Many have said college is the best time of one’s life, but for Carlos Rodon and Brett Austin, the fun just keeps on rolling. Just when the NC State teammates thought their time as teammates were over, they were both selected by the Chicago White Sox last June in the first and fourth rounds, respectively.
While Carlos Rodon is the White Sox top prospect, Austin did not even make Baseball America’s top 30 White Sox prospects. But on a Wednesday evening in Surprise, Arizona, they were again battery mates, but this time in a big league Spring Training game. Rodon has been filling in for staff ace Chris Sale all spring, and Austin was a call up from minor league camp for the game to catch the dynamic lefty he has been catching for each of the past three seasons.
Austin is really a bat first catcher whose future behind the dish is a real question, but he has the athleticism to potentially hold down a corner outfield spot. After being drafted, Austin played 42 games, all at catcher, for Low-A Kannapolis. This was his first appearance in a Spring Training game with the big league club and he caught 4 innings while going 0 for 2 at the plate, grounding out in each of his plate appearances. Behind the dish, Austin showed why his future may not be behind the plate, as he let up an easy passed ball purely due to taking his eye off the ball and worrying about the runner on first, who easily advanced to second on the play.
Rodon was able to work his fastball from 93 up to 97 MPH, while his slider showed why it is already considered one of the best in the game. It had great depth to it, while varying in speed from 85 up to an almost unhittable 91 with a sharp cut to it. His change is currently lagging far behind the other pitches, working 82-84 but he is only using it a few times a game right now, focusing mostly on his fastball and breaking stuff.
Against a lineup that featured every expected Royals regular except Salvador Perez, Rodon went 4 scoreless innings while allowing just 4 hits, no walks and recording 9 of his 12 outs via the strikeout.
Pitch Fx will show that he throws both a cutter and slider, but in talking to him after his outing he said the two pitches are the same grip, the speed just varies a little as does the depth of the break. He showed the ability to vary his speeds with his fastball, and can clearly do so with his breaking ball as well.
The Rodon-Austin reunion was not the only reunion of sorts last night. Royals third base coach Mike Jirschele and his son, Justin Jirschele, who is in the White Sox system handled the pregame lineup card exhange.