CHICAGO -- Carlos Rodon couldn't ask for a better mentor than Chris Sale, the man who works before him in the White Sox rotation. Jose Quintana, who starts after the prized White Sox rookie, isn't a bad mound model to follow, either.
But Sale has traveled a similar path and has a similar style to that of Rodon. Sale began his big league career in the bullpen, just two months after he was selected 13th overall in the 2010 MLB Draft, spending 80 games relieving in comparison to Rodon's three games this season prior to joining the rotation
Sale works fast, has complete trust in his catcher and fills the zone with unhittable strikes. Think of Mark Buehrle in his White Sox prime, only with far, far better stuff. Rodon has been much sharper in the strike-throwing department since a nine-day break from starting, with 19 strikeouts against five walks over his past three outings (18 1/3 innings).
Both Sale and Rodon have electric stuff and a devastating slider. Sale, though, has become the more finished product, knowing when to use the slider and when to pull back. This fact is understandable, considering Sale has pitched in 176 games compared to just nine for Rodon, who was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 Draft.
"He's still a work in progress. He's still developing," said White Sox general manager Rick Hahn of Rodon. "We were very clear when he was brought up and even when he was moved to the rotation that this is the final stage of his development, and it's going to take a little bit of time, just as it did with Chris Sale, getting to the point where he had his full arsenal working at a high level.
"Again, [Rodon] knows what needs to be done. They are working heavily on the changeup on the side. I think you will continue to see progress in that. But he is trying to balance the development side of the game vs. 'I'm here in a one-run or tied ballgame trying to win.'"
Much like Sale, Rodon didn't need to feature a changeup to succeed at North Carolina State University. Much like Sale, Rodon's changeup stands as a plus pitch that simply needs to be refined as he grows into a top-of-the-rotation starter.
Watching Sale set up hitters and finish them off, observing as Sale finds a second gear to close out a start and talking with the White Sox ace is helpful to Rodon. It's ultimately a balance, with the 83 combined sliders Rodon threw over his past two starts, per Brooks Baseball, eventually dropping.
"That's always probably the last pitch to come ... out of Spring Training," said Sale of his slider, which helped him strike out 67 over his last 46 2/3 innings, while allowing seven earned runs. "I would say it's probably the most strenuous on your arm.
"You want to use it, but you want to use it wisely at the same time. It definitely helps when you have good fastball command and you can get that first strike. Just mix it in when you can. Just don't overthrow it."