Expectations for Carlos Rodon were never really realistic. One of the few areas the White Sox have excelled is developing pitching, and Rodon arguably had the gaudiest pedigree of any pitching prospect they’ve had in decades. He closed 2015 on such a strong note, it was easy to assume he would just hit the ground running, and that the normal rules wouldn’t apply to him, the same way they haven’t applied to Chris Sale and Jose Quintana. Still, his struggles this year have been very normal for a stuff-first pitching prospect who has been thrown right into the trenches, as his below average command and lack of trust in his third pitch have yielded underwhelming results.
But tonight, he made it really, really tempting to assume it’s only a matter of when and not if he joins his teammates as a left-handed front line monster.
1. When Adam Jones and Jonathan Schoop started things out with a double and a single and Rodon fell behind Manny Machado 3-0, it looked like another night where Rodon would have to take his lumps and try to learn from it. Then he went full fire-breathing dragon on a really, really good lineup. Rodon rallied to strike out Machado, and then absolutely eviscerated Mark Trumbo and Steve Pearce to strand both runners.
Rodon was getting ahead of batters and leaning heavily on what looked like a very good change. In fact, he started several RHBs off with change ups, stealing strikes at the bottom of the zone. When mixed with his fastball and a particularly vicious slider…well, getting ahead in the count and having a third pitch for hitters to worry about gave him a big advantage. The Orioles have a good lineup, and they took note and started swinging early in the count, but by and large they weren’t able to do much with it, leading to easier innings. As the evening went on, Rodon’s command started to fade, but he had enough to hang on and make it a successful evening.
The gun may have been hot, as it had him touching 100, but even if it was that means he was probably hitting “only” 97-98.
2. The offense stranded plenty of runners, as ten hits and two walks were only turned into four runs. Two of those came on solo shots from Adam Eaton and Tyler Saladino. Tim Anderson also ripped a double off of Chris Tillman in his return from missing a pair of games after taking a pitch off the hand. The double came off a horrible, slow, looping curve at the belt, but to Anderson’s credit he stayed back on it and smoked it off the wall. Anderson also drew his third walk tonight!
3. Omar Narvaez reached base in two of his three plate appearances. At the risk of looking like a dummy, it also seems like he has softer hands behind the plate than Dioner Navarro does. It’s a low bar to clear, but one of the few useful things the White Sox may be able to do with the rest of the season is to see whether Narvaez can be penciled in as a legitimate major league backup for 2017.
4. After Rodon was clearly limping across the finish line after six innings, Robin Ventura asked Jacob Turner to bridge the gap to Nate Jones and David Robertson. It wasn’t the most inspiring two outs I’ve ever seen, but Jacob Turner – Reliever looks like a more worthwhile experiment than Jacob Turner – Fifth Starter at this point.
5. Saladino has acquitted himself well off of the bench this year, and it has been an object lesson in how much better it is to develop pieces like this internally instead of trying to chase them in free agency as they have in recent memory. What’s more, it shows the advantage of having capable backups in-house for when key starters go down with an injury. The 2012 White Sox probably make the playoffs if the farm system was then capable of producing Saladino-esque players.
Lead Image Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski // USA Today Sports Images