There's a reason the White Sox made pitcher Carlos Rodon their first-round pick in the 2014 draft: He's got a 95 mph heater, and more importantly, a big-league ready slider.
Rodon put his nasty breaking ball on display Wednesday night in a spring training start against the Kansas City Royals, and the results were spectacular. He worked four scoreless innings in Chicago's 6-0 win, recording nine of his 12 outs via the strikeout. He walked none and gave up four hits, all of them singles.
I just finished watching the outing on my DVR, and by my unofficial count, eight of the nine strikeouts were with the slider. That pitch breaks quick down-and-in to right-handed batters and down-and-away to lefties. The Kansas City hitters had no chance. They were swinging right over the top of it.
I know what you're thinking: Spring training numbers don't count. You're right, but consider this: The defending AL champs from Kansas City had eight of their nine regulars in the lineup to face Rodon. Catcher Salvador Perez was the only notable absence.
Here is the list of Rodon strikeout victims from Wednesday: Alcides Escobar, Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer, Alex Rios, Erik Kratz, Escobar again, Lorenzo Cain, Hosmer again, Kendrys Morales.
All familiar names except for Kratz, who was catching in place of Perez. This was not a "B" lineup by any stretch.
Rodon still needs to go back to Triple-A to start the season and work on his changeup, which both Omar Infante and Morales got base hits against in this outing, but I came away impressed that Rodon was able to do that kind of work against established players.
Samardzija to start opener; Sale throws bullpen session
The worst-kept secret in Sox camp is no longer a secret. Jeff Samardzija will be the starting pitcher on Opening Day, manager Robin Ventura announced Wednesday.
A lot of ink got spilled on this issue, because Ventura previously told the press he knew who his starter would be, but declined to reveal that information. Nonetheless, anyone with a calendar who knows pitchers work every five days, and who knows how to count, could have figured out Samardzija was going to get the nod in the opener. He's been on schedule to start April 6 for more than two weeks. What should have been obvious to all is finally official.
And, really, does it matter that much who starts on Opening Day? It's mostly symbolic, and everyone will have long forgotten about it when mid-August rolls around. I think most observers are aware that Chris Sale is clearly the Sox's best pitcher. He's just not going to be available to make that start this year.
And speaking of Sale (broken foot), he threw a short bullpen session Wednesday and remains on track to make his season debut April 12 against the Minnesota Twins.
How important is Sale to the Sox? Consider this quote from Kansas City TV broadcaster Rex Hudler, which I heard while watching Wednesday's game:
"Anytime you have a series against the White Sox, and you don't see (Sale), that's a break."
That about sums it up.