Healthy Carlos Rodon set to take command to next level for White Sox

MINNEAPOLIS — In three minor-league rehab starts at Class AAA Charlotte and one for Class A Kannapolis, left-hander Carlos Rodon walked five in 17 innings — while striking out 28. In the four outings, he allowed three runs.

“It’s Triple-A, man,’’ Rodon said, downplaying the nice numbers he posted during his prep work before a return to the majors after having arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder in September.

But still. Throwing strikes is throwing strikes.

“I’m a strike-thrower now,’’ he said with a grin. “Strike-thrower. Trying to be.’’

Carlos Rodon pitches against the Boston Red Sox in Boston, Friday, Aug. 4, 2017. (AP)

Known more for his mid- to upper-90s mph fastball and put-away slider than for pouring strikes, Rodon served notice that he’s ready to return to the White Sox’ rotation this weekend by locating well during those minor-league outings. After making his last rehab start Sunday, he joined the team in Minneapolis for a four-game series and is expected to be activated Friday or Saturday in Boston to face the Red Sox, although the Sox aren’t saying when.

In any event, Rodon looks and feels ready. For what it’s worth, his 2.5 walks per nine innings in four rehab games look a bit cleaner than his 3.9 rate during his major-league career. Rodon, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 draft whose career has been slowed by injuries, chalks it up to nothing more than being healthy.

“When you’re hurt, it’s hard to be consistent and repeat stuff,’’ he said. “Not feeling anything, [the delivery is] pretty repeatable. I feel like I have more feeling with every pitch than I did before this.’’

How good is that?

“It’s a good feeling,’’ Rodon said. ‘‘It’s a small sample size, but it’s been awhile since I had this command — I’ve never really had this kind of command. Some glimpses of it in 2015 and ’16, that’s it.’’

Those are encouraging words for the Sox, who took an 18-38 record into their doubleheader Tuesday against the Twins. Rodon, 25, is under club control through 2021 and is viewed as a potential big piece of the Sox’ rebuild — if he can stay healthy.

He allowed 13 hits and had a 1.53 ERA in his four rehab starts, and his next start will be a real deal in Boston, where his last one at Fenway Park on Aug. 4 was dubbed “a spectacular outing against a very good club” at the time by manager Rick Renteria. Rodon struck out 11, walked none and gave up two runs and six hits in 7‰ innings in a game the Sox would lose in 11.

“One of my better ones,’’ Rodon said. “It was a good outing.’’

And emotional. Rodon said pitching deep enough into the game to hear “Sweet Caroline” gave him chills.

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The Sox will need an extra starter Friday or Saturday with Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito starting in the twin bill against the Twins. Because Rodon is not activated yet and a roster move would be made to make room, Renteria wasn’t saying when Rodon would pitch.

“What?” he said with a trace of a smile when the question was asked. “We’ll see. We still have to work through rosters and things of that nature. He obviously threw well in his last outing. So we’ll continue to work on the schedule, and once we have it all set up in terms of what we have to do, we’ll let you know. I expect to see him, though.’’

Rodon can’t wait to be seen. He looked around the visitors’ clubhouse at Target Field and said, “It feels good.”

“It’s different,’’ he said of the many new faces since last season. “Good group of guys. It’s good to be back.’’