CHICAGO -- Chicago White Sox rookie Carlos Rodon will become a comet Saturday, shining his bright light from the U.S. Cellular Field mound for a brief moment only to disappear again until a return somewhere down the road.
No matter how well the left-hander does Saturday, when he takes on the Cincinnati Reds in Game 2 of a doubleheader, during in his first-ever major league start, Rodon is headed back to a relief role and nights sitting in the bullpen waiting for another turn.
“I expect him to have a good game, but the way it sits right now, he would still be back in the bullpen and getting us some innings there,” manager Robin Ventura.
The White Sox know what they have in Rodon, which is precisely why they are playing it so safe with the last year’s first-round draft pick. The best way to manage his innings is to use him sparingly, thus the relief role to start his big league career.
Rodon isn’t concerning himself with the details of the White Sox’s plan. He has shown that he understands how the major league pecking order works, preferring to do what he is told and, for the most part, speaking when spoken to.
Rodon was asked this week if he is viewing his start against the Reds as an audition for a rotation role.
“Honestly I have no idea,” he said. “It’s just looking forward to Saturday and looking forward to that first hitter.”
The White Sox have a ton on the line when it comes to Rodon, the third overall selection in the 2014 draft who figures to eventually be a rotation mainstay. Since the left-hander has never pitched more than the 132 1/3 innings he delivered in 2013 as a sophomore at North Carolina State (plus a handful more innings that year with USA Baseball), they are hesitant to build his innings total too quickly this season.
So far, Rodon’s totals have been modest. He had 10 innings at Triple-A Charlotte this season before getting his first call to the majors, and in three relief appearances with the White Sox he has another 6 1/3 innings.
He last pitched May 2 at Minnesota, throwing 63 pitches over three innings, so he remains stretched out enough to give the White Sox a max effort Saturday. The team figures to be happy with five solid innings, though, and isn’t expected to get greedy.
Whatever happens, it will be another step in Rodon’s development, with the ultimate goal of him being an everyday member of the rotation in years to come.
“I’m definitely comfortable after two weeks,” Rodon said. “I’m used to coming out here now with the schedule and everything. It’s just a bigger ballpark, different crowds, better players obviously. It’s real fun. It’s a dream, man. Not many people get to do this, and it’s been real fun so far.”
He struggled in his April 21 debut, allowing two inherited runners to score and giving up two of his own runs. He even walked three over 2 1/3 innings. But he has looked better in each of his next two outings after that.
“One big thing, after stepping up there the first time, looking down, and everything looked so big,” Rodon said. “The last couple of times, it was just taking a breath, realizing I’ve done this for a while. Obviously at this level it’s a little different, but it’s still baseball.”
And with his comfort level growing while his innings count remains low, it isn’t out of the question that Rodon could be starting later in the season when the White Sox know he no longer is in danger of sending his innings soaring.
Just don’t ask Ventura if that is the plan moving forward.
“Maybe,” Ventura said.
“I’m not gonna ...” and with that Ventura paused. “Maybe."