In the last few days, the city of Chicago has seen several debuts of top prospects who figure to be in the city for a long time to come. For the Chicago White Sox, their new man in the clubhouse is the top left-handed pitching prospect in the league, Carlos Rodon. After being called up on Monday, Rodon made his Major League debut Tuesday night out of the bullpen. While his first appearance was shaky, the question becomes whether the White Sox are setting up Rodon to struggle?
Ultimately, Rodon will become a starter in the Sox rotation and potentially create a three-headed monster with Chris Sale and Jeff Samardzija. While Samardzija’s long-term future is still to be determined, at the very least Sale and Rodon have the makings of being one of the best left-handed duos in recent memory. That is if all goes according to plan.
In the meantime, Rodon will come out of the bullpen for Chicago to get his feet wet. Since he has been somewhat stretched out while in the minors, he will be the de facto long reliever in the immediate scheme of things. But is that really the best plan of attack? Tuesday, for example, Rodon was called upon in the middle of an inning with two runners on. Is it really the best decision to bring in a hyped rookie for his first professional appearance with guys on base in the middle of an inning? Wouldn’t starting a youngster off with a fresh inning ease him into the mix better?
Rodon is a pitcher who has excellent control and location. On Tuesday, that was not quite the case with his line of 2.1 innings, three hits, three walks, and two runs allowed. In his 60 pitches thrown, just 29 were for strikes. Granted, like any young player, nerves in the first game are always present. The first appearance always has to be taken with a grain of salt as better days are certainly in store for the lefty. However, an argument could be raised that the White Sox are handling the situation all wrong.
In 2010, Sale made his debut with the Sox. He came strictly out of the bullpen in his first two years and even earned a few saves early on. Sale did not become a starter until his third year with the team. Even then, the White Sox appeared to be unsure if they wanted Sale to be a starter or reliever. That indecision may have led to minor arm troubles in the early going and really was the unpopular decision within the city as Sale was breaking into the show.
If Chicago is envisioning the same plan with Rodon, not only will it be unpopular within Chicago, but it would also be the wrong way to utilize Rodon. Bouncing between the bullpen and the routine of starting is not an easy thing. From a mental preparation standpoint, the two are very different. Look at Aroldis Chapman as someone that experimented with both, but was not as effective doing double duty. If the White Sox see Rodon as a starter, then he should start. Having their top prospect continually come into games with guys on base will prove to be ineffective and a mishandling of their young star arm.