GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Carlos Rodon has been scratched from Friday’s start with tightness in his upper left bicep and it could land him on the disabled list to start the 2017 season.
Though the development came as a surprise, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said that the team’s initial exam of their third-year starter was “positive” because they don’t believe he has any structural damage. An MRI taken Friday confirmed the White Sox original diagnosis. But the club intends to be extremely cautious with Rodon, who is expected to receive a second opinion early next week.
Rodon had been scheduled to face the Oakland A’s at Mesa, Ariz.
“We’re going to err on the side of caution here, even if it winds up costing him his first couple starts because we’re slowing down the schedule now by scratching him,” Hahn said.
“It’s too early to speculate how long we’re going to be without Carlos. I hate to speculate, but since we are slowing down his schedule by having him miss the start today, the odds are probably that he starts the season on the DL. But again we’ll know more after he takes his further exams.”
Both Hahn and White Sox manager Rick Renteria admit they’ve been caught off-guard by the sequence of events. Rodon informed the White Sox he felt some tightness in his bicep on Thursday, which led to an internal examination. But it was only Wednesday when Rodon said he felt great following a Tuesday bullpen session and asked about the possibility of his first regular season start being moved up. Rodon, who had been online to make his first start on April 8, had also responded well in the aftermath of striking out five batters over four scoreless innings in his Cactus League debut at Tempe, Ariz. on Sunday.
“As far as we know right now he’s OK,” Renteria said. “From the physical, clinical tests it seems like he’s fine, but obviously he’s going to get checked up. He still wanted to pitch. I think that even talking to him yesterday or two days ago, he was feeling great. For all of us it’s a little bit of a surprise.”
Rodon requested to make his start against Oakland after the initial exam, but the team declined and opted for an MRI.
With the intent of helping him avoid the fatigue he experienced last summer and also reaching the 200-inning mark this season, the White Sox took a slow approach with Rodon this spring. Similar to how they handled Chris Sale last spring, much of Rodon’s work this February and March on back fields and in simulated games.
Rodon -- who went 9-10 with a 4.04 ERA in 28 starts last season, striking out 168 batters in 165 innings -- finally debuted in the Cactus League on Sunday and flourished. Though his slow start drew some suspicion along the way as to whether or not Rodon was healthy, Hahn said his bicep issue is a total coincidence.
“I don't know if ironic is the right word, but we obviously tried to come up with a plan to keep him healthy for the long term and toward the end of this plan he expressed this discomfort yesterday,” Hahn said. “Again, he was feeling great, he was saying, with how he was coming along, with the program we had set up. Sometimes you make plans and the baseball gods laugh.”
While it’s too early to know how the length of Rodon’s absence, the White Sox have begun to develop contingency plans. The team has a few days off in April that could help them navigate through the issue, primarily on April 4 and April 10. Rodon originally was scheduled to pitch in the team’s fifth game, an April 8 home contest against Minnesota.
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Hahn suggested that despite the uncertainty he knows one tactic he won’t use is call upon one of the team’s top prospects. Reynaldo Lopez is close to major league ready and Lucas Giolito and Carson Fulmer have also already each accrued service time. But Hahn wants to avoid a taxi situation with frequent trips back and forth to the minor leagues.
He listed Saturday’s starter Dylan Covey and minor leaguers David Holmberg and Tyler Danish as among the possible replacements for Rodon.
“Our intention is to not have any player in Chicago simply because there’s a need in Chicago,” Hahn said. “It’s because they’ve answered all the questions that they have to answer developmentally at the minor league level and are ready for further development in Chicago. This is particularly true in the situation where it could just be a spot start or a few starts. None of us are inclined to potentially derail anyone’s development by moving them up and down, up and down. Our young pitchers, when the time comes for them to come to Chicago, will be guaranteed to get the ball every fifth day. We don’t have a specific plan for where it goes with Carlos, we need further examination and studies. And we don’t have a plan for how we’ll fill the void if one is created.”