After Carlos Rodon struck out Marlon Byrd to end the fifth inning of his debut as a starter with the White Sox on Saturday night, the TV broadcast showed a brief exchange between the young lefty and pitching coach Don Cooper that appeared to be as simple as Cooper saying "how are you feeling?"
Rodon had thrown 91 pitches at that point, striking out seven (all swinging) and walking three. His only blemish on the scoreboard came when Joey Votto laced a two-run single to left, scoring Zack Cozart and Billy Hamilton, who were two of only four Reds to record base hits against him on the evening.
Rodon's answer was clearly to Cooper's liking as the White Sox had enough faith in their 22-year-old to send him back out for his sixth inning of work against the heart of Cincinnati's order.
That sixth inning of work wasn't perfect — Rodon allowed another single to Votto (who was out stretching at second base) and walked Brandon Phillips — but he finished the inning unscathed and demonstrated that his stuff was still sharp despite the hefty workload. He ended up throwing 108 pitches and his fastball was still hitting 98 mph in his final inning of work. He left with a 3-2 lead and the offense and bullpen helped him earn his first major league victory as the White Sox ultimately prevailed 8-2.
His final line: 6 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 8 K.
Not too shabby.
Rodon's command wasn't perfect (not that we should expect it to be in his first career start). He walked two batters in the first inning, but his slider was borderline unhittable — five of his eight strikeouts ended in sliders.
His repertoire was almost exclusively fastballs and sliders, too. Per MLB.com's pitch tracker, he threw only two changeups all night, an 85-mph pitch to Brandon Phillips on the second inning that went for a fly out to right, and an 87-mph pitch to Marlon Byrd in the third that was in the dirt for a ball. Other than those two pitches, it was all fastballs with impressive velocity and the slider that was as filthy as advertised.
The only question that remains after Saturday's impressive debut is when we'll see Rodon start again. This time around he was starting out of necessity after the suspensions of Chris Sale and Jeff Samardzija. But Hector Noesi — who hasn't pitched like someone who is long for the rotation — left Game 1 of Saturday's doubleheader after being hit with a line drive.
Regardless of whether or not Noesi misses any time, his performance this season coupled with Rodon's strong debut might mean we'll be seeing more Rodon starts sooner than later.