Left-hander allows one run over 7 2/3 innings in first start since Sept. 8
By August Fagerstrom
CLEVELAND -- The White Sox skipped Carlos Rodon's turn in the rotation in an effort to limit the lefty's workload in his rookie season. Upon his return, Rodon made up for lost time with the second-longest start of his short career.
Rodon worked into the eighth inning for just the second time, holding the Indians to one run over 7 2/3 innings in Saturday's thrilling 4-3 victory at Progressive Field.
"He's starting to get it later in the innings," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "As he goes deeper into the game and gets in a tough spot, he just seems to find another level to be able to get people out."
Owing to that point is Rodon's velocity, which increased as the game went on. Rodon was sitting 91-93 mph on his fastball over his first 30 pitches, before ramping it up to 95 in the middle-third of his outing and topping out at 98 in the eighth.
Ventura also credits Rodon's changeup as a pitch that's allowing him to work through lineups multiple times. Rodon's arsenal is backed by a 94-mph fastball and a wipeout slider, but the changeup is essential to success when teams stack their lineups with right-handed hitters against Rodon, as Cleveland did on Saturday.
In Rodon's first five starts, he threw his changeup a combined 19 times, relying almost exclusively on his fastball and slider. Over his last eight starts, he's tripled the usage, a trend that followed on Saturday.
"We know about his slider, but he's using other pitches to be able to do it, too, which is nice to see," Ventura said.
If Rodon had any rust from the 11-day layoff, he didn't show it. He struck out four and walked one, keeping the ball in the park while allowing six hits.
"It's kind of different, but I was just trying to keep the arm going, playing catch, normal things," Rodon said of the layoff. "We threw one side session this week to get ready for the start, but nothing too crazy."
The strong start adds to an already-impressive body of work for the 22-year-old first-round Draft pick who was pitching for NC State just a year ago. Rodon has now averaged six innings per start over his first 22 starts with a 3.78 ERA.
Breakout performances by American League shortstops Francisco Lindor and Carlos Correa likely mean that Rodon finds himself on the outside looking in at the Rookie of the Year race, but that doesn't mean that what Rodon has done this season isn't impressive.
"Those guys have some impressive numbers going with them, but there's a longevity that comes with the kind of stuff that Carlos has," Ventura said. "That's something he really has to hang his hat on, being able to go through a lineup and facing teams back-to-back. What he has, and what he's capable of in the future. Just because, if he does or doesn't win rookie of the year, doesn't mean anything about what's going to happen next year."
"This first season, it's been a blast," Rodon said. "It's not over yet, though."
August Fagerstrom is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.