New pitching coach has new ideas for White Sox left-hander Carlos Rodon

Carlos Rodon said returning to the White Sox with a chance to earn a spot in the rotation was a ‘‘no-brainer.’’

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Even though other teams expressed interest in him, Carlos Rodon said coming back to the White Sox was “almost a no-brainer.”

Even though other teams expressed interest in him, Carlos Rodon said coming back to the White Sox was “almost a no-brainer.”

Ron Schwane/Getty Images

GLENDALE, Ariz. — There was a school of thought that being non-tendered by the White Sox might have been the best thing for Carlos Rodon. Sometimes, a change of scenery does a man good.

Or specifically, a left-handed pitcher drafted third overall in 2014 who, while fighting through injuries and major surgeries, hadn’t reached his high ceiling after six years in the -majors.

But Rodon, 28, returned on a one-year, $3 million deal with an opportunity to win a job in the Sox’ rotation. He’s back in familiar surroundings at the Sox’ spring-training complex, but things look different for him with a new, younger pitching coach in Ethan Katz and a new manager in Tony La Russa.

Even though other teams expressed interest, Rodon said coming back was “almost a no-brainer.”

“There was various interest, quite a few teams called,” Rodon said Sunday. “I had some options, but Chicago is kind of like home, and it would be hard to leave. As far as our new pitching coach, Ethan, he’s been great thus far. It is refreshing, and nothing against Don Cooper. Don Cooper was great, man. It was a pleasure to have him for as long as we had him. Truly a White Sox legend if you think about it, right? With all the arms that have come through here. But, yeah, a little different pace, a different feel, but it’s for the better.”

Katz, 37, hired in November after serving as a Giants assistant pitching coach in 2020, wasted no time breaking down Rodon’s delivery and got to work on alterations, particularly on Rodon’s lower half. La Russa said Rodon looks to be in good shape, and close observers in camp like seeing him driving with his backside and driving those thick legs toward the plate.

In Katz’s view, the quad-dominant delivery — using the glutes is always preferred, pitching coaches preach — and getting over-rotational had to change. Rodon threw across his body, and neither of those things lends itself to a healthy arm.

“He’d get very quad-dominant, get in his toe and then he gets very cross-fired,” Katz said, “and he had the issue of staying healthy, obviously. There was some stuff in the lower half we wanted to address, and the minute we signed him back, we’ve been on the phone, talking, going through that process. And once we got here, we’ve been able to work hands-on.

“He’s starting to understand how his lower half is supposed to move more efficiently. And it’s just going to take time. When you’ve done something for a long time, it’s hard to get out of that, but over time, we hope we can tap into things that he hasn’t been able to do.”

It might not click overnight. Katz called it “a big adjustment.’’

‘‘[But] I’m seeing some results,” Rodon said. “I have a path, just having a plan every day and something I work on, whether it’s mechanically or mentally. It’s been really good.”

Last season was mostly bad for Rodon, battling shoulder issues and making two starts and two relief appearances. He struggled to command pitches, allowing seven earned runs in 7⅔ innings, and he faced three batters against the Athletics in Game 3 of the wild-card series and retired only one. But his four-seam fastball touched 98 mph and averaged 96 in September and October, and his slider remained nasty, a combination that, for the Sox at $3 million, warranted another opportunity for their 2018 Opening Day starter who owns a career 29-33 record and 4.14 ERA.

The way it looks right now, there’s a good chance he slots in fifth behind Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel, Lance Lynn and Dylan Cease.

“I know it’s there; I know it’s in the arm,” Rodon said. “Now it’s time to go do it. I just want to get on the mound and face hitters and show that I can still pitch.”

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