NC State Wolfpack starter Carlos Rodon is expected to be one of the first few players taken in the upcoming amateur draft. However, his coaches certainly isn’t being careful with his precious arm. In a complete game loss to Georgia Tech on Friday, Rodon threw 132 pitches. Overall, Rodon allowed one run on six hits and two walks while striking out 15.
As Chris Crawford of MLB Draft Insider noted on Twitter, Rodon has tossed a total of 379 pitches over his last three starts, an average of 126 pitches per start. It’s one thing for a veteran Major League pitcher to average 126 pitches over three starts, but it’s very concerning that the Wolfpack have been riding Rodon’s arm so heavily. As his age implies, the 21-year-old’s arm is still developing and still getting used to a strenuous workload.
ESPN’s Keith Law wrote a column on April 13 raising concern after NC State had Rodon throw 134 pitches. Law criticized Rodon’s coaching staff for making him throw so many pitches:
This was a clear example of a coaching staff putting their own interests over those of a pitcher, a perfect example of moral hazard at work in amateur baseball, one that calls for regulation by the NCAA.
The plight of college athletes has gained some publicity lately with Northwestern football’s quest to unionize and University of Connecticut basketball player Shabazz Napier telling the media that some nights he went to bed “starving”. It’s easy to see the abuse of top-tier pitchers and it’s even easier to see why it happens.
NC State Wolfpack baseball head coach Elliott Avent and associate head coach Tom Holliday don’t get more money or more job security by protecting Rodon. Taking him out of the game after 90 pitches means the team would need to rely on inferior pitchers, making them more likely to lose games. And when the team loses more games, that reflects poorly on the coaching staff. Rodon won’t be giving Avent ten percent of his signing bonus, so what is Avent’s motivation to do anything other than ride Rodon’s arm into the ground, vying for wins?
Unfortunately, Rodon is in a sticky situation. He can’t say no to his manager, as insubordination will stick with him throughout his professional career and it will make him an easy target for controversy. But he also shouldn’t have to put up with being forced to throw nearly 130 pitches every time he pitches. NC State’s season ends on May 17, so Rodon only has another handful of starts to make before he can look forward to starting his professional baseball career. Let’s hope that the miles put on his arm only makes him stronger, and doesn’t make him any more likely to turn into the next Mark Prior.