He walked six guys in five innings, struck out only two, and threw only 41 of his 94 pitches for strikes. The Sox lost, 12-3, to the New York Yankees on Wednesday in a game that was every bit as ugly as the final score indicates.
That said, we can take some positives out of this Rodon performance -- his first in the big leagues since last September -- in the sense that he looked like a healthy pitcher. Rodon missed the first three months of the season with bursitis in his throwing shoulder. Steve Stone always says velocity comes from the shoulder, so you can conclude that a pitcher with an injured shoulder will lack velocity on his pitches.
Rodon did not lack velocity on his fastball Wednesday night. In fact, he uncorked a couple all the way back to the screen in the first inning, which was an indication that perhaps he felt too strong in this outing. His four-seam fastball averaged 94.9 mph according to BrooksBaseball.Net and touched 97 mph. His two-seamer averaged 94.4 mph and touched 95. That's about where Rodon should be.
The problem was, he couldn't command anything. I can't recall a single time where he got a called strike on his slider in the five innings he was out there. He was essentially a one-pitch pitcher, and he had no control of that one pitch -- his fastball.
As fans, we'll have to show a little patience here. Rodon is still basically in spring training mode, and for a pitcher who has missed significant time, the feel for the breaking ball is usually the last thing that returns. Once Rodon regains the feel for his slider, and can grab a strike with it, he can win some games for the Sox -- as long as he's healthy and throwing 94 to 97 on the fastball. He's never been a precise command guy, but he doesn't have to be with the velocity and movement he has on his pitches. He does, however, need to throw more strikes.
Really, given that ball-to-strike ratio, it's borderline miraculous that Rodon made it through five innings allowing only three unearned runs. When he left the game, the Sox were trailing, 3-2. He took the loss, but he wasn't the one responsible for allowing the score to get out of hand. Reliever Jake Petricka coughed up five runs in the sixth inning. Michael Ynoa gave up four more in the ninth while only recording one out.
Poor pitching by middle relievers made the score ugly, more than anything Rodon did. The main thing I'm looking for with Rodon right now? Does he come out of this healthy, make his next start five days from now and look sharper than he did Wednesday? If so, I'm happy.
The Sox could use another starting pitcher they can rely on, with Miguel Gonzalez on the DL, James Shields looking washed-up and Mike Pelfrey being Mike Pelfrey.