Holly Springs (N.C.) High lefthander Carlos Rodon took the mound March 24 in a home game against Green Hope High and about 30 scouts—including several east coast crosscheckers—filled the small set of bleachers behind home plate.
It was a chilly evening at about 57 degrees, but the 10 mph wind gusts made it seem even colder. The weather may have affected Rodon, as he wasn't his best last night.
Rodon entered the season as Baseball America's No. 66 prospect, thanks to his athletic, 6-foot-2, 210-pound frame and the fact that he touched 93 mph this summer.
In last night's game, Rodon started off the first inning with ease, needing only 10 pitches to retire the first three batters with two strikeouts and a ground out to second base.
That inning, his fastball was 87-88 mph and he touched 90 once. But, as the game went on, Rodon's fastball lost it's zip. By the third inning, he was sitting 83-85 mph.
"I just came out and tried to compete as much as I can and tried to get my team the win," Rodon said. "I did the best I could, but I got a little tight in my lower back. I was having problems with it earlier in the season and now it just started up again. I think I tweaked it a little, so I couldn't really rear back and throw as hard as I could."
Rodon said his back began to tighten up on him almost immediately—around his third pitch in the game. Between innings, he would try to stretch out his back in the dugout, but the cold weather didn't allow him to get completely loose.
Despite batting through the back tightness and diminished stuff, Rodon pitched well. The North Carolina State commit allowed just two hits over five scoreless innings of work. Neither hit was squared up—there was a bloop single to left in the second inning and a seeing-eye single through the six hole. Those were the only balls that left the infield. He walked one batter and struck out eight.
That makes sense, since Rodon said most of his fastballs were two-seam fastballs and he was working on spotting them to the outside half of the plate. He stayed on top of the ball well, keeping it low in the strike zone and his fastball had a little bit of tailing action to it.
He also mixed in a 75-76 mph curveball and a 76-78 mph slider. Though they were thrown with similar velocity, the pitches showed distinct differences in break, with the slider looking like the better of the two offerings at this point.
"They were sitting fastball, so I just had to bring in some other stuff," Rodon said. "I worked in the curveball and the slider a little bit and that got them off balance."
Even with the tightness in his back, Rodon's delivery still looked easy and athletic. He also bats cleanup for his team and helped himself out by driving in the team's first two runs.
Rodon didn't throw any changeups last night, but it's a pitch he's working to improve and has mixed in to his repertoire at other points this season.
"The changeup I worked on a lot this offseason," Rodon said. "I didn't really throw any this game, but the games before it's been getting hitters way out front and getting a lot of ground balls."
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