When Carlos Rodon was non-tendered by the Chicago White Sox this offseason he was angry. He even contemplated declining the White Sox one-year contract offer. Ultimately, he could not stay away from the only organization he has ever known.
The former first-round draft pick had failed to live up to the lofty expectations placed upon him. After battling with years of injury he enters the 2021 season the healthiest he has been since 2018.
He also entered his first start against the Seattle Mariners with improved mechanics. After working with pitching coach Ethan Katz, he has gotten his lower half more engaged. The changes paid off in spring training when he won the fifth starter spot over Reynaldo Lopez. It seems like they have carried over into the regular season as well.
The Chicago White Sox needed that type of start from Carlos Rodon on Monday.
In Rodon’s 2021 season debut he showed flashes of brilliance. He got the Mariners to swing and miss at 19 of his 95 pitches. He was able to overcome three walks and two hit batters in order to keep the Mariners offense at bay. In five innings of work, he did not allow a run. He only surrendered two hits and struck out nine. If not for these free passes he may have been able to go deeper into the game. He commanded the inside portion of the plate and had the Mariners hitters baffled throughout the night.
Rodon kept his composure in the first inning after allowing a fluke leadoff double to Mitch Haniger. He struck out three of the next four hitters he faced to escape the jam unscathed. He threw his fastball with conviction throughout the night. He ended up throwing his four-seam fastball 58 times but was able to mix in a steady diet of sliders to keep hitters off balance. He had a 75 percent whiff rate on his slider.
That was all the White Sox offense needed as the tallied six runs en route to a 6-0 White Sox victory. The White Sox bullpen did a great job locking down the shutout. Micheal Kopech pitched two innings and racked up five strikeouts of his own. It was the first time in White Sox history that multiple pitchers struck out five or more hitters without allowing a run in a single game. With the win, Rodon also became the first White Sox starter to record a win in the young season.
Five innings of scoreless baseball are more than enough from your fifth starter. Rodon has the arm talent to be an elite pitcher in this league. With his new role on the White Sox he does not have the same pressure that he has in years past. A productive season from Rodon this season could make the White Sox rotation lethal for the rest of the year. He is off to a great start.