Carlos Rodon struck out nine over five innings in his first Triple-A start of 2015, a game that featured the left-hander throwing his “equalizer pitch” quite a bit.
That’s how Charlotte catcher Kevan Smith refers to Rodon’s changeup — it’s the pitch that keeps hitters off his outstanding fastball/slider combination and could ultimately be the key to his big league success. Smith caught Rodon’s first minor league start April 11 and came away impressed with the 2014 first-round pick’s ability to throw that changeup.
“I said, any chance that I can squeeze some changeups in there we’re going to do it just to get to work on it no matter if it’s a good or bad one,” Smith said in a phone interview. “And a lot of times with him, maybe if he didn’t throw one he liked I would just double up on it. It was a great pitch that night for him.
“… When he really focuses on it and throws it the right way, it’s a great pitch compared to his slider.”
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The unofficial count was 14 changeups — about 16 percent of his 87 pitches — against 17 sliders. But even though he’s out of a starting rotation and into a major league bullpen, where power fastballs and sliders are the norm, Rodon said Monday he still expects to use his changeup and continue to work on it over the coming months.
The 22-year-old Rodon still isn’t able to throw it with the kind of consistency of his fastball or slider, which Smith said comes with the developmental territory of throwing it more.
“Sometimes he’ll kind of fly open on occasion and his arm will get way out there and that’s what kind of makes it tail or kind of wobble into the zone,” Smith said. “But when he thinks like it’s his fastball and just thinks, freaking get on top of it and throw the crap out of it, it comes out looking like a fastball.
“So I think it’s just kind of, he just needs to have that mental standpoint of throw this just like a fastball, stay closed, stay on top of it and get down over it. I’d rather him bounce it to me than miss up. I think when he can get that confidence of I’d rather miss down than up, it’s an awesome pitch.”