Carlos Rodon throws no sliders — and 4 scoreless innings

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Carlos Rodon throws during the first inning of a spring training game against the San Diego Padres on Friday. (AP)

PEORIA, Ariz – It’s been a long time since Carlos Rodon pitched without throwing a slider, his bread-and-butter pitch.

“Middle school,’’ Rodon said.

That is a long time, even for a 23-year-old. But spring training is for experimentation, working on specific issues and honing skills. Rodon’s slider was already one of the game’s nastiest as a rookie in 20015, and it’s not hard to envision him becoming a Cy Young caliber with improvement of his fastball command and the development of his third pitch, the changeup.

Those are the things he worked on exclusively in four innings of work against the San Diego Padres Friday.

“Just mostly fastball/changeup,’’ said Rodon, who did not throw one slider after throwing just a handful in his previous start (three scoreless innings). “I didn’t throw many changeup strikes, just still getting the feel for it. But the fastball command was good.’’

That Rodon threw no sliders at all and allowed no walks, two hits (one a broken-bat single) while striking out three already says something about the progress he’s making in his “sophomore” year.

“It was pretty cool,’’ said Rodon, who has walked one batter and hasn’t allowed a run in seven spring inning. “Being able to go fastball-changeup and be able to succeed and compete with them was pretty awesome. Gave me a little more confidence.’’

One item of business for the Sox in camp is to get catchers Alex Avila and Dioner Navarro familiar with the pitching staff. Navarro had Rodon Friday. Navarro has seen the Rodon slider in side sessions and “I wanted to see how far he can go without it, and he did a great job.’’

According to FanGraphs, Rodon used his slider on 31 percent of his pitches and his changeup on nine percent last season when he posted a 3.75 ERA and finished strong with eight straight starts with no more than two runs allowed. During that stretch, his fastball command – not always a strong suit – got sharper.

“That’s the most important thing,’’ Navarro, an 11-year veteran said. “It doesn’t matter how hard you throw or what kind of stuff you’ve got, if you fall behind the hitters. We’re facing pretty good hitters throughout the whole league, and he just did a great job, man. Hopefully he keeps working and doing what he’s got to do.’’

Rodon said he’s not far from being ready for the regular season, which is a little more than three weeks away.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m getting close,’’ he said.

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