The first three batters reached base, with a run scoring on Prince Fielder's single, and Carlos Sanchez helped Rodon escape trouble in the second inning with a diving stop on Fielder's bases-loaded grounder to end the frame. Otherwise, Rodon was sharp over six, with three walks and five hits. He now has 14 strikeouts and those three walks over his last 12 1/3 innings.
Catcher Tyler Flowers thought Thursday's outing stood out even more due to the precise strike zone being called by home-plate umpire Dana DeMuth.
"I told him when he was done I thought it was a very impressive job," said Flowers of Rodon's 108-pitch effort. "That lineup's been swinging it pretty well, and not getting a lot of borderline calls, he really had to dig down and execute pitches."
"That's a tough lineup, for sure. One of the best I've faced, obviously," Rodon said. "Fielder is a tough out. [Shin-Soo] Choo is a tough out, real patient. Just a real patient club, and I had to fight the whole time just to throw strikes and get the ball over the plate and hopefully [they'd] make poor contact on some pitches."
Those 10 strikeouts made Rodon, at 22 years and 176 days, the youngest White Sox pitcher with 10-plus K's since Jason Bere (22 years, 117 days) fanned 12 Angels on Sept. 20, 1993. Rodon struck out Robinson Chirinos in the second with a fastball, but the other nine came via the slider.
His slider was effective enough to throw 40 of them, compared with just four changeups, per Brooks Baseball. Thirty of the 40 sliders went for strikes.
"It has been improving, and just getting it over for strikes really helps too, you know early, to get them to swing late at it," said Rodon of the slider. "The feel is coming back for it. Threw some good ones and got some strikeouts with it."
"Yeah, it was pretty good," said Flowers of the slider. "He maybe lost the feel for it for, like, an inning and a half, but we were able to mix in a couple early to get that feel back. It definitely was a good weapon for him, and we even mixed in a few changeups in the right spots that were effective as well."
Charting Chris Sale's 13-strikeout effort on Wednesday helped Rodon prepare for the Rangers on Thursday, just as talking with Sale about his approach also paid dividends. It's all part of the learning process for Rodon, who trusts his high-end stuff more and more with each start.
"Just getting more comfortable with it," Rodon said. "Just the feel of everything. And throwing strikes is the key to success in this game."