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Examining Carlos Rodon's present and (near) future

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White Sox' first-round pick makes successful Triple-A debut, which is also figured a tune-up for an impending promotion

Buren Foster / Charlotte Knights

Carlos Rodon made his Triple-A debut with the Charlotte Knights on Tuesday, and it's a testament to his stuff that his line didn't look much different from his heady days at Winston-Salem.

  • Last start with Winston: 3.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K
  • First start with Charlotte: 3 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 3 K

His stuff matched both the recent scouting reports and our man-on-the-scene report -- his slider is devastating, his changeup isn't far away, and his fastball command lagged behind.

Rodon threw 55 pitches (35 for strikes), and I tracked the pitches the best I could, given some late camera cuts and the lack of a radar gun. The unofficial count looks something like 29 fastballs, 17 sliders and nine changeups.

His three strikeouts came on non-fastballs, including this beauty of a back-foot slider to the second batter of the game.

Rodon_k1_medium

Yowza. And he closed out the inning with a swing-and-miss changeup:

Rodon_k2_medium

Hitters didn't seem to pick up the change that well, as a couple more whiffs in the second inning show.

Rodon-change1_medium

Rodon-change2_medium

It's not like all his changeups were golden, but when he elevated a couple, the Gwinnett hitters were too far in front of it to make square contact. For a pitch that's considered a work in progress, I think everybody involved has to like the way it looks.

His fastball location was the only thing that kept him from dominating. He tended to miss arm-side, including two wide ball fours to the first two hitters of the third inning. Granted, a couple of out-of-zone changeups put him behind in the count, but it looked like the Braves started waiting for the offspeed stuff instead of hunting fastball (they were late when Rodon made them swing).

Talking to the media after the game, Rodon said he saw something similar from the mound.

"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."

Star-divide

While the Sox are shoving Rodon up the ladder, they are cautious with his workload. They had him on a limit of four innings or 60 pitches, and he ran up against the latter first. Combine the governor on his pitch count and the work remaining on two of his three pitches, and it seems like the White Sox would have credible reasons to hold him back and optimize his arrival date, both in terms of readiness and service time implications.

But the White Sox beat guys are framing his September promotion as an inevitability, and Rick Hahn has left the matter open-ended, going only so far to say there's no firm timetable. The Sox are obviously cognizant of service time, so what's the rush?

For one potential answer, let's take a look at Conor Gillaspie's history.

The White Sox were able to buy low on Gillaspie during spring training in 2013 because he ran out of options sooner than just about every other pick in the 2008 draft. As it so happened, the Giants called him up the September after drafting him, even though he was a 37th overall pick who hit just .269/.352/.344 across rookie and low-A ball, because they had to:

Conor Gillaspie is here because his callup was written into his contract. That enabled the Giants to get the compensatory-round pick an extra $65,000 or so in big-league salary without going over the recommended slot on his signing bonus, which was just less than $1 million.

The Giants only had seven plate appearances to give him that September, and the brash Gillaspie rubbed the clubhouse the wrong way when he told the media he deserved more (and "brash Gillaspie" now sounds like a case of mistaken identity, doesn't it?).

Though Gillaspie broke into the majors immediately, service time never became a consideration for him in a Giants uniform. He played a full season at High-A in 2009 (no callup), then Double-A in 2010 (no callup), and Triple-A in 2011, after which he finally received a second cup of coffee. But by the time 2012 started, he was clearly blocked and forced to play out the string at Fresno.

It would take a disastrous set of circumstances for a similar fate to befall Rodon, but his career might very well start with the same intentions.

The White Sox signed Rodon to a $6.582 million bonus, which put the Sox over their total slot allotment and into draft tax territory. More incredibly, the Sox used up all but $585 of said tax territory. I'm sure Boras wanted more -- he was gunning for first-overall slot money, after all -- but the Sox didn't need to subject themselves to that kind of collateral damage.

However, maybe Boras and the Sox agreed to work around that barrier by calling up Rodon in September, which would be worth another $70,000 or so for the prorated league minimum, among other perks. He would stand to benefit from 40-man roster status even if he started 2015 in Triple-A -- a higher minor-league base salary, protection under the major-league CBA, and a much clearer path to the 25-man roster.

Or I could be entirely wrong about this, but it makes more sense than the Sox failing to exercise any kind of patience. It would certainly fit Boras' m.o., as he used to press teams to sign his drafted clients to major-league contracts for the same reason. Since this CBA prohibits that practice, this kind of handshake deal might be the way to achieve the same end.

The best case scenario has the Sox not calling up Rodon in 2014, but the cost of doing business may eliminate that option. Assuming the Sox call up Rodon when rosters expand, we'll have to wait until the start of the 2015 season to really understand the front office's priorities. In the meantime, if Rodon is an inevitability, we'll just have to tolerate watching a really talented pitcher try to figure out major-league hitters. I guess that's kinda fun.