“It’s a testament to him and the work he’s put in,” Ethan Katz said.
Carlos Rodon’s attempt to join Johnny “No-Hit” Vander Meer will come Monday morning. That’s when he’s scheduled for his next start, against the Red Sox in Boston in a 10:10 a.m. start from Fenway Park.
Vander Meer is the only pitcher to throw consecutive no-hitters. He did it with the Reds in 1938 against the Boston Bees and Brooklyn Dodgers. And while the odds of Rodon pulling off that feat are astronomical, the expectations for a pitcher who had to win a job as the White Sox’ No. 5 starter in spring training are beginning to soar.
A no-hitter and near-perfect game will do that.
“He can be really good,” pitching coach Ethan Katz said Thursday after Rodon came within two outs of a perfect game while pitching the 20th no-hitter in Sox history against the Indians on Wednesday night. “He could be one of the best pitchers in the American League, or baseball, if he stays healthy.”
That was the expectation when Rodon was drafted third overall by the Sox in 2014. Injuries ruined his chances of meeting it. But throughout a healthy spring and in two starts without allowing a run, Rodon looks like a bargain for the $3 million he was signed for in the offseason.
He is the first pitcher in AL history to win his first two starts of a season while allowing two hits or fewer.
“It’s a testament to him and the work he’s put in,” said Katz, who tweaked Rodon’s delivery after he was hired during the offseason. “He’s had a lot of adversity. He battled. I’m really excited to see, as this year goes on, what he’s able to do because obviously last night was unbelievable. But he’s been throwing the ball really well since the first day of spring training.”
Rodon, known for a premium slider, did not strike out a batter his first time through the Indians’ lineup. He relied more on his changeup early, mixed in some sliders and commanded his fastball, which improved as the game wore on. Such diversification — he threw 57 four-seam fastballs, 28 sliders, 27 changeups and three curveballs.
He touched 98 mph in the ninth inning, reaching velocity numbers he hasn’t seen in years.
“His direction toward home plate is significantly better to where he has the ability to be in the strike zone consistently as well as being able to shape his secondary stuff in and out of the zone where he wants it,” Katz said.
“He made a lot of delivery changes, but I also think the one thing for him is he’s feeling good all the time.”
Rodon is the sixth pitcher in MLB history to throw a no-hitter with the only baserunner reaching on a hit by pitch (former Sox right-hander Joe Horlen is on that list). And he’s the first pitcher to throw a no-hitter within two years of having Tommy John surgery.
Rodon, who also had shoulder surgery, had his Tommy John procedure on May 15, 2019.
“There’s a good list of people that go into this,” Rodon said. “I’m blessed to be able to still play this game. I was non-tendered. A lot of people were out on me. I know this is just the second start of the year, and hopefully there’s more to come. It’s a special moment. A lot of people should be proud because they helped me do this.”