Chris Sale and Jose Quintana set the standard.
Carlos Rodon wants to mimic them and follow in their footsteps.
Rodon has the arsenal, and the pedigree, to do it, to be a top of the rotation, All-Star caliber left-hander for the White Sox. Getting there from he’s at doesn’t come easy, as the 23-year-old Rodon has figured out as he pushes to the finish line of his second season.
First and foremost, Rodon wants to be a 200-inning pitcher. After being fast-tracked to the majors (he pitched all of 38 innings in the minor leagues after being drafted third overall in 2014), Rodon logged 139 1/3 as a rookie in 2015, and with starts left against the Cleveland Indians on Sunday and Tampa Bay Rays next weekend, he’ll likely finish above 160 innings this season. Missing three starts because of a wrist injury suffered from a pregame slip in the dugout probably kept him from getting in the general neighborhood of 200.
Wait till next year, Rodon says.
“For sure. Our plan next year is to get to 200,’’ he said. “The plan is for them to give me every chance to do that. Those two [Sale and Quintana] will get 200, now it’s my turn.
“I just have to go out every day, stay healthy and pitch at least six innings every time out.’’
Pitching deep into games hasn’t exactly been a snap for Rodon, who completed seven innings only three times. He possesses a premium slider, a mid-90s fastball and an improving changeup, so stuff is not a deterrent. It’s about location, working ahead in counts and being more efficient with his pitches.
“Yeah, for sure,’’ Rodon said. “Take away the walks and just try to work on getting guys out on the first three or four pitches instead of going to full counts or 2-2 counts. When they’re fouling off pitches just try to get them to put the ball in play and hit it at our guys.’’
Rodon will take a 7-10 record and 4.29 ERA into his start Sunday as he attempts to halt a two-game losing streak after pitching to a 1.85 ERA in his previous seven starts, a run which reminded of his encouraging second-half finish of 5-2, 1.81 over his last eight starts as a rookie.
“Not that great” is how Rodon sums up his sophomore season. “That’s for sure. Good thing I’m young, I still get to work on some stuff and try to finish strong here.’’
“Not that great” would be an understatement for the Sox’ season. If the Sox view Rodon as a Sale-Quintana type in the making, it will allow them to ease their grip on one of their top two and possibly trade one in the offseason for needed upgrades elsewhere. Or, they consider having all three to build around, but look where having those three as well as quality right-hander Miguel Gonzalez got them – a 72-80 record, sitting at a season low eight games below .500 with 10 games to go and a losing record all but assured for the fourth straight season.
The last time the Sox had four losing seasons in a row was 1986-89, a depressing fact, but perhaps their core of quality 20-something talent under team contract control for multiple years — Rodon, Sale, Quintana, Jose Abreu and Adam Eaton – can get it turned around. Among those, Rodon is the one with the most room to grow.
With eyes wide open, watching Sale blow past 200 innings with six straight starts of eight innings or more before he ran into a wall in a four-inning dud in Philadelphia Wednesday, was inspiration for Rodon.
“Just watching him, he’s good at everything he does,’’ Rodon said. “He’s just a winner. He’s like the older brother who’s good at everything and beats you at everything.’’
WHITE SOX AT INDIANS
Miguel Gonzalez (4-7, 3.83) vs. Trevor Bauer (11-8, 4.24), 6:10, CSN, 890-AM
Saturday: Jose Quintana (12-11, 3.26) vs. Cody Anderson (2-4, 6.24), CSN, 890-AM
Sunday: Carlos Rodon (7-10, 4.29) vs. Josh Tomlin (12-8, 4.75), Ch. 9, 890-AM
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