Rodon unbowed after first-game jitters
Top White Sox prospect vows to adjust after control issues out of bullpen
CHICAGO -- There was one noticeable difference with Carlos Rodon on Wednesday morning, in comparison to his Major League debut Tuesday night in a 6-2 loss to the Indians at U.S. Cellular Field.
The 22-year-old southpaw shaved his mustache.
"Yeah, it's gone," said a smiling Rodon, admitting to being a bit superstitious. "Change the juju up."
Rodon's inaugural White Sox effort was extensively dissected, but not because the team's top-rated prospect excelled in his 2 1/3 innings. Instead, people were talking about Rodon throwing just 29 of his 60 pitches for strikes, after the career starter entered a one-run game in the sixth with runners on the corners and two outs. He walked three batters and allowed two hits, while notching his first MLB strikeout.
In actuality, Rodon facing left-handed-hitting Brandon Moss was viewed as a good matchup for the White Sox and for the young hurler. And while Rodon was not available for Wednesday afternoon's game, they wouldn't hesitate to use him in such a situation again.
"It shouldn't matter, and it's not going to matter, because that's an adjustment that has to be made," Rodon said. "I have to be ready to go in there. Bases loaded, no outs. Second and third, no outs. Big hitter up. That's a situation I have to be ready for."
"This is not unlike Chris Sale," White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper said. "In many ways, it's the same thing, really. We're going to get [Rodon's] feet wet as a reliever. We started that process yesterday, it didn't go as well as he or anybody would want, and he's going to be out there again soon."
For those who don't remember Sale's debut as a reliever, it came on Aug. 6, 2010, for a White Sox team sitting atop the American League Central with a 62-47 record. Sale entered in the eighth inning at Camden Yards, walked Brian Roberts on four pitches, gave up a single to Nick Markakis and exited from a tie game after seven pitches. He posted a 2.55 ERA as a reliever, and he now has become one of the game's top starting pitchers.
Adjusting to preparation for relief pitching will be part of the learning curve for Rodon. He talked about watching Major League hitters, pitchers and defenses until the fifth inning, when he has to start getting ready.
When that call comes next, Rodon hopes to have a better slider than he featured on Tuesday. White Sox manager Robin Ventura pointed out that Rodon didn't have a strike-throwing slider, but he had the "back foot to the righty or away from lefty."
All of those struggles certainly could be connected to managing the adrenaline rush of Rodon's big league dream coming true.
"He was probably amped up somewhat -- and rightfully so -- to go in there and throw as hard as he could," Ventura said. "Now he has a better understanding."
"Again, he didn't get off to a good start," Cooper said. "But that doesn't mean we have any negative thoughts in our head at all about this kid."