White Sox’ Carlos Rodon: No excuses for September swoon

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GLENDALE, Ariz. — Left-hander Carlos Rodon pitched like an ace for a good stretch last season.

And then he faded at the finish.

Fatigue?

Perhaps. But Rodon does not make excuses.

“I’m never going to blame it on being tired or any of that stuff,” Rodon said while talking with the media for the first time at White Sox camp Friday. “It was, for lack of a better term, two horse—- starts. That’s pretty much it.

“I felt pretty strong. I just got my butt whupped.’’

With a full offseason of rest going into his second season post-surgery, the hope is Rodon, 26, carries the endurance needed to be strong from late March through September.

Rodon enjoyed the offseason. He and wife Ashley are expecting their first child this summer, so family life never has been better. And he felt like a normal pitcher for once.

“It felt like a normal year, but it actually didn’t really feel like a normal year because a normal year for me was going through an injury,’’ he said. “I had a great offseason. Got to be healthy and finally show up here healthy and have a healthy spring. So I’m excited.’’

“Maybe with another year under his belt, or offseason and continuing to work, we get that [extra] gear back in full force,’’ pitching coach Don Cooper said recently.

“He battles like a son of a gun. Carlos has another gear, which means when he gets in trouble, he can go from 91-92 [mph] to 96-97. He can go up to that. This is what I’m hoping for.’’

As good as Rodon was during a nine-start stretch upon returning from shoulder surgery, his somewhat startling regression over his last six starts in September (9.22 ERA after a sub-2.00 ERA in July and August) gives pause, although not enough to threaten his place as the leading candidate to start Opening Day in Kansas City. He lasted two and 1⅓ innings in his last two outings against the Cubs and Twins in 2018.

“They stuck a metal object in his shoulder, for crying out loud, when they did surgery [in September 2007],’’ Cooper said. “We were just hoping that went well, the rehab went well, and hopefully he would be back with us. Well, he was back with us. That all went perfectly. I think just going through that was great, and what he did in a short period of time, I thought it was solid.

“He pitched some great games against the top clubs.’’

For Rodon, the key to success is simple, Cooper said. Get ahead early in counts “because he’s got a high-riding fastball he can use and he’s got the slider from hell. With a little bit more strength, maybe both of those pitches are even stronger.”

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Rodon likes the Sox’ young rotation with Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito, and veteran Ivan Nova being called on to lead. In Year 3 of the team’s rebuild, he expects progress throughout the roster.

“You have to understand we were a fairly young team last year,’’ he said. “What did we lose, 100 games? You can’t say it’s to be expected, but with the experience we have, it’s tough to contend.’’

It was tough sledding for Rodon in September, but there were no excuses then and none during the first week of camp.

“He’s being accountable and responsible to everything,’’ manager Rick Renteria said after watching Rodon “look pretty good” while “working on some things” in his bullpen session Friday. “He worked very hard to come to camp feeling good and healthy.’’

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