White Sox

Carlos Rodon flashes ace potential in White Sox win over Angels

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Carlos Rodon flashes ace potential in White Sox win over Angels

Was this Carlos Rodon’s best outing since joining the White Sox?

“I think so,” Robin Ventura said.

The manager couldn’t help but answer that question in the affirmative after Rodon turned in a sensational effort in Tuesday night’s 3-0 White Sox win over the Angels at U.S. Cellular Field.

The rookie struck out 11 batters in seven shutout innings, the first time he did either in his brief major league career, and yielded just four hits. After giving up a combined 19 runs in three of his last four starts, Tuesday night was about as good a bounce back as he could’ve scripted.

[MORE WHITE SOX: In 'frustrating' season, Hahn doesn't want to write off White Sox yet]

Rodon got in a little trouble early, allowing the first two Angels hitters of the night to reach in front of baseball’s best player, Mike Trout. But Rodon struck out Trout, then struck out another All Star in Albert Pujols before getting Erick Aybar to fly out to end the threat. And it was pretty smooth sailing from there, as only three more players reached base against the rookie over the next six innings.

“That’s not a good position for anybody to be in, but he handled it great,” Ventura said. “He was able to bounce back. I thought composure and competitiveness and everything that’s he’s got, he had to put it in to that because it’s not a good spot to be in. He got out of that one and continued from there and really pounded the zone. I think command, he was getting ahead and getting guys swinging late. Really impressive stuff from Ro after the last couple haven’t been his best. But this is a great performance to bounce back and do this.”

"That's probably one of the best three-four hitters in the game right there, and that's a tough lineup for sure,” Rodon said of that first-inning jam. “I knew going in they were going to be patient, and (Shane) Victorino’s a vet, so good at-bat. Then (Kole) Calhoun hits that slider opposite way, went the other way with it, and then I just knew I had to pound the zone, go after (Trout).”

[MORE WHITE SOX: Adam LaRoche back to bench as season-long slump continues]

By night’s end, Rodon set a new career high in strikeouts and innings pitched and became the first White Sox rookie pitcher to put up multiple double-digit strikeout games since Jason Bere did it in 1993.

“It’s probably his best outing, and it’s a good one to build on for him after a couple of tough ones,” catcher Tyler Flowers said. “Get that confidence rolling again. He’s definitely a No. 1 type kind of guy.”

While Rodon was silencing the Angels, the White Sox offense took care of another All Star, former teammate Hector Santiago. Santiago was perfect the first time through the White Sox order, but after surrendering his first hit to Tyler Saladino, he hit Jose Abreu with a pitch and coughed up a two-run double to birthday boy Melky Cabrera.

An inning later, Trayce Thompson took his former minor league teammate deep for his first major league home run.

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Between Rodon’s gem, Thompson’s homer and great defense from Saladino at third base, it was a pretty great night for the rookies.

“Anytime you get it from young guys, there's some energy, there's some life to it,” Ventura said. “Again, it's special when a guy gets his first hit, his first win, first homer. Guys respond to that. They understand how special that is, and everybody's happy for them. But there's something added to it, especially when you win.”

Winning hasn’t been in as abundant a supply as the White Sox would’ve hoped this season, but Tuesday’s victory meant back-to-back wins for the South Siders, the first time that’s happened since the end of that seven-game winning streak on July 29.

General manager Rick Hahn refused to wave the white flag on the 2015 season Monday, and games like Monday’s and Tuesday’s — with their dominant pitching performances and solid offensive contributions, not to mention great defense — show you why there’s still that glimmer of hope.

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

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AP

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

GLENDALE, Ariz. — On a day when Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada took live batting practice for the first time this spring, off in the distance was a lanky White Sox prospect standing in the outfield grass.

But Alec Hansen was doing more than shagging flies. He was watching both hitters very closely.

“I was looking to see how much pop they had,” Hansen said of Abreu and Moncada. “I kind of look at that to see the difference in power between minor league ball and the major leagues. It’s nice to see it’s not a huge difference. That makes me feel a bit more comfortable.”

At 6-foot-8 — actually 6-foot-8-and-a-half, according to his spring training physical — Hansen is a big man with big plans for his baseball career. He might be quiet on the outside, but he has booming expectations for himself on the inside.

“I want to be the best,” Hansen said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago.

The best? The very best?

That’s what Hansen aspires to become, though later in our conversation, he did dial back a notch, settling for becoming “one of the best.”

Either is fine with manager Ricky Renteria, who is overseeing these uber-confident White Sox prospects and accepts their lofty expectations.

“I think their mindset is where it’s supposed to be,” Renteria said. “None of these kids are concerned or consumed with the possibility of failure. Much more they’re consuming themselves with the understanding that they might hit some stumbling blocks, but they’re going to have a way to avoid overcoming them and push forward and be the best that they can be.”

In his first full season in the White Sox organization, Hansen led the minor leagues with 191 strikeouts. He’s proud of that accomplishment but admitted something: He’s not that impressed because he didn’t do it where it really matters — in the major leagues.

When you watch Hansen pitch, it’s easy to see that the talent is there. His coaches and teammates rave about his ability. With his enormous size and power arm, he is loaded with strengths.  

Though there is one weakness that Hansen acknowledges he needs to work on.

“Sometimes I have a tendency to think too much and worry. I think worrying is the worst thing that I do just because I want to be perfect,” Hansen said. “I think everyone wants to be perfect, some more than others, and I worry about things getting in the way of achieving perfection.”

To Hansen, that doesn’t mean throwing a perfect game. He actually takes it one step further.

He wants to strikeout every single hitter he faces.

“I love striking people out,” Hansen said. “Not having to rely on anyone else and just getting the job done myself and knowing that the hitter can’t get a hit off me. That’s a great feeling. That they can’t put it in play. Like a line drive out. That’s terrible.”

At some point, Hansen will have to lower these impossible expectations for himself. This is an imperfect game. There’s no place for nine-inning, 27-strikeout performances. Players end up in the Hall of Fame because they learn how to succeed with failure.

In the meantime, Hansen is here in big league camp watching and learning anything and everything.

“I’m a good observer. I listen. I don’t really talk too much. I’m a pretty quiet guy. I like to sit back and observe and see how these guys go about their business. Just trying to be at their level, hopefully one day surpass them.”

Surpass?

“It’s kind of hard to surpass some of these guys. I mean, they’re at the tip-top, like the pinnacle of the sport,” Hansen said. “I guess you could say, to get on that level and then be one of the best in the league.”

He might be on his way.

White Sox free up spot on 40-man roster by outrighting Dylan Covey

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USA TODAY

White Sox free up spot on 40-man roster by outrighting Dylan Covey

The White Sox freed up a spot on their 40-man roster Sunday, outrighting pitcher Dylan Covey to Triple-A Charlotte.

Covey pitched in 18 games last season, making 12 starts for the South Siders. Things did not go well, with Covey turning in an 0-7 record and a 7.71 ERA in 70 innings.

While there was an outside chance that Covey could have provided at least some starting-pitching depth heading into the 2018 season, the team's recent additions of Miguel Gonzalez and Hector Santiago — not to mention Covey's results from last season — wiped out that idea.

At the moment, the White Sox starting rotation figures to look like this by Opening Day: James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Gonzalez and Carson Fulmer, with Santiago seeming like a good option to provide depth as the long man in the bullpen.