Rodon could start season in Chicago, but White Sox know jump “a lot to ask”

SHARE Rodon could start season in Chicago, but White Sox know jump “a lot to ask”
SHARE Rodon could start season in Chicago, but White Sox know jump “a lot to ask”

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Sure, there are service-time issues for the White Sox and left-hander Carlos Rodon. But the big difference between Rodon and, say, Cubs prospect Kris Bryant is that Rodon has less than 25 innings of minor-league experience.

So for the Sox to send Rodon, the No. 3 overall draft pick last June, back to the minor leagues for more seasoning wouldn’t be all about ensuring them of an extra year of contract control over him down the road.

Scouts who have watched Rodon make his three Cactus League starts like his build and his stuff. He had issues commanding his fastball in the minors last summer, and those have followed him to Arizona. An American League scout said Rodon, who — like Bryant — is represented by agent Scott Boras, is not ready just yet.

‘‘Like any young pitcher, he is overthrowing, which affects his command,’’ the scout said. ‘‘But he’s big and strong with plus arm strength.’’

In 7 2/3 spring innings, Rodon has allowed eight hits and three walks while striking out eight. It’s a small sample size, as are his combined 24 1/3 innings of minor-league work at the rookie, Class A and Class AAA levels last season. At Class AAA Charlotte, he struck out 18 and allowed three runs in 12 innings.

With ace left-hander Chris Sale out for at least a week or two to start the season, there has been speculation Rodon might earn a possible rotation spot, although the Sox conceivably won’t need a fifth starter till the third week because of three days off in the first two weeks.

The Sox could use Rodon out of the bullpen and let him soak in big-league knowledge from pitching coach Don Cooper, bullpen coach Bobby Thigpen and major-league teammates, but they have two bullpen lefties in Zach Duke and Dan Jennings.

Rodon has pitched only as a starter in spring training and is preparing as one, but he’s on the schedule to pitch in relief Saturday.

As much as he looks the part and as big as everyone thinks Rodon’s future will be, it looks more and more as though he won’t open the season in the majors. But general manager Rick Hahn acknowledged it’s not out of the question.

‘‘I think it’s a lot to ask of anybody, but we haven’t closed the door to it,’’ Hahn said. ‘‘It’s why he’s still here. We want to give him the opportunity to work with Coop and get repetitions at the big-league level and see everything it entails competing at this level. But it is important to keep in mind that a year ago he was in the ACC [at North Carolina State] and has 25 professional innings under his belt.

‘‘We are very bullish on his future and confident he’s going to help us toward the front end of our rotation for years to come. But the path to getting him to that spot hasn’t been determined just yet.’’

Rodon has handled his attention with aplomb and modesty, saying he’s fine with whatever is best for the Sox. He knows he has things to work on.

‘‘He needs work on his changeup,’’ a National League scout said. ‘‘He needs to trust it if he’s going to start. He probably should go pitch in Class AA or Class AAA, and maybe he comes up and helps the team sometime this year.

‘‘If they were rebuilding, I’d send him up there now. But [the Sox] have a good team and want to win now. It can crush a kid’s spirit to get his brains beat out in the big leagues if he isn’t mentally tough. But I like his arm. I like his stuff.’’

Email: dvanschouwen@suntimes.com

twitter: cst_soxvan


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