CHICAGO – Even as Carlos Rodon continues to improve in the Chicago White Sox’s starting rotation, the club must now decide how far to take that progression this season.
With the White Sox’s extremely slim playoff chances growing more unlikely by the day, the team could end up shutting down their prized rookie in order to keep his innings count from getting too high.
The balancing act, though, is to give the left-hander enough innings this year as a base to build on while protecting him from going too far. If the White Sox have decided just how many innings are prudent for Rodon this season, manager Robin Ventura wasn’t revealing a number.
“There might be a spot in there where you can skip him and kind of get him into that better line of where you’d like to see him end up,” Ventura said. “I’d also like to see him keep going out there and getting the repetition of being out there every five days.”
After his most recent start Thursday against the Seattle Mariners, Rodon has totaled a manageable 112⅔ innings in the major leagues this season. That goes along with the 10 innings he threw at Triple-A Charlotte before he was called up to the big leagues in late April.
Helping to keep those innings totals to a reasonable level so far is the fact that the White Sox have skipped Rodon’s spot in the rotation a handful of times this year.
So how far do they want to go from here? The 150-inning mark might not be a bad barometer.
Rodon’s high in innings at North Carolina State was 132⅓ as a sophomore in 2013. In his senior season last year, he threw 98#8532; innings, and then 24⅔ more in the White Sox’s system after he was drafted with the No. 3 overall pick.
That means that his innings this year are essentially what they were last season. If Rodon averages six innings in the remainder of his starts, he would hit the 150-inning mark after a Sept. 23 outing against the Detroit Tigers, assuming the rotation stays intact as it is.
If the White Sox decide that is enough for their left-hander, Rodon could finish out the last 10 games of the season as an observer from the bench, as somebody like Erik Johnson could make two starts down the stretch.
It could be a win-win situation that is too tempting for the White Sox to deny.
While Rodon is still battling command issues, he has shown progress in that area. He does have seven starts this season where he has walked at least four batters, but only one of those outings has come in his five starts in August.
“He had command issues early that I think he was, I don’t know if it’s unsure of himself, but going out there and trying to locate,” Ventura said. “He had games where I think he just kind of threw that to the side and was getting after it. For him, throwing strikes and getting ahead early was gonna be a big thing for him.”
The learning process has not always been completely smooth sailing, but the White Sox have to be more than satisfied with the way the 22-year-old has been able to handle himself in the major leagues, one year after he was pitching to college hitters.
“Is he gonna give up another run in his career? I’m sure he probably will,” Ventura said. “We’re not gonna sit here and go over the highs and lows of every time he goes out there, and does give up a run or a homer, and think his career is over.
“He’s a young guy. He continues to improve, and I think all of this is putting it in the bank for the future and him having something to rely on and revert back to experiences that will make him better in the end.”