"I would say motivation," said Rodon during a Friday conference call after the White Sox selected him with the third overall pick Thursday night, after high school pitchers Brady Aiken went to the Astros and Tyler Kolek to the Marlins. "I got picked by a great club with a lot of history. I'm looking forward to it."
In the 10 minutes Rodon spent chatting with the media, it became apparent that the talented 21-year-old junior still is taking it all in and processing the moment of being drafted. He talked about the White Sox selection being a "surprise," but aside from adding that it's an honor to go at any spot in the Draft, Rodon didn't really elaborate. The surprise was fairly self-explanatory.
Surprise seemed to be a common theme on Thursday in regard to this White Sox-and-Rodon relationship. The team was more than pleasantly surprised that the Marlins didn't take Rodon at No. 2, leaving the South Siders with another potential difference-maker in their ongoing reshaping process.
Doug Laumann, the White Sox director of amateur scouting, mentioned that he would be surprised if the team and Rodon were not able to get a deal done. There has been some speculation that Rodon, represented by Scott Boras, might be looking for closer to No. 1 slot money, which is $7,922,100 vs. the $5,721,500 slotted for the White Sox at No. 3.
When asked about signability on Friday, Rodon deflected that topic to a later date.
"I'm not really sure. That's later down the road," Rodon said. "In a month or so we'll figure that out, but I'm still trying to enjoy this moment, spend time with my family and enjoy the whole thing and let it sink in."
One carrot, so to speak, which could be presented to Rodon is the possibility of reaching the Majors as soon as later this season. Let's call it the Chris Sale plan, where the current ace of the White Sox staff made his big league debut in relief two months after being selected 13th overall in the first round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft.
Every college pitcher of course is different. But don't discount the fact that players such as Rodon not only are familiar with the White Sox development process of pitchers, but also the way they quickly move certain prospects based on merit.
See Daniel Hudson, Addison Reed and even Gordon Beckham as other examples. Rodon actually might not be quite caught up yet on that development process, especially when he asked what he knew about White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper. Rodon responded, "To be honest, nothing."
Rodon's interactions with the White Sox have included a personal meeting with Laumann and assistant scouting director Nick Hostetler at N.C. State before the 2014 calendar year began. His extended White Sox interactions up until Thursday were like many other people who didn't get drafted: via television broadcasts.
"Most of my interactions was watching them on TV and watching Jose Abreu hit some bombs, that's about it," Rodon said. "It's a great team. I think they have a postseason run in them this year if they keep playing well."
Whether Rodon will be part of that hypothetical playoff run remains to be seen. He discussed Friday the development of his wipeout slider, which began as a slurve in high school and was refined at N.C. State. He talked about his first word being "ball," according to his parents, and that he never wanted to stop hitting in the backyard when he was little, with his dad throwing him pitch after pitch to a big foam red plastic bat.
Rodon batted .283 over 46 at-bats for the Wolfpack this season, but those offensive days will have to wait for Interleague action. He also spoke of the perceived disappointment over his past season with N.C. State, where he finished with a 6-7 mark and a 2.01 ERA over 14 starts and 98 2/3 innings, striking out 117, walking 31 and allowing just two homers.
Expectations weren't met in Rodon's mind, but that happens sometimes with the game of baseball. He will be facing even greater expectations once he joins the White Sox youthful core, and he seems quietly confident and prepared.
"Baseball is a tough sport. It's a game of failure, so you fail more than you succeed," Rodon said. "I had some tough breaks this season, but that's baseball. I'll still get to play some more games this year, so we'll see how that goes.
"It could be a little nerve-wracking, but that comes with the talent. The expectations come with all that when you're a good player. You have to expect it. All eyes are watching and you get criticized every little thing you do wrong. That's part of it, you have to love it and hate it."