Carlos Rodon felt a bit out of place Friday as SoxFest opened at the Hilton Chicago.

"Everyone is so young," he said. "A bunch of young guys."

Just over a month removed from his 25th birthday, Rodon is pretty young himself.

But with 63 starts for the Chicago White Sox under his belt, the left-hander qualifies as a seasoned veteran on a team in a full-blown rebuild.

One of the big questions facing the Sox is this -- when is Rodon going to be able to make his next start?

In late September, Rodon had arthroscopic surgery to repair "significant bursitis" in his shoulder. He was given a recovery time of 6-8 months.

On Thursday, Rodon had a follow-up appointment with Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles and was cleared to start a throwing program next week.

"Long day yesterday," Rodon said Friday. "Phoenix to L.A., L.A. to Chicago. It was good. Worth it. Everything is going well. That's why I'm excited. I wish I could say when I'm going to be back or I'm going to be back sooner or I'm ready to go. Just starting to throw and now we will really see what happens."

Ideally, Rodon is ready to go at some point in April. If not, June is fine with the White Sox.

"We're going through this process as cautiously as we need to be," general manager Rick Hahn said. "We've got enough depth in the rotation that we can take whatever time Carlos needs to be right. If he winds up being ready at the early part of that window, fantastic. If it takes the full eight months, that's fine, too.

"This is about the long term. This isn't about getting Carlos back for an extra two, three starts. This is about putting him in the best position for the next four years."

Safety first:

With more and more fans in lower seating areas being seriously injured by foul balls, many major-league teams are installing protective netting.

The White Sox are following suit.

Before the April 5 home opener against the Detroit Tigers, netting will be installed and run to the end of each dugout.

"It's a safety issue for fans, obviously," said Scott Reifert, the Sox's vice president of communications. "Everybody in baseball is heading in that direction. It's just how do you install it and keep the fan experience? Major-league baseball is looking at different colors of netting."

Strong bonds:

A number of prospects are at SoxFest, including Eloy Jimenez, Michael Kopech, Blake Rutherford, Dylan Cease, Alec Hansen, Zack Collins and Jake Burger.

Kopech, Cease and Hansen were among the pitchers throwing for coach Don Cooper Friday morning at UIC, and Jimenez, Rutherford, Collins and Burger were at a hitting camp in Glendale, Ariz., last week.

"This is a tight group," general manager Rick Hahn said. "We've got kids out of (Class) A ball here that were invited in this weekend and they are bonded as a unit. You've heard some pretty bold statements from some of these guys already in the first few days.

"They want to be part of what we're building here. They see where this is going and they want to show they're part of it. That level of enthusiasm is contagious."