By Bruce Levine–
MESA, Ariz. (CBS) — With the start of the regular season less than three weeks away, White Sox left-hander Carlos Rodon can now see the forest through the trees.
On Tuesday, the 23-year-old Rodon ran his pitch count up to 64 in a simulated game against White Sox hitter. His targeted first start is set for April 8 or April 9 during Chicago’s first home series of the season. That will be either the fifth or sixth game of the season.
The slow play of Rodon’s workload to date has been based on past experiences of White Sox officials and coaches, who brought along Chris Sale with a similar approach two years ago. So caution has been preached with Rodon, who had shoulder fatigue that flared up from time to time in 2016.
Rodon will likely throw in one more simulated game before being turned loose in Cactus League play.
“It felt great today,” Rodon said. “I got up and down four times. That felt really good. The real feeling of sitting down between innings and getting back up, everything felt good. I am just ready now for the next time out there. It was great facing hitters again.”
Rodon will likely now pitch once every five days moving forward as he builds arm strength. He could then get five full days of rest before his first regular-season start, a move pitching coach Don Cooper has favored in the past.
“Roddie did a really nice job today,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He was working mostly on fastball command. He than mixed in some cutters and sliders. The last 10 pitches, he had really good life on his stuff. Coop was really happy with how he looked, and so was I. He came off of the mound really happy.”
The White Sox are in no hurry to rush Rodon into competitive spring games because they believe building arm strength and working on command is far more important than the atmosphere of exhibition play.
Rodon’s goal is to pitch 200 innings this season after logging 165 in 2016, when he was 9-10 with a 4.04 ERA and 1.39 WHIP.
“We have one more (simulation) set up hopefully,” Renteria said of Rodon’s next outing. “We will then go from there.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.