox survived another ninth-inning scare and topped the Cleveland Indians 4-3 at Progressive Field. David Robertson earned his 30th save but not until after he yielded a two-run homer in the ninth.
Rodon won consecutive starts for the first time in his career and posted his fourth win in his last six decisions to improve to 8-6 overall. While his 2015 resume isn’t as impressive as those of Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor, Minnesota’s Miguel Sano or Houston’s Carlos Correa, what he’s done recently is just as remarkable.
“Those guys have some impressive numbers going with them, but there’s a longevity that comes with the kind of stuff Carlos has,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “That’s what he really has to hang his hat on, being able to go through a lineup, facing teams back to back. What he has and what he’s capable of in the future, if he does or doesn’t win rookie of the year, doesn’t mean anything about what’s going to happen next year.”
When he arrived in Cleveland on Thursday, Rodon was dressed as a naughty nurse as part of the team’s rookie costume tradition.
On Saturday, he was just nasty.
Twice in the game’s first four innings, Rodon found himself with a runner on third base. The scenario in the fourth also included a runner on second and no outs.
Only one of those three scored.
Working efficiently, Rodon got out of each jam with limited damage.
With a man on third and one out in the opening frame, Rodon got Michael Brantley to hit a grounder right at Alexei Ramirez, who was playing in, to prevent a run from scoring. He ended the first with a strikeout of Carlos Santana to strand runners on the corners.
Ryan Raburn opened the fourth with a single and advanced to third on Santana’s double. But Rodon only allowed a run and kept the game tied at 1 as he recorded three straight outs, including a weak grounder to first and an infield pop out.
“Just bear down,” Rodon said. “I just have to be aggressive when I go at them. They’re going to be aggressive. I just try to make them swing, make poor contact or strike the guy out.”
From there, Rodon kicked into a higher gear, retiring 14 of 15 batters before allowing a two-out single in the eighth inning. He needed only 102 pitches (64 strikes) as he allowed six hits, walked one and struck out four.
“The whole time he was in control, command-wise he was locating great,” Ventura said. “It’s impressive what he’s done.”
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Even more so when you consider Rodon hadn’t pitched since Sept. 8 aside from a bullpen session earlier this week. Since Aug. 11, Rodon has a 1.66 ERA in 48 2/3 innings with 16 walks and 45 strikeouts and the White Sox have won 14 of his 22 starts this season.
Both Rodon and pitching coach Don Cooper attribute much of the rookie’s success to his work in the bullpen, where the left-hander has identified and perfected a routine in between starts. Ventura also believes part of the development has come from Rodon’s metamorphosis from the much-ballyhooed rookie to just another one of the guys. Rodon entered the season as the No. 14-rated prospect in baseball, according to MLB.com.
With what he has done in a short amount of time, White Sox catcher Rob Brantly thinks Rodon should garner consideration for rookie of the year no matter how good the other candidates have been.
“There’s no question, especially for his first year and the amount of time he’s had in professional baseball, he should get some consideration for the job he’s done,” Brantly said. “He was drafted not too long ago and he’s here holding his own with some of the best names in baseball.”