GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Chicago White Sox pitching phenom Carlos Rodon did things the way the team wanted this time, and the results still were successful.
The club’s top prospect went away from his devastating slider for his final Cactus League outing and he still got the job done, giving up one run on four hits over 5 1/3 innings. He improved to 2-0 in six appearances (five starts) as the White Sox won a 2-1 decision over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Despite his impressive spring, Rodon is still expected to open the season at Triple-A Charlotte and be ready as a starter there in case the big club needs him. It isn’t out of the question he could even come to Chicago later in the season as a reliever.
“I had a real fun spring,” the 22-year-old said after Tuesday’s outing. “I got to spend it in big league camp the whole time, which was exciting. I learned a lot of stuff. It was just an overall great experience.”
Rodon pitched 17 2/3 innings, striking out 21. His two strikeouts Tuesday were a far cry from the nine he had in four innings last week against the Kansas City Royals, but that was to be expected as he went away from his best pitch for the sake of growth.
Rodon admitted he threw no more than 10 sliders among his 90 pitches, relying on the changeup the White Sox are trying to teach him.
“I got more comfortable with the changeup and threw a lot of fastballs,” he said. “I fell behind early on and had to fight back into the counts. I got some ground balls and the defense made some great plays. I threw well, I guess.”
According to his catcher, Geovany Soto, there was no reason to guess.
“It was really awesome,” Soto said of the changeup. “He’s more of a slider/fastball guy, but his changeup was really good. He only made one mistake on the homer, but I thought he was really awesome today.”
That one home run, hit by the Dodgers’ Chris Heisey, was the only long ball Rodon gave up all spring.
“I’m just more comfortable,” he said, when asked about his growth from the beginning of camp to now. “I’ll tell you what, the first guy I faced really hit me when I was up there against the Padres. It was [Matt] Kemp. I used to watch him on TV and you’re on the mound and you’re pitching against him. It took a little time to get used to that and now I’m comfortable with it. That’s one big thing.”
From the looks of how last year’s first-round draft pick pitches, it won’t be long before future young players are in awe over facing him.
“I just need to work on that changeup and fastball command,” he said. “Try to get better and eventually get up with the club and pitch for them and hopefully win for them.”