White Sox

Carlos Rodon finding his groove in White Sox rotation

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Carlos Rodon finding his groove in White Sox rotation

Carlos Rodon continues to check off rookie benchmarks as he wades deeper into major league waters.

The 22-year-old left-hander threw a career high 116 pitches over six shutout innings as the White Sox beat Houston, 4-2, in front of 18,439 Tuesday night at U.S. Cellular Field. Rodon allowed four hits, issued two walks and struck out five in his first scoreless outing as a major league starter.

With those six shutout innings, Rodon’s season ERA dropped to 2.86. After a rocky, walk-filled introduction to the starting rotation, Rodon has issued five walks against 19 strikeouts in his last 18 1/3 innings, in which he’s allowed four runs (two earned) on 17 hits.

Rodon’s drop in walks and string of success has come after having his turn in the rotation skipped in late May, affording him an opportunity to hit the reset button and return to the mound with a better mindset.

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“Attacking the zone, man,” Rodon said of what he worked on during that nine-day hiatus. “First pitch strikes, let them hit it. Go at it early and make them swing the bat. That’s all you can do.”

Manager Robin Ventura speculated before Tuesday’s game Rodon’s recent improvement has been partially due to him settling into the routine of being a starter after moving from the bullpen to rotation in early May.

“I think part of it is when we put him in there of being able for him to have the ability to go out every five days and the repetition that goes with pitching has been better for him,” Ventura said before Tuesday’s game. “I think it’s more of a natural thing and the command stuff has gotten better.”

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The fourth inning on Tuesday brought around some trouble for Rodon, who loaded the bases on a single, hit batsman and walk with one out. But the No. 3 overall pick in 2014’s MLB Draft struck out Luis Valbuena and got Jake Marisnick to ground out to end the threat, though it took him 31 pitches to do so. 

Rodon retired nine of the final 10 batters he faced after the fourth, which allowed him to stay in the game through the sixth.

“He has a competitor mentality,” catcher Tyler Flowers said. “We’re not giving in, we’re executing pitches. If we miss, we’re missing in good spots, go get the next guy. To bounce back after that, he did a good job of trusting his stuff.

“He wasn’t overthinking when he missed or if he left something up, he did a good job of moving to the next pitch which is the common characteristic of the very good pitchers at this level.”

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As Rodon has settled into his newly-found groove, he’s grown a trust in his stuff Flowers said was key in helping him get out of a dangerous fourth inning. According to Brooks Baseball, Rodon only threw eight changeups in his first 22 1/3 innings in the majors, in which he had a 21/19 strikeout-to-walk ratio. In his last three starts and 18 1/3 innings, he’s thrown 22 changeups with that 19/5 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

While the changeup isn’t a go-to pitch just yet, he’s been able to work it in more by throwing his fastball and slider for strikes at a higher rate. His walks are down and his ERA is down as he's focused on getting ahead in the count and generating weak contact more than anything else.

But while the tangible details of his development are pointing in the right direction, his manager has observed the kind of mentality from Rodon that leads him to believe the young left-hander will continue to improve as the season wears on.

“He absorbs a lot,” Ventura said. “He has that bulldog mentality of just going out and gutting his way through it and just battling. I think that’s an impressive part of what we are learning about him, the way he goes about it and how much he cares and how much he puts on his own shoulders.
 
“… You hear a lot of things about people through draft stuff, just reports. But when you actually get to see this kid and be around him and see him on a daily basis and go out and do things like this, it’s pretty impressive what he’s capable of.”

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

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USA TODAY

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

PHOENIX, Ariz. — One of the White Sox prized prospects will be on the shelf for a little while.

Outfielder Micker Adolfo has a sprained UCL in his right elbow and a strained flexor tendon that could require surgery. He could avoid surgery, though he could be sidelined for at least six weeks.

Though he hasn’t received the same high rankings and media attention as fellow outfield prospects Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert, Adolfo is considered a part of the White Sox promising future. He’s said to have the best outfield arm in the White Sox system.

Adolfo had a breakout season in 2017, slashing .264/.331/.453 with 16 homers and 68 RBIs in 112 games with Class A Kannapolis.

Adolfo, along with Jimenez and Robert, has been generating buzz at White Sox camp in Glendale, with a crowd forming whenever the trio takes batting practice. Earlier this week, the three described their conversation dreaming about playing together in the same outfield for a contending White Sox team in the future.

As Cactus League play begins, how many spots are actually up for grabs on the White Sox roster?

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AP

As Cactus League play begins, how many spots are actually up for grabs on the White Sox roster?

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Some teams have it easy, with their 25-man rosters seemingly locked into place before spring training games even start.

The White Sox actually have a lot more locked-down spots than you might think for a rebuilding team, but this spring remains pretty important for a few guys.

The starting rotation figures to be set, with James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Miguel Gonzalez and Carson Fulmer the starting five. Carlos Rodon, of course, owns one of those spots once he returns from injury. But the date of that return remains a mystery.

From this observer’s viewpoint, eight of the everyday nine position players seem to be figured out, too: Welington Castillo behind the plate, Jose Abreu at first base, Yoan Moncada at second base, Tim Anderson at shortstop, Yolmer Sanchez at third base, Nicky Delmonico in left field, Avisail Garcia in right field and Matt Davidson as the designated hitter. More on the omission of a starting center fielder in a bit.

Omar Narvaez would be a logical pick to back up Castillo at catcher, and Tyler Saladino is really the lone reserve infielder with big league experience, not to mention he’s a versatile player that can play anywhere on the infield.

Leury Garcia also figures to be a lock for this 25-man roster. But will he be the everyday center fielder, as he was for a spell last season? He played 51 games in center in 2017 but battled injuries throughout the year. I think Leury Garcia will end up the starting center fielder when the season begins because of his bat. His .270/.316/.423 slash line isn’t going to make anyone do cartwheels, but it’s better than the offensive struggles of Adam Engel, who started 91 games in center in 2017 and slashed .166/.235/.282. Engel would still be a solid inclusion on the bench because of his superb defense, but to create that big a hole in the everyday lineup is tough.

How could that position-player group change? Keep your eyes in center field, where there are a couple other guys who could force their way into a roster spot this spring: Charlie Tilson and Ryan Cordell. Tilson has had a tremendous amount of trouble staying on the field since coming over to the White Sox in a 2016 deadline deal, but that hasn’t dampened the White Sox hopes for him. And Cordell got name-dropped by general manager Rick Hahn during SoxFest, when the GM said he’s received multiple calls about Cordell since acquiring him last summer. Cordell put up good numbers at the Triple-A level prior to a significant injury last year.

But the main battles figure to be in the bullpen. At times this winter, as the White Sox kept adding players to that relief corps mix, that the whole thing seemed wide open. But when you think about it, maybe there are only one or two open spots.

You’d have to think these guys are pretty safe bets to make the team: Juan Minaya, Gregory Infante, Nate Jones, Joakim Soria and Luis Avilan. Though Hector Santiago was just recently acquired on a minor league deal, he’s really the only long man of the group, and he could sub in if there’s an injury to a starting pitcher. That leaves two spots between the group of Aaron Bummer, Danny Farquhar, Jace Fry, Jose Ruiz and Thyago Vieira — not to mention guys signed to minor league deals like Xavier Cedeno, Jeanmar Gomez and Bruce Rondon.

Bummer had a 4.50 ERA in 30 big league games last year. Farquhar had a 4.40 ERA in 15 games. Vieira has gotten attention as a flame-thrower, but he’s got just one big league game under his belt, something that might or might not matter to the rebuilding White Sox. Guys like Gomez, who has 40 career saves including 37 just two years ago, and Rondon, who had multiple shots at the Detroit Tigers’ closing job in the past, could vault themselves into the mix as potential midseason trade candidates.

Then there's the question of which of those guys will be Rick Renteria's closer. Minaya had closing duties after most of the bullpen was traded away last summer. He picked up nine saves and posted a 4.11 ERA in his final 17 appearances of the campaign. Look to Soria, though, a veteran with plenty of closing experience from his days with the Kansas City Royals. If he's given the opportunity to close and succeeds, he could fetch an intriguing return package in a potential deadline deal.

But now it's game time in Arizona.

“The fun part of playing the game of baseball is playing the game of baseball," Renteria said earlier this week. "We prepare. I think they all enjoy what they’re doing in terms of their preparation. They take it seriously, they focus. But ultimately like everything that we do in life, I guess it’s a test. And the games are a test for us on a daily basis. And how we are able to evaluate them and take advantage of the opportunities that we have to see them in a real game situation is certainly helpful for us.”