White Sox seeing rapid maturation from Carlos Rodon

CHICAGO -- The training wheels are off, and Chicago White Sox rookie Carlos Rodon is now riding a straight line through American League opponents.

The latest was an easy 7-4 dispatch of the Cleveland Indians, as the left-hander struck out eight over seven innings and gave up a lone run on five hits.

"It's real fun. Winning is fun," Rodon said. "That's the point of this game: enjoying it and just trying to get better. There are things I can get better at. Everyone has something to get better at."

It was a bumpy ride in the early going this year, but the talent of the 22-year-old left-hander was always evident, and he is now delivering on his promise after only a few months. As crazy as it sounds, there is plenty of room for improvement.

Rodon has a tendency to quietly dominate at times, sometimes going deep into counts before putting his man away. That tends to limit his outings, with his first seven-inning start not coming until early August.

If he can refine his craft even further, the projections of what Rodon could be one day have the White Sox excited.

"It's great that he's in good company as far as the veterans here with [Chris] Sale being a lefty, kind of work with him, and all those older guys, [John] Danks, [Jeff] Samardzija," said catcher Rob Brantly, who got his first look at Rodon from behind the plate in a regular-season game. "He's got a bright future."

Walks have been Rodon's biggest issue as he has come of age against major league offenses. It is clear now that the White Sox took a chance on Rodon a bit early in the process, but teaching the kid on the fly was better than the other options at their disposal.

There was never a concern from the White Sox that Rodon's psyche would be damaged by potential early struggles. He proved as much when he got through some awkward early starts to show the kind of pitching the White Sox expected when they made the NC State product the third overall pick in last year's draft.

Rodon's manager, Robin Ventura, knows a little about struggling early in a big league career, only to deliver on big-time promise. Ventura had his well-documented 0-for-41 stretch in his rookie season, not to mention 25 errors, but he settled into his own to not only become an offensive force but also win six Gold Glove Awards.

"He took the not-pitching-well part tough, and I think he also was able to put it behind him and come back," Ventura said of Rodon. "I think deep down, it's something he just has. That's something he can hold onto and know that he can overcome things. When you have that, there's something you have that nobody can take away from you."

Now Rodon is working on gathering enough innings to build a base moving forward. His seven innings Tuesday gave him 135 2/3 this season, when added to the 10 he pitched at Triple-A Charlotte.

He has already passed his high innings mark of 132 1/3, set in 2013 in his sophomore season at NC State. Another handful of innings with USA Baseball later that summer put Rodon at the 150-inning mark for the year.

"It is nice to do that much in [the] year, and pretty soon you'll be looking at 200 innings, and I'll be able to do that for them," said Rodon, who could have as many as four more starts down the stretch, which figures to push him at least to the 150-mark.

"I feel strong for the first time time playing 162 games and playing for this long," Rodon said. "It's actually real fun. I'm enjoying it. It is a grind, but I enjoy every minute of it, coming into this clubhouse and hanging out with these guys and play baseball."

Although Sale and Jeff Samardzija were supposed to be the White Sox's 1-2 punch this season, it now looks like the dynamic duo at the top of the rotation will be Sale and Rodon moving forward. It is a left-handed force to be reckoned with.

"You like to see the improvement, where he's come, where he started with us, where he's at now, continuing to get better, command-wise," Ventura said. "I think just the experience of his rookie year has been a good one of him to be able to get on this run.

"He's had a couple of those he'd have liked to have done better, but he always seems to come back and have a little more, and teams that have seen him for the second time, I think that's the impressive thing. He's still able to get at it. Tonight it was just a nice performance. Any time he got in trouble, he seemed to find an extra gear and throw strikes and throw tough pitches."