White Sox

Carlos Rodon’s high school coach sees White Sox getting great pitcher, person

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Carlos Rodon’s high school coach sees White Sox getting great pitcher, person

Carlos Rodon’s homecoming was cancelled this week, but for an awfully good reason.

The Holly Springs, N.C. native was scheduled to start for Triple-A Charlotte on Tuesday against Durham, about a half-hour drive through the Raleigh area from his hometown. Instead, the No. 3 pick in the 2014 MLB Draft will be seated in the White Sox bullpen at U.S. Cellular Field on Monday.

Rodon’s high school coach, Rod Whitesell, has kept in touch with the left-hander ever since he went off to North Carolina State (which is also in the Raleigh-Durham area) in 2011. Whitesell said Rodon will visit him at Holly Springs High School once in a while to catch up, bring him mementos of his career or — as he did last fall — throw to some of his prep alma mater’s catchers.

And, according to Whitesell, the 22-year-old mega-prospect is “absolutely” the same person he was back in high school.

[MORE WHITE SOX: White Sox to call up Carlos Rodon]

“He’s a confident, awesome baseball player but I think when he steps off the lines in between he is just a well-rounded, awesome young man,” Whitesell said in a phone interview Monday. “He’s got that switch. Between the lines, people may think he’s a butthole or he’s too competitive or they may not like him, but when he steps off that field he is an unbelievable, well-spoken nice young man. You could tell he was raised right.

“He’s the same kid he was when he played for us. Still has that infectious love for the game but also love for his friends and his teammates and his coaches.”

As a freshman playing on varsity, he threw a pair of one-hitters. He was “literally lights out” his junior year, Whitesell said. And Holly Springs won state with Rodon starting and hitting cleanup in 2011, his senior year.

After winning the state title, Rodon’s teammates started asking him for autographs. But Rodon, despite his rising national profile, never carried himself like a big-man-on-campus superstar. 

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

“He was a great teammate then,” Whitesell said. “He got obviously a lot of attention and a lot of accolades and all that, but he would always deflect to others. He worked hard. He never saw himself as like, I’m better or I’m anything — I think he teammates, if you would ask them today, would look at him as just another teammate.”

What’s made Rodon one of the top pitching prospects in baseball is the competitiveness he pairs with his mid-to-upper 90’s fastball, strong slider and good changeup. Whitesell saw it in high school, and still sees it today whether Rodon’s on the mound or playing him in ping pong during a visit to Arizona for spring training earlier this year.

Whitesell said that confidence is what pushed Rodon to a dominant junior year, which is when he began to emerge in draft conversations (though signability questions dropped him to the 16th round, and he wound up attending N.C. State). And it’s just another reason why Rodon has rocketed through the minor leagues and should make his major league debut sometime this week on the South Side.

“He always was competitive and had that nature,” Whitesell said. “His junior year, he said here it is, let’s see what happens. It kind of reminds me of what you see now. He’s willing to throw any pitch at any time to anyone and say here it is, I’m better than you — maybe that’s not what he’s saying, but that’s his mentality on the mound.”

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.”