White Sox

Carlos Rodon paces White Sox past Indians

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Carlos Rodon paces White Sox past Indians

CLEVELAND — He probably won’t win the American League rookie of the year but Carlos Rodon’s future is as bright as any of the frontrunners.

The White Sox pitcher continues to excel late in his rookie campaign as he posted 7 2/3 more dominant innings on Saturday night. Rodon paced his team to its best game of the week as the White Sox survived another ninth-inning scare and topped the Cleveland Indians 4-3 at Progressive Field. David Robertson earned his 30th save but not until after he yielded a two-run homer in the ninth.

Rodon won consecutive starts for the first time in his career and posted his fourth win in his last six decisions to improve to 8-6 overall. While his 2015 resume isn’t as impressive as those of Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor, Minnesota’s Miguel Sano or Houston’s Carlos Correa, what he’s done recently is just as remarkable.

[MORE: Frustrated Robertson wants White Sox to know he's 'worth it']

“Those guys have some impressive numbers going with them, but there’s a longevity that comes with the kind of stuff Carlos has,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “That’s what he really has to hang his hat on, being able to go through a lineup, facing teams back to back. What he has and what he’s capable of in the future, if he does or doesn’t win rookie of the year, doesn’t mean anything about what’s going to happen next year.”

When he arrived in Cleveland on Thursday, Rodon was dressed as a naughty nurse as part of the team’s rookie costume tradition.

On Saturday, he was just nasty.

Twice in the game’s first four innings, Rodon found himself with a runner on third base. The scenario in the fourth also included a runner on second and no outs.

Only one of those three scored.

[RELATED: David Robertson breathes sigh of relief after pickoff ends contest]

Working efficiently, Rodon got out of each jam with limited damage.

With a man on third and one out in the opening frame, Rodon got Michael Brantley to hit a grounder right at Alexei Ramirez, who was playing in, to prevent a run from scoring. He ended the first with a strikeout of Carlos Santana to strand runners on the corners.

Ryan Raburn opened the fourth with a single and advanced to third on Santana’s double. But Rodon only allowed a run and kept the game tied at 1 as he recorded three straight outs, including a weak grounder to first and an infield pop out.

“Just bear down,” Rodon said. “I just have to be aggressive when I go at them. They’re going to be aggressive. I just try to make them swing, make poor contact or strike the guy out.”

From there, Rodon kicked into a higher gear, retiring 14 of 15 batters before allowing a two-out single in the eighth inning. He needed only 102 pitches (64 strikes) as he allowed six hits, walked one and struck out four.

“The whole time he was in control, command-wise he was locating great,” Ventura said. “It’s impressive what he’s done.”

[NBC SHOP: Buy a Carlos Rodon jersey]

Even more so when you consider Rodon hadn’t pitched since Sept. 8 aside from a bullpen session earlier this week. Since Aug. 11, Rodon has a 1.66 ERA in 48 2/3 innings with 16 walks and 45 strikeouts and the White Sox have won 14 of his 22 starts this season.

Both Rodon and pitching coach Don Cooper attribute much of the rookie’s success to his work in the bullpen, where the left-hander has identified and perfected a routine in between starts. Ventura also believes part of the development has come from Rodon’s metamorphosis from the much-ballyhooed rookie to just another one of the guys. Rodon entered the season as the No. 14-rated prospect in baseball, according to MLB.com.

With what he has done in a short amount of time, White Sox catcher Rob Brantly thinks Rodon should garner consideration for rookie of the year no matter how good the other candidates have been.

“There’s no question, especially for his first year and the amount of time he’s had in professional baseball, he should get some consideration for the job he’s done,” Brantly said. “He was drafted not too long ago and he’s here holding his own with some of the best names in baseball.”

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.