Carlos Rodon’s strides in the bullpen are translating to the mound and while Don Cooper is pleased, he knows there is more to be done.
The White Sox pitching coach has seen the team’s prized rookie left-hander make tremendous strides this season, particularly in his routine between starts.
The effort has resulted in more consistency throwing strikes — “he’s getting better,” Cooper said — and he thinks it's good to see Rodon string together a run of starts like he has, especially in August and September. But Cooper believes Rodon can’t — and won’t — let up at this point.
“We’re all pleased with where he’s at and excited about where he might be going and excited about us having another guy who’s a quality starter,” Cooper said. “But the minute you think you’ve got something in baseball …
“He’s not where he needs to be. He’s still growing. He’s done well and we love him and he deserves the praise for his work because he’s battled through it.”
Rodon has a 1.76 ERA in his last six starts, a span of 41 innings. In that time, he has walked 15 (an average of 3.29 per nine innings) down from 50 (5.32) in his first 84 2/3. Rodon has struck out 41 batters.
Both he and Cooper attribute much of the success to a brand new routine that has been refined over the course of the season. When Rodon arrived in spring training, he didn’t have a routine and was “as green as I’ve seen,” Cooper said.
They’ve since developed a three-part bullpen session that includes something akin to long toss — “just trying to feel that ride to the plate,” Rodon said — to several throw-hops off the mound before he begins to work out of the stretch. The practice has solidified along the way, both said, and Rodon likes the results.
“I had to figure (the routine) out first,” Rodon said. “Finally came up with one and feel more comfortable. It’s come together good.
“I’m more consistent in the strike zone, earlier contact and pitch count is down — all these things that really help and help the team.”
[NBC SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]
Cooper believes Rodon couldn’t produce what he has on the mound without replicating it in sessions between starts. Once he routinely produces in the bullpen, Cooper can expect to see the same in games. Cooper has seen Rodon grow more comfortable and confidence and in turn he’s more consistent.
“I think things are coming together and I think we’re all getting a chance to see them during the game put that together,” Cooper said. “Everything else that goes on before, that has a big say in what’s going on.
“He’s a good kid. I like his demeanor out there and his presence and how he has a way of getting out of some things and he has another gear toward stuff and he’s fighting.”