All signs point to Carlos Rodon having all of the tools to be a top-tier starting pitcher: Big, strong left-hander with a mid-90s fastball and a hard slider that is tough on both right-handed and left-handed hitters.
Nights like Tuesday, when the 22-year-old rookie struggled again with his command, was a reminder that Rodon, the No. 3 pick in the 2014 draft, won’t be an overnight sensation. All of that stuff won’t be enough.
“I had command issues [in my first season], and it wasn’t just fastball,’’ veteran Sox lefty John Danks said before Rodon was clobbered for seven runs over four innings in the Cardinals’ 8-5 win over the Sox Tuesday night.
While using that good stuff to strike out six, Rodon walked three, hit two batters (three if you count hitting Steven Piscotty on a pitch he swung and missed it for a strikeout) and gave up seven hits including Matt Holliday’s fourth-inning grand slam.
Matt Holliday connects for his sixth career grand slam.
Danks said young pitchers will learn, sooner or later, that while velocity and movement and tilt and depth are all precious commodities, it does pay to take a little something off a pitch for the sake of location.
“For me it was too much effort, if you will,’’ Danks said, looking back at his 2007 rookie season when he pitched to a 5.50 ERA. “Big league hitters, and you feel like you have to put everything behind it, and that’s not always the case.
“A lot of Carlos’ issues with his command are similar to what I went through. You’re in the big leagues for the first time and you try to put everything you have behind every pitch. Once he gets more comfortable, he’ll understand he doesn’t have to throw every pitch 96, 97 [mph].’’
Rodon took this outing hard, judging by his reaction after.
“I got nothing to say,’’ Rodon said. “Try to get guys out, quick outs and it doesn’t happen.
“The stuff is there, you’ve got to throw it over the plate and let your fielders make plays for you.’’
Everyone can see the tangibles Rodon brings. Danks, who figured it out and posted ERAs of 3.32, 3.72 and 3.32 in the three seasons following his rookie year, said the intangibles are there, too.
“He’s handled himself real well,’’ Danks said. “He’s pitched some good games, handled some tough ones. Works hard. And yeah, his stuff. He isn’t scared of anything, he’s very confident in his abilities.’’
Rodon picked the wrong night to have a bad night because the Sox actually mustered a respectable amount of offense. After the Cardinals built a 7-0 lead, the lowest scoring offense in American League (which is on pace to score the fewest by a Sox team since 1968) scored two in the fourth inning and three in the fifth against Micael Wacha. Catcher Geovany Soto homered and recent Tyler Saladino (3-for-5) homered for the second time in as many games. Saladino’s shot came with Adam Eaton on in the fifth to make it 8-5.
By that time, Rodon (99 pitches, 58 strikes) was trying to sort through the wreckage.
“Try to make an adjustment to get a strike over first pitch and it’s wide about two feet,’’ a frustrated Rodon said. “Just something I’ve got to get better at. ‘’
With this disappointing Sox season fast approaching August, what’s left to be gained is experience gained by players like Saladino and Rodon.
“He’s young,’’ Soto said. “He’s got a lot of potential. He’s got a great fastball, great mechanics. This guy is going to be very special. He just has one spring training and  starts in the big leagues. He’s got a lot to learn, but he’s going to get there.’’