By Bruce Levine–
GLENDALE, Ariz. (CBS) — The long wait to pitch in a competitive game this spring finally ended for White Sox left-hander Carlos Rodon on Sunday, when he threw four scoreless innings against the Angels.
Rodon’s cadence and off-speed pitches were crisp, as he only allowed a single to Albert Pujols in a productive 65-pitch outing, which included 38 for strikes. He struck out five and walked one.
“‘It was just normal,” Rodon said. “Just getting back out there, I had a fun time. I told Pujois to save his hits. It was a sinker in I threw him.”
The 24-year-old Rodon’s spring schedule had been pushed back in an effort to protect him after some arm fatigue issues in 2016 and because of the long Cactus League schedule.
“I just want to build from this today,” Rodon said. “I just want to build my pitch count. I would like to get up and down five or six times next time out. I will work on more command and better change-ups.”
The White Sox starters will be informed soon of their rotation slots, manager Rick Renteria said. Rodon will likely start the team’s fifth or sixth game of the season. Chicago hasn’t yet announced its Opening Day starter.
“We are going to get a few more starts for them and let them know, Renteria said. “We are going to have some of our starters going in morning minor league stints. We are nearing (the rotation slotting). We will share it with you when we get there.”
There has been some intrigue regarding the status of left-hander Jose Quintana, who remains on the trade market. He’s the obvious choice to start Opening Day if he remains a White Sox on April 3. The rumor mill has been churning out trade scenarios for him all winter, but opposing teams appear to have settled in this spring and are focused on evaluating their own pitching inventory for now.
Rodon remains part of the White Sox’s future, and he’s undergoing the transition from being a thrower to a pitcher, like so many youngsters go through.
“We probably started seeing the beginnings of that for him at the tail end of last season,” Renteria said of Rodon’s progress. “We tend to see him get an elevated pitch count early in the game — 100 pitches in five innings. We want him to become more efficient. We hope he starts to trust his stuff more. His ball has some explosive life. The ball moves well to both sides of the plate. We want him to attack the strike zone. That would put him in a position to stay deeper in a ball game.”
The White Sox used a similar approach with left-hander Chris Sale in 2016, when he focused less on strikeouts and going deeper into game. The plan worked, as Sale averaged around seven innings per start.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.