White Sox

Carlos Rodon wins for first time since May 22 as White Sox top Marlins

Carlos Rodon wins for first time since May 22 as White Sox top Marlins

MIAMI — Carlos Rodon finally has something to show for his efforts.

The pitcher earned his first victory since May 22 as the White Sox got just enough offense on Friday night to defeat the Miami Marlins 4-2 in front of 21,090 at Marlins Park. Rodon, who had allowed two runs or fewer in five of the 10 starts since his last victory, only yielded a run in six laborious innings to improve to 3-8. David Robertson struck out two in a perfect ninth to record his 28th save in 34 tries for the White Sox, who won for the first time in three games.

“Any time we get a win for the starter you like it,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “For him to gut through it, get us to that point, it’s a lot of pitches. For me it just seems like he gets a little better when it goes long and it’s a nice (trait) to have. It was a struggle at points, but you trust that he’s going to be able to get that. The more you can do that the better off.”

Unlike his first three innings when he recorded nine straight outs after a single to start the game, the final three frames were a struggle. Rodon had to work overtime to secure his first victory since the team was 26-18, throwing a career-high 122 pitches.

After he retired nine in a row into the fourth, Rodon ran into trouble when he issued a two-out walk of Marcell Ozuna to put two men aboard. J.T. Realmuto made it a 3-1 game with an RBI single, but Rodon won a 12-pitch battle and induced a Miguel Rojas fly out to strand the tying runs.

Rodon walked two more batters in the fifth inning, but got out of the jam with a strikeout of Christian Yelich, whom he struck out three times.

“They were tough outs, that fourth and fifth inning,” Rodon said. “Those guys were battling. “They just refused to strike out or get out.”

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Rodon said he was pleased when Ventura gave him the chance to return in the sixth inning. Even though he needed 20 pitches to retire the side, Rodon did so for a third time in the sixth.

He allowed a run and three hits with three walks and four strikeouts.

“He labored through it a little bit,” Ventura said. “But he got helped out. Guys swung the bats early in some at-bats and he got us at least to a point where we could get it to the bullpen.”

Jacob Turner, Dan Jennings, Nate Jones and Robertson allowed a run over the final nine innings to secure Rodon’s victory, one that must bring much relief to a pitcher who entered the season with extremely high hopes and hasn’t had much go his way.

The offense gave Rodon an early boost with a pair of first-inning runs and by tacking on another in the third.

Melky Cabrera and Jose Abreu each had RBI singles in the first inning.

Tyler Saladino singled in a run in the second inning and Tim Anderson’s sac fly in the fifth put the White Sox back ahead 4-1. While the White Sox missed out on myriad chances to blow the Marlins out, they did enough to get Rodon back into the win column.

“It’s huge for a young guy,” said outfielder Adam Eaton, who tied a career-high with four hits. “Nobody wants to win more than he does. For him to win tonight and pitch well and the bullpen to come in and do what they did is huge for his psyche.”

Lucas Giolito relieved to be able to shed No. 1 pitching prospect label

Lucas Giolito relieved to be able to shed No. 1 pitching prospect label

GLENDALE, AZ — You don’t need a scale to see that Lucas Giolito lost some weight in the offseason. As he walks around Camelback Ranch, he just seems lighter. These pounds were shedded thanks to a certain label that has been detached from his name and his being.

“Lucas Giolito, number-one pitching prospect in baseball” is no more.

“Definitely. Big time relief. I carried that title for a while,” Giolito told NBC Sports Chicago. “It was kind of up and down. I was (ranked) 1 at one point. I dropped. I always paid attention to it a little bit moving through the minor leagues.”

Which for any young hurler is risky business. The “best pitching prospect” designation can mess with a pitcher’s psyche and derail a promising career. Giolito was walking a mental tightrope reading those rankings, but after making it back to the majors last season with the White Sox and succeeding, the moniker that seemed to follow him wherever he went has now vanished.

“Looking back on it, that stuff is pretty cool," Giolito said. "It can pump you up and make you feel good about yourself, but in the end the question is, what are you going to do at the big league level? Can you contribute to a team? I’m glad that I finally have the opportunity to do that and all that other stuff is in the rear view."

This wasn’t the case when the White Sox acquired Giolito from the Washington Nationals in the Adam Eaton trade in December 2016. When he arrived at spring training last year, he was carrying around tons of extra baggage in his brain that was weighing him down. Questions about his ability and makeup weren’t helping as he tried living up to such high expectations.

“Yeah, I’d say especially with the trade coming off 2016 where I didn’t perform well at all that year," Giolito said. "I got traded over to a new organization, I still have this label on me of being a top pitching prospect while I’m going to a new place, I’m trying to impress people but at the same time I had a lot of things off mechanically I was trying to fix. Mentally, I was not in the best place as far as pitching went. It definitely added some extra pressure that I didn’t deal with well for a while."

How bad was it for Giolito? Here are some of the thoughts that were scrambling his brain during spring training and beyond last season.

“I saw I wasn’t throwing as hard. I was like, ’Where did my velocity go?’ Oh, it’s my mechanics. My mechanics are bad. I need to fix those,” Giolito said. “Then I’m trying to make adjustments. Why can’t I make this adjustment? It compounds. It just builds and builds and builds and can weigh on you a ton. I was 22 turning 23 later in the year. I didn’t handle it very well. I put a lot of pressure on myself to fix all these different things about my performance, my pitching and trying to do it all in one go instead of just relaxing and remembering, ‘Hey, what am I here for? Why do I play the game?’”

Still, pitching coach Don Cooper wanted to see what he had in his young prospect. So last February, he scheduled him to make his White Sox debut against the Cubs in front of a packed house in Mesa.

“It was kind of like a challenge," Giolito said. "They fill the stadium over there. I’m like, ‘Alright here we go."

Giolito gave up one run, three hits, walked one and struck out two in two innings against the Cubs that day.

“I pitched OK," he said. "I think I gave up a home run to Addison Russell. At the same time, I remember that game like I was forcing things. I might have pitched okay, but I was forcing the ball over the plate instead of relaxing, trusting and letting it happen which is kind of my mantra now. I’m saying that all the time, just having confidence in yourself and letting it go.”

A conversation in midseason with Charlotte Knights pitching coach Steve McCatty, suggested by Cooper, helped turn Giolito’s season around. The lesson for Giolito: whatever you have on the day you take the mound is what you have. Don’t force what isn’t there.

Fortunately for Giolito he has extra pitches in his arsenal, so if the curveball isn’t working (which it rarely did when he came up to the majors last season) he can go to his change-up, fastball, slider, etc.

It’s all part of the learning process, both on the mound and off it. Setbacks are coming. Giolito has already had his share. More will be on the way.

“You want to set expectations for yourself. You want to try and achieve great goals,” he said. “At the same time, it is a game of failure. There’s so much that you have to learn through experience whether that be success or failure. Especially going through the minor leagues. There’s so much that you have to learn and a lot of it is about development. It’s a crazy ride for sure.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Rick Hahn gives an update on the state of the White Sox rebuild

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Rick Hahn gives an update on the state of the White Sox rebuild

In this episode of the SportsTalk Live Podcast, Danny Parkins (670 The Score), Chris Bleck (ESPN 1000) and Scott King (WGN Radio) join David Kaplan on the panel.

Ryan Pace’s offseason begins. Josh Sitton and Jerrell Freeman are gone, but what will he do with Kyle Fuller?

Plus, Rick Hahn joins Kap from Glendale, Ariz., to discuss the state of the White Sox rebuild, how tough it is to keep their best prospects in the minors and why Jose Abreu is so important for his young team?

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: