Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Carlos Rodon performs well, despite bout of wildness, in Charlotte Knights debut

Prior to his Knights debut on Tuesday, Carlos Rodon paused outside of BB&T BallPark just long enough to snap a few photographs.

He likes to grab a shot of each new stadium he plays in.

Two hours later, a sold-out crowd of 10,287 watched – and snapped its own photos – as the 6-foot-4-inch 21-year-old trotted to the pitcher’s mound to make his Class AAA debut in an eventual 10-5 Knights loss to Gwinnett.

Rodon held the Braves to one run on one hit in what was – without doubt – the most scrutinized, analyzed, and talked about three innings in the history of Charlotte’s newest Uptown attraction.

Rodon both walked and struck out three on 55 pitches, before being removed from the game five pitches short of his White Sox-mandated pitch count.

Moments after a first inning in which Rodon recorded two swinging strikeouts, .GIFs (computer talk for short videos played on a loop) of the left-hander’s slider running in on Elmer Reyes’ feet -- as the Braves’ shortstop waved at it helplessly – were making their rounds on the web.

“(Rodon) competed well and that’s the one thing you’re watching,” Knights manager Joel Skinner said. “It didn’t seem like anything looked uncomfortable to him at all. He just went about his business.”

Of the 28 sellouts at BB&T this season, none had come on a Tuesday prior to the arrival of Rodon, who has plenty of fans in the area, having led Holly Springs High to a North Carolina state championship before attending N.C. State.

Rodon led the Wolfpack to a College World Series before being drafted third overall by the White Sox this past June.

Since turning professional, Rodon has been fast-tracked, making two appearances with Rookie Arizona before joining High-A Winston Salem, where he made his way into four games (two starts).

Rodon then skipped Class AA all together to join the Knights, following a similar developmental path to that of 2010 first-round selection Chris Sale, who – like Rodon – appeared in four games in Winston-Salem before leapfrogging Class AA to join Charlotte.

Sale would go on to join the White Sox in September of that season.

“I’m just trying to get better and make my stuff better,” said Rodon -- who had a 1.86 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 9 2/3 innings with the Dash -- when asked about how aggressively Chicago has moved him through its system. “They challenge everyone in this organization. I’m not the only one.”

In his second inning of work, Rodon worked around a one-out walk to post a scoreless frame, before a bout of wildness in his final inning.

After two walks and a single loaded the bases with one out, Rodon managed the damage by inducing a sacrifice fly to right and an inning-ending pop to shortstop.  

“I felt good,” he said. “I struggled with the fastball command, but tried to make some adjustments. It was good to get my feet wet.

“Guys are more patient; they’re going to see what you have,” he continued. “Those first couple at-bats, they were taking pitches and trying to see the slider, see the changeup, and see the fastball and I noticed that.”

As Rodon walked off the mound following the third inning, 2,000 Jordan Danks bobbleheads, Tuesday’s Knights’ promotion, fittingly nodded their approval.

Having gone from pitching for the Wolfpack at the beginning of this season to one step away from the Major Leagues, its good that Rodon is taking the time to take pictures. When he looks back, it’s all going to be a blur.