Carlos Rodon doesn’t know whether his start Saturday against the Cincinnati Reds is an audition, if it could lead to another chance and soon a spot in the starting rotation.
That’s not what he’s thinking about. Instead, he’s just focusing on making his first start.
“Honestly, I have no idea (if it’s an audition),” Rodon said. “It’s just looking forward to Saturday and look forward to that first hitter.”
White Sox manager Robin Ventura announced before Wednesday’s game with the Detroit Tigers that Rodon, 22, will start the middle game of this weekend’s series at U.S. Cellular Field against Cincinnati. With Jeff Samardzija dropping his appeal of his five-game suspension for his actions during the April 23 brawl with Kansas City and ineligible to pitch until Monday, the Sox needed somebody to start between Hector Noesi on Friday and John Danks on Sunday.
Enter Rodon, who has a 2.84 ERA in three relief appearances.
“It’s a good spot for him,” Ventura said
It’s a spot Rodon figures to inherit full-time, though maybe not yet.
Drafted third overall in the 2014 amateur draft out of N.C. State, the White Sox didn’t take Rodon to be a middle reliever and spot-starter. That’s something everybody knows and something that will become true sooner than later.
It may or may not be after Saturday – Ventura called the start a “one-time thing” – but it will give Rodon a chance to show a bit more of why he’s considered such a prospect. It will also get him into a routine he knows much better than being a reliever who could pitch any day.
“A little more comfortable with it. I obviously have never started at this level, but at other levels, every five days you know what your day is and you know your routine,” Rodon said. “I’m back on it. It’s the same thing, the same routine I’ve done in Triple-A and college and high school. It’s just a little better hitters.”
No offense to the hitters Rodon faced in the minors or at N.C. State, but Saturday will be a different challenge. If his wipeout slider isn’t sharp or he doesn’t have control over the developing change-up, the Reds could make his first start a memorable one for the wrong reasons.
But Rodon knows that, partly because he’s already pitched in the majors and has experienced what’s needed to get big-league hitters out. He’s used to the environment, something he wouldn’t be if he hadn’t gotten a chance to get acclimated to the majors in a relief role.
“Getting used to coming out here, the schedule and everything,” Rodon said. “It’s just a bigger ballpark, different crowds, better players obviously. It’s real fun. It’s a dream, man. “
As for how much fun Rodon will get to have Saturday, Ventura was coy on Rodon’s pitch count.
“As far as him going out there and what to expect out of him from the start, there’s really not a limit to him going out there,” Ventura said.
Sox fans don’t see many limits in Rodon. They see him as a major part of the future, slotted behind Chris Sale at the top of the rotation.
But that thought – or much else from the outside – probably won’t penetrate Rodon. He seems to have gotten past the awe stage of being in the majors.
“One big thing, after stepping up there the first time, looking down, and everything looked so big,” Rodon said. “The last couple of times, it was just taking a breath, realizing I’ve done this for a while. Obviously at this level it’s a little different, but it’s still baseball.”