Carlos Rodon returned from a nine-day break, but his time off didn’t result in anything but more of the same.
To be clear, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Rodon allowed four runs (three earned) in five innings as the White Sox losing streak was snapped with a sloppy, four-error 9-1 loss to Baltimore Sunday afternoon at U.S. Cellular Field. But the 22-year-old left-hander still hasn’t pitched more than 6 1/3 innings despite throwing an average of 100 pitches over his 10 starts since joining the White Sox rotation in early May.
“That’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a little while now, after a couple starts,” Rodon said of going deep into games. “It’s tough when you throw a lot of pitches and it’s hard to stay consistent and it doesn’t work out. If you walk guys, it’s not going to happen. I gotta figure out the command and repeating pitches and just getting guys out early.”
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When Rodon was promoted to the major leagues on April 20, general manager Rick Hahn referred to the 2014 No. 3 overall pick’s innings as a “scarce resource.” The plan after inserting him into the starting rotation always was to give him a few breaks, like the eight- and nine-day layoffs he’s had in May and June/July, respectively.
Walks have been the chief culprit in keeping Rodon from pitching into the seventh inning with any regularity. He issued four more against Baltimore on Sunday and is averaging 5.3 per nine innings pitched, the highest rate among pitchers who’ve thrown at least 50 innings this season. He’s issued three or more walks in seven of his 10 starts.
“You’ll see him miss sometimes, something going in and it’s outer half or going out there,” manager Robin Ventura said. “You want him to improve and get to that point where I would say a guy’s been in the league a few years, you’re going to end up spotting it a little bit better.”
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What Rodon has done well, though, is keep the ball in the park and rack up strikeouts. Jonathan Schoop’s second-inning solo home run was only the fourth he’s allowed in 54 innings as a starter, and he has 58 strikeouts in that span.
“You see a guy that has come up fairly quickly and I think his progression is the biggest thing,” manager Robin Ventura said. “Early on it was command. He’s getting some tough lineups and to be able to get through it. For him, he learns a lot of going through these lineups.”
The White Sox view Rodon as a rotation centerpiece for years to come, though he’s not there yet. For now, he’s a solid back-of-the rotation starter who’s still less than a year removed from his professional debut.
“He’s going to get better,” Ventura said. “But stuff-wise and who he is, we’re still happy to have him.”