Hard work pays off for Rodon in spring debut

Hard work pays off for Rodon in spring debut

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The first 2017 Cactus League appearance/start for Carlos Rodon during an 11-2 White Sox victory over the Angels on Sunday couldn't have gone much better.

Here's a small example.

In the first inning, Rodon struck out reigning American League Most Valuable Player Mike Trout with what was supposed to be a back-foot slider.

Rodon K's Trout

"I threw it down the middle by accident," said Rodon with a sheepish grin. "It worked."

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Pretty much everything worked for Rodon over four scoreless innings, as he yielded just one hit, walked one and struck out five. Rodon threw 38 of his 65 pitches for strikes and then threw another 10 in the bullpen.

Until Sunday, Rodon's Arizona workload had been limited to bullpens, batting practice sessions and simulated games. The 24-year-old grew a bit antsy as the White Sox gradually brought him along to maximize his regular-season innings, a similar plan helping Chris Sale last season.

But the wait and work paid off on Sunday, when Rodon threw all of his pitches but was focused on his fastball/slider.

Rodon's efficient outing

"It was good to be out there and compete with my teammates again. That was fun," Rodon said. "I've been sitting here for a while watching everybody else do something. I finally got to get out there and compete. So it was fun."

Next up for Rodon is a start Friday at the A's. If the White Sox keep him on a regular starter's schedule, Rodon would pitch the Cactus League finale at home on March 29 against the Padres.

Jose Quintana is expected to be the White Sox Opening Day starter against the Tigers on April 3, but manager Rick Renteria has yet to announce the rotation alignment. Rodon figures to pitch in the fifth spot during the first time through, but he's not thinking that far ahead.

Quintana on his great start

 "Just a plan in the making right now," Rodon said. "We are looking forward to the next Spring Training start."

"We want him to become more efficient, trust his stuff a bit more," said Renteria of the goals for Rodon, who is entering his third season, the second full season as a starter. "His ball has explosive life that moves on both sides of the plate. We want him to attack the strike zone, let it do its stuff and maybe we can use him deeper in the ballgame. He's starting to show signs of who he is."

Angels' hitters worked five three-ball counts against Rodon. But the only walk he issued came to Trout leading off the fourth. One of the best at-bats took place in the first when Albert Pujols fouled off three 1-2 pitches before cueing a grounder into the vacated area between first and second for a base hit.

As Rodon and Pujols ran toward first, the two exchanged a few words in jest.

"Yeah, it was a sinker in," Rodon said. "I told him to save his hits and he thought so too.

"[I want to] build from that. Just try to build that pitch count up and then try to get up and down five or six times next time and then just more command, better changeups."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.