Rodon adjusting to role as a reliever

Rodon adjusting to role as a reliever

MINNEAPOLIS -- At some point in the not too distant future, rookie left-hander Carlos Rodon will become a regular part of the White Sox rotation. Until then he will have to adjust to high-leverage relief outings such as the one he was presented in Saturday's 5-3 loss to the Twins at Target Field.

Right-hander Hector Noesi ultimately could be the odd man out in an eventual rotation switch. Noesi made just his third start of the 2015 season against the Twins, with inclement weather and the civil unrest in Baltimore leading to his being skipped. Noesi became a successful reclamation project of pitching coach Don Cooper in 2014, but he seems to understand the current situation without directly addressing it.

On Saturday, Noesi worked 4 1/3 innings and made two mistakes that cost him -- Trevor Plouffe's solo shot in the second and Torii Hunter's two-run homer in the third. He had runners on first and third with one out in the fifth, with the left-handed-hitting Joe Mauer at the plate, and was replaced by Rodon after throwing just 73 pitches. Not exactly a high total for a starter, even though he hadn't pitched since April 21.

"That's not a lot," said Noesi of his pitch count. "I thought I was going to stay there, but I don't make the decisions."

The much-discussed decision regarding Rodon was for him to begin his pro career as a reliever. It's the same path followed by Mark Buehrle and Chris Sale, both of whom have turned into exceptional starters, and is designed in part to keep his first-year innings total somewhere in the 150 to 160 range.

Rodon allowed two runs on three hits over 2 1/3 innings in his debut on April 21, entering with two runners on base in the sixth. He threw a five-pitch scoreless frame when he started the eighth on Wednesday in Baltimore, then was called upon to face Mauer on Saturday.

After falling behind, 2-0, Rodon evened the count before trying to get Mauer to chase two sliders. Mauer didn't bite and walked to load the bases. A seven-pitch at-bat against Plouffe, including two fastballs hitting 97 mph and one hitting 98, resulted in Plouffe's go-ahead single to right.

Those results weren't what Rodon wanted, but he seemed to fit more into the role.

"It's a little more comfortable. I had a plan," Rodon said. "I felt good coming in. I just wish I would have got one of those guys out and kept it 3-3."

"He's improving," said manager Robin Ventura. "Getting him stretched out, too, he's got to get in there and pitch, and that's his spot. For what he is in our bullpen and who he is facing and where he's coming in, that's his spot."

If Jeff Samardzija and Sale drop the appeals of their respective five-game suspensions after their upcoming starts against the Tigers, the White Sox will need six starters next week. Rodon could face the Tigers on Thursday on regular rest or pitch over the weekend against the Reds after hitting 63 pitches in three scoreless innings on Saturday.

That potential start still might not lead to a full-time rotation move for Rodon, who is learning to harness his adrenaline out of the bullpen.

"I had an understanding what I needed to do, unlike the first time," he said.

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.