Carlos Rodon has impressed the White Sox in about every facet of his game since he signed with them one month ago.
Whether it’s his drive to learn new skills or honing others, the way he has pitched or simply his interactions with teammates, the 2014 first-round pick has done nothing to make the White Sox regret selecting him with the third overall pick in June.
The 21-year-old even dodges questions about his future gracefully, deferring to the front office and dishing out clichés at the same time.
Rodon’s future has been a hot topic since he was drafted. General manager Rick Hahn said Rodon has the potential to follow in the footsteps of Chris Sale’s 2010 ascent to the majors and manager Robin Ventura said the left-hander has a better than average chance of reaching the big leagues in 2014.
Rodon, who made his first start last Thursday and is expected to make another on Wednesday, has pitched mostly in relief since his debut last month and is willing to do it if helped him reach the majors this season. But that’s as far as he wants to discuss pitching for the White Sox this season.
“I could (pitch in relief) but that’s not up to me,” Rodon said. “That’s up to the bosses up there and I just listen to what they tell me. I’m here to develop my stuff and get better and just get ready for the big leagues.”
There is some doubt Rodon could reach the majors because he didn’t sign with the White Sox until July 11.
Rodon, who received a franchise-record $6.582 million signing bonus, hasn’t wasted much time dispelling the notion. Prior to his July 22 pro debut, the North Carolina State product hadn’t pitched since May 16.
But with each of his five outings, including a 39-pitch effort at Single-A Winston-Salem on Thursday, Rodon has only gotten better. After his second appearance at Winston-Salem on Aug. 3, White Sox director of player development Nick Capra said Rodon was pitching at an advanced level.
“He almost looks like he’s out of place where he’s pitching right now,” Capra said.
Rodon is pleased with how the events of the last two months have transpired. Though he was anxious to get his career started, Rodon trusted in the negotiation process between his advisor (now agent) Scott Boras and the White Sox and had no doubt he’d eventually sign. Instead of worrying, Rodon said he relaxed and began to throw about three weeks before he signed and later started to lift weights. The time between the end of his college season and signing has been beneficial from a mental and physical standpoint, Rodon said.
“It was good to have those two months off and get my arm back, not that I was hanging or anything,” Rodon said. “But I got a little time off and got some bullets back to throw and my body rested up. A little vacation, it was a good time.”
Rodon has been open-minded with everything the White Sox have asked of him and they’ve noticed.
They’ve commended his willingness to temporarily move to the bullpen, which Rodon said isn’t a “crazy” transition, but still requires an adjustment in how he prepares for each game.
He has also has received praise for his diligent work with the development staff to improve his changeup, knowing he will eventually need a third great pitch to accompany his elite slider and outstanding fastball.
“One thing that has stood out the most as we’ve gotten to know him better is his professionalism,” general manager Rick Hahn said recently. “We’ve all seen the stuff, but once you get to know the player and his makeup, and it’s confirmed what our scouts had in their report, it certainly gives you a good feeling and bodes very well for his future.”
Rodon said he feels lucky to have slipped to the White Sox, who said from the start the hurler was their No. 1 target. Unlike when he was drafted by Milwaukee three years earlier, Rodon feels like he’s more polished after pitching in the College World Series and for Team USA. He knows plenty about the team’s young core and is confident he can contribute relatively soon. He doesn’t want to commit to his goals for next season, though Hahn has said Rodon has the potential to be in the starting rotation in 2015.
Now five appearances into his career and only getting better with each outing, Rodon isn’t even thinking about how long he needs to be ready in case the White Sox call.
He’ll leave that to the front office.
“I really can’t tell you,” Rodon said. “That’s a question for them. But I’m starting to get that command back and that feel for everything. You get a little breakthrough every time you pitch and I hit one this last outing. I’m getting there.”