Rodon at ease with increased responsibility

Young lefty carrying experience, confidence into first full season in White Sox rotation

February 20th, 2016

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The word "comfortable" was used four times by Carlos Rodon during a Saturday interview session to describe his feelings at the outset of his second big league Spring Training.

That's comfortable -- as in more at ease -- but the 23-year-old is certainly not complacent as he prepares for his first full year as a Major League starting pitcher.

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"I guess you can say I'm one year older," said Rodon with a smile. "That's about it.

"It's different. I'm just a little more comfortable with what I'm doing here. I'm still a young guy -- getting my feet wet and just trying to get better."

Rodon got better over the course of his rookie 2015 season with the White Sox, joining the team after 34 2/3 Minor League innings over 11 appearances following his selection as the third overall pick in the 2014 MLB Draft. The southpaw posted a 4.73 ERA in June and a 6.57 ERA in July, covering 10 starts. His ERA stood at 5.00 at the end of an abbreviated 4 2/3 innings on Aug. 5 against the Rays.

But Rodon's next start against the Angels featured shutout baseball for seven innings, while he fanned 11 and most importantly walked one. His ERA in August dropped to 2.48 and fell further to 2.03 during four September starts. Rodon called that stretch one of the best runs he ever had, contributing to his final 9-6 record with a 3.75 ERA and 139 strikeouts in 139 1/3 innings.

"Everything was there -- just fastball command. I was confident -- just bringing that confidence into this year and having it carry over and giving this team a chance to win," Rodon said. "Building a routine last year was a big part in my success, and now that I have a routine, I'm a little more comfortable with what I'm doing. I know what I need to do to get ready to pitch."

"He got a full taste of being in the big leagues for a year and getting as much experience as you can give him," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura. "He doesn't have the, 'I have to show everybody my slider.' He understands the game a little better of what he needs to do to be successful. That's the biggest thing for him coming in."

A foot injury sustained by Chris Sale stood as the only reason Rodon got to start every fifth day during 2015 Cactus League action. He enters 2016 as potentially the third piece of a dominant threesome atop the rotation with Sale and Jose Quintana.

Being counted on for this sort of excellence doesn't bother Rodon, nor does an increase in innings coming with a full starter's workload even with the White Sox continuing to carefully monitor their top young arm. He's comfortable with the expectations.

"You take it for what it is," Rodon said. "Step into the role and pitch well and give this team a chance, like I've always said. Give the team a chance and we'll be good.

"Just throw strikes," Rodon added with a laugh. "That's all I know."