White Sox

Carlos Rodon finds groove in win over Orioles

Carlos Rodon finds groove in win over Orioles

Where did Saturday night’s effort rank among this year’s outings for Carlos Rodon?

“Better. A lot better. What we’re looking for.”

That might be putting it mildly, as Rodon was terrific in the second game of a three-game weekend set with the Baltimore Orioles, holding the first-place team to just a pair of runs — only one earned — in his six innings of work.

Rodon didn’t get a decision, but it was his shutdown of the Baltimore bats that allowed his teammates to score a 4-2 win with a pair of runs in their final two trips to the plate.

Rodon wasn’t handed an easy start, as the game’s first two batters reached base when White Sox fielders had difficulties catching the ball, putting runners at first and third with nobody out in the first. But right then, Rodon showed he was a different pitcher from the one who allowed five runs in his first start back from a DL stint.

Rodon struck out the next three hitters he faced to end the inning and sat the next 10 down in order.

“It was very impressive for him to go out there,” manager Robin Ventura said. “We didn’t help him very much there in the first, but he reared back, had some velocity to it. His slider was great, it had a lot of break to it. This is probably one of his better ones with being able to go deep into the game and keep a very good lineup off balance.”

“Tough situation,” Rodon said, “had to get the guys out of it, try to get out of the inning, get the bats going.”

The White Sox bats did get going, if only just a little, spotting Rodon a two-run lead thanks to Melky Cabrera’s RBI double in the first and Tyler Saladino’s solo homer in the third.

But after those 10 straight outs, Rodon ran into a little trouble in the fourth, putting two runners on ahead of J.J. Hardy’s smash double to right-center field. Luckily for the White Sox, the ball hopped over the fence, the ground-rule double preventing one of the runners from scoring. Rodon retired the next batter and escaped with minimal damage.

The same was true of the sixth, when after Rodon loaded the bases with just one out, he coaxed a sacrifice fly off the bat of Hardy and struck out Nolan Reimold to end another threat with just one run of damage.

That one run tied the game, and Rodon exited after six unable to get a win. But his work in keeping the Orioles at bay was impressive.

“You see those guys step in the box. One through nine, any of those guys can hurt you,” Rodon said. “That was the mindset: ‘Can’t just leave it over the plate here, man, they’ll hit you out. Doesn’t matter who it is.’ So the whole time I had to go full bore at them, especially when it’s a close game like that.”

The White Sox rewarded their starting pitcher with a team win later in the game, scoring a go-ahead run on Omar Narvaez’s bloop base hit down the left-field line — which was initially ruled foul before video review overturned the call — and adding an insurance run on Adam Eaton’s solo homer in the eighth.

At night’s end, Rodon didn’t get a win, but his team did, mostly thanks to him. Rodon allowed two runs, just one earned run, on five hits and two walks, striking out seven in one of his best starts of the season. It was just the third time he allowed fewer than two earned runs in a start.

And he showed a little emotion, too, getting visibly pumped after he overpowered the Orioles in that first inning.

“He has it, he always has it,” Ventura said of that emotion. “Sometimes it’s directed at a water cooler, but he has it. He has great stuff. He has the fire and everything that’s in there. You’re just hoping that that gets directed toward home plate and he can throw strikes like that. But velocity-wise, he was up there tonight. He had some adrenaline going.”

The White Sox envisioned starts like this one when they made Rodon the No. 3 pick in the 2014 draft, and the left-hander is still considered one of the biggest pieces to the puzzle when it comes to the franchise’s future.

But Rodon doesn’t think about that when he’s on the mound.

“I just try to keep my mind of it, those kind of expectations,” Rodon said. “Just go out there and compete and play baseball like I was a little kid.”

Saturday night, that little kid was pretty darned good.

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.”