Changeup has benefited prospect Rodon
Left-hander confident in pitch despite only recently adding it to his repertoire
CHICAGO -- The exact amount Carlos Rodon threw his changeup over three years at North Carolina State checks in somewhere between never and hardly ever.
With the dominant fastball and wipeout slider possessed by the southpaw, a third pitch wasn't imperative at that particular collegiate level. Then Rodon became the third overall pick in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft, and six of his nine Minor League appearances to follow that same season in the Minor Leagues came as a starter.
Rodon needed to make a change with his repertoire, and his changeup ended up being better than expected.
"I didn't know it was that good until I started throwing it. Then I built confidence with it," Rodon told MLB.com recently of his newly added pitch, which he worked on more directly last year with the Wolfpack and then during bullpens with the White Sox before taking the mound. "You have to throw the pitch. Who knows how many times [Justin] Verlander has thrown his fastball. It's how comfortable he is with it. That's the way you've got to be with the changeup. You throw it as much as you can and you get the feel for it."
"It's a better pitch than people realize," said White Sox director of player development Nick Capra of Rodon's change. "He's a very confident kid. If he needs to master something, he's going to do it. I don't think it's going to be a problem for him."
Stops with the White Sox Rookie League team and at Class A Advanced Winston-Salem and Triple-A Charlotte weren't necessary for Rodon to realize the significance of a third pitch, especially if he has the big league starting rotation targeted for as soon as 2015. It's the difference in Rodon's mind between doing everything he could just to win in college to winning but also developing his talent in the Minors.
Pushing for a fourth pitch certainly isn't a must in Rodon's mind. Not with a slider that can get up to 88-90 mph or drop down to 83-86 mph, where it gets big.
"So, I mean, you shorten it up and you lengthen it," said Rodon of his slider. "It's up to whatever I want to do with it. The slider is almost two pitches in one, essentially.
Too much usage of the slider isn't ideal for a pitcher's arm, which makes the changeup important. Ultimately, it's possessing that big league attitude in the absolute best way, a stark difference from the laid-back Rodon off the field, that might propel the pitcher ranked by MLBPipeline.com as the No. 14 prospect in baseball.
"That's the way I've always been. Just real mellow, sit back and relax," Rodon said. "You and I are having a conversation. I'm not going to jump at you, scare you. I'm not one of those guys. But once I step in between those lines, it's just a different guy."
"You don't want a deer in the headlights," said Capra of Rodon's positive bravado. "You want a guy who has confidence, who stares at the catcher, gets his signs, knows what he's going to do and throws the ball. That's the kind of mentality you want in a kid."