Carlos Rodon continues to look like he’ll be the one to fill the No. 2 spot in the 2016 White Sox rotation.
The rookie left-hander put together another fantastic outing on Tuesday night as he worked out of early trouble en route to seven strong innings. Rodon struck out eight and allowed one run and five hits and Rob Brantly and Jose Abreu homered as the White Sox beat the Cleveland Indians 7-4 at U.S. Cellular Field. Trayce Thompson also singled twice, walked and drove in two runs in support of Rodon’s sixth straight quality start.
“He always seems to come back and have a little more,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “And teams that have seen him for the second time, I think that's the impressive thing, he's still able to get at it.”
In his last six starts, Rodon has lowered his earned-run average from 5.00 to 3.94.
All it has taken him to accomplish the reduction is a stretch in which he has allowed 10 runs (eight earned), 27 hits with 15 walks and 41 strikeouts in 41 innings (1.76 ERA).
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Several keys to Rodon’s success are improved command and feel for his pitches, which has led to a lowered walk rate. Whereas he walked an average of 5.32 batters per nine over his first 84 2/3 innings, Rodon has lowered his average to 3.29 in the past 41 innings.
Over the first few months of his career, Rodon often walked himself into trouble. On Tuesday, he didn’t issue a walk until his sixth inning when he led 5-0.
“For him to do this as quickly as he has is the impressive part,” Ventura said. “He didn't have too many innings in the minor leagues. To be able to come up here and do this is impressive.”
Catcher Rob Brantly is impressed with the difference in Rodon’s mound presence. Brantly last caught Rodon in spring training and said the difference is remarkable.
“It’s light out,” Brantly said. “It’s a tough guy to face right there, I’m glad I’m just on the receiving end of it. But he came out with some great stuff today and really did a great job shutting them down.”
Rodon’s defense provided him with a huge lift in the second inning and then he was off to the races.
With two on base via singles, Rodon’s inning was extended on a two-out error by Mike Olt. But Rodon got Jason Kipnis to hit a grounder to second and Carlos Sanchez made a fantastic play to strand the bases loaded.
“I thought that ball was getting through there and all of I sudden I see Carlos picking up that play and making it look easy,” Rodon said. “Hats off to him.”
Rodon made it look just as simple after that as retired 16 of the last 19 batters he faced.
Cleveland didn’t score until the fifth inning and by that time Rodon already had a five-run lead.
Rodon’s development is significant for next season as the White Sox figure to have at least one opening in the rotation. Jeff Samardzija is headed for free agency, which likely leaves the White Sox with a vacancy near the front of the rotation. The team may also consider trading Jose Quintana, something that would be made easier by Rodon’s ascent.
What has to boost the team’s confidence is how Rodon has handled himself as his innings have increased. Rodon has pitched 135 2/3 innings this season between the White Sox and Charlotte. Prior to this, he threw 132 1/3 innings in his sophomore year at North Carolina State with some extra work for Team USA that summer.
Last season, Rodon finished with 123 1/3 innings between NC State and the minors.
“I feel strong for the firsttime playing 162 games and playing for this long,” Rodon said. “It’s actually real fun. I’m enjoying it. It is a grind, but I enjoy every minute of it, coming into this clubhouse and hanging out with these guys and play baseball.
“It is nice, to do that (many innings in) year and pretty soon you’ll be looking at 200 innings and I'll be able to do that for them.”
Brantly got Rodon headed in the right direction with a three-run homer in the second inning. Abreu homered off Carlos Carrasco in the second inning and added an RBI single in the fifth to make it 5-0.
Thompson, who singled and walked in his first two trips, singled in two more in the seventh inning to put the White Sox ahead by six runs.