Wolfpack’s Rodon spins another gem in Team USA finale

csmith@newsobserver.comJuly 24, 2013 

— Carlos Rodon was nearly perfect at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park – again.

The N.C. State sophomore has made nearly every mound his home this season, but none more than the one located in the heart of Durham.

On Tuesday night, the lefthander hurled 6 2/3 shutout innings with 11 strikeouts against Cuba to earn the win and complete the sweep for the USA Collegiate National Team 5-3.

“It was nice to be back here in a familiar ballpark,” Rodon said. “I’ve been here before. I love this park and I love playing here, especially playing in front of these fans.”

In his past three outings at Durham Bulls Athletic Park, the Holly Springs native has pitched 25 2/3 innings with a 1.40 ERA and 40 strikeouts – good enough for 14 strikeouts per nine innings.

When Rodon was finally relieved in the seventh inning, it was to rousing applause by nearly everyone in the stadium – including those clad in light blue and Cuba fans – accompanied by a “U-S-A” cheer.

“That stuff gives you chills,” Rodon said. “It’s nice to have the hometown crowd being pumped up for this start. I’m glad they were all here.”

The outing for Rodon was his fourth of the summer for the USA Collegiate National Team. Rodon’s numbers this summer were even more shocking than those in Durham alone.

Rodon finished with three wins, 21 strikeouts and a 0.00 ERA over 17 innings pitched. When asked if he remembers the last time he gave up a run, Rodon correctly answered with a grin, “College World Series? I think so, yeah.”

Going into the summer, Rodon was already widely considered the No. 1 draft pick in next year’s MLB draft and did nothing to change that in the eyes of USA coach Jim Schlossnagle.

“I had always heard about his warrior mentality and we saw that today for sure,” the TCU head coach said. “He’s as special as they come and he’s an awesome young man.”

Following each game, Schlossnagle handed the lineup card to a deserving player. After earning the win, Rodon was given his second lineup card of the summer – the first against Japan.

During the summer, assistant coach and Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco worked with Rodon on pitches he wanted to add to his repertoire.

Rodon showed off both a changeup and curveball to go along with his already devastating fastball and slider that had Schlossnagle thinking back to another player who pitched in Durham.

“(Rodon) and coach Bianco spent time on that this summer, really similar to (David) Price and I in the summer of 2006,” he said. “That’s the closest comparison because the fastball and slider are so firm. … (Price) didn’t have the overhand breaking ball that Carlos throws.

“(Tampa Bay Rays general manager) Andrew Friedman called me about Price … and I expect someone there at the top of the draft is going to call us about Carlos.”

Before he finished his final interview of the summer, the USA manager added one more note about Rodon, joking, “There are a lot of stakeholders in Carlos Rodon. And there should be.”

Smith: 919-829-4841; @RCorySmith

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