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Timeline for Carlos Rodon’s return uncertain as ever

Carlos Rodon made one Cactus League apperarance and hasn't pitched since. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Left-hander Carlos Rodon was seen throwing a baseball Monday, so if there’s encouragement to be found in that, there you go.

Aside from that, you’ll have to take the word of others for how he’s feeling — Rodon declined to talk to media, saying he didn’t want to be a distraction. A major planning piece in the White Sox’ rebuild, Rodon, 24, is expected to return to Arizona in a couple of days to continue his throwing program, which still consists of only throwing off flat ground.

Rodon has pitched in one game in 2017, a Cactus League start March 19 against the Angels in Tempe, Arizona, in which he was dominant, allowing no runs, one hit and one walk while striking out five in four innings. Since then, he has been sidelined with bursitis in his upper biceps, going on the disabled list Opening Day. When he comes off the DL is anybody’s guess.

He did play catch at varying distances and had what looked like a spirited conversation with pitching coach Don Cooper when it was over.

Rodon walked off the field and through the dugout past reporters, with his head down, to the clubhouse.

“He’s frustrated,’’ Cooper said. “He wants to get through this, through all of it. We’re just there to make sure he’s doing things right and there’s progression.”

Cooper characterized Rodon’s catch session as “firm catch” and said “he looked OK.”

“He felt fine,’’ Cooper said. ‘‘He threw the ball fine. That’s kind of where we’re at.’’

Cooper said he wasn’t sure what the schedule is for Rodon, and manager Rick Renteria said he “couldn’t say in detail” what it is. They both say he’s moving in the right direction, though.

So the word on Rodon remains vague, whether it’s from Renteria continuing to say he’s making progress or general manager Rick Hahn saying over the weekend that “it’s impossible to give a time frame on when he’ll be back.”

Hahn avoided talking about it Monday, probably because he had nothing new to share.

“We know it’s getting better,’’ Renteria said.

It seems possible Rodon, a competitive sort who undoubtedly feels like he’s letting down his teammates by being sidelined, believes he’s ready to ramp it up but is being held back as the Sox exercise caution in a rebuilding year.

“I mean, we’ve already taken a lot of caution,’’ Cooper said. “He’s important to us now and in the future. We wouldn’t rush him or anybody.’’

That Rodon opened spring training not throwing a baseball, to the point of avoiding short throws to first base in fielding drills, only adds to the mystery and concern surrounding the No. 3 overall pick in 2014, taken one pick ahead of Kyle Schwarber. Concerns that something was amiss — even though the Sox and Rodon said all along they were only preparing for the season on a slower track than all of the other pitchers — were alleviated when Rodon pitched so well in that spring-training game.

And then the setback, the DL and still no sign of a return in the near future in the last full week of April.

Meanwhile, with James Shields also on the DL, the Sox trudge forward with a rotation of Jose Quintana, Derek Holland, Dylan Covey, Mike Pelfrey and Miguel Gonzalez.

“Any athlete wants to [return] faster,’’ Renteria said. “We’ll let time take its course.

“If there’s a plus to the whole thing, we get to see some guys we have now, and we’ll allow him the time to get back on the field.’’

Follow me on Twitter @CST_soxvan.

Email: dvanschouwen@suntimes.com

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