Healthy Rodon rises to top of White Sox's rotation

Pitchers taken with the No. 3 overall pick in the draft are expected to eventually emerge as No. 1 starters.

It's looking like Carlos Rodon's time has finally arrived.

The White Sox added the left-hander on the first round of the 2014 draft with the third pick. Armed with a big fastball and wipeout slider, Rodon was on the Sox's 25-man roster the following year.

Beginning his career out of the bullpen, the former North Carolina State all-American quickly moved into the White Sox's rotation and looked to be on the fast track to stardom.

A shoulder injury wound up slowing Rodon to a complete stop.

Rodon pitched with discomfort in 2017 but wound up having arthroscopic shoulder surgery in September.

He returned to the White Sox's starting five in June of last season and was 6-8 with a 4.18 ERA in 20 starts.

On the bright side, Rodon reeled off 9 straight quality starts from July 5-Aug. 27, the longest streak by a Sox pitcher since at least 1908.

On the dark side, Rodon ran out of gas in September and was 0-5 with a 9.22 ERA in his final 6 starts.

"I'm never going to blame it on being tired or any of that stuff," Rodon said earlier this spring. "I felt pretty strong. I just got my (butt) whooped. That's pretty much it."

Never one to make excuses, Rodon did admit it was nice to report to spring training this year 100 percent healthy.

Manager Rick Renteria quickly noticed the difference.

"He's looking good," Renteria said. "He's staying nice and loose. We're really happy. He's coming into the season healthy. We can see the difference in his arm action and the fluidity of it. We hope to continue to see that."

While an announcement is not expected until next week, Rodon is expected to get the ball on March 28 and make his first Opening Day start at Kansas City.

"It's something you have to earn," Rodon said. "To my standards, I haven't earned that yet. It's something I'll have to prove in spring training."

In his first 2 Cactus League outings, gave up 3 runs in 7 innings, allowing 4 hits and 2 walks to go with 5 strikeouts.

Rodon might eventually be looking up at Michael Kopech and Dylan Cease in the Sox's rotation, but everything is in place for a breakout season.

"You can tell that the psychological burden of being hurt or recovering is gone," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. "I think he's ready to take that next step in his career now. He's in a really good spot to take off on some of the success he's been able to piece together while healthy the last couple of years."

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