Next season will begin exactly the way the 2017 campaign did, with the White Sox unsure of what they’ll receive from Carlos Rodon or when.
Instead of Rodon capping a season in which he reached the goals of 200 innings and 33 starts, it was announced Thursday that the pitcher is in recovery after he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder Wednesday in Los Angeles.
Though general manager Rick Hahn said doctors found significant bursitis of the shoulder, the White Sox are hopeful Rodon can make a full recovery as both the labrum and biceps “were viewed as normal.” Hahn said the general timeframe for Rodon’s recovery is anywhere from six to eight months. The procedure comes at the end of a season in which Rodon was limited to 12 starts, sidelined from March until nearly July with bursitis in his biceps.
“The timing as to his return to a major league mound is still difficult to pinpoint at this point and will be dependent on how his rehab goes,” Hahn said. “Six months puts us at roughly Opening Day and eight months puts us roughly at June 1. We will not know more of the specifics of that timing until Carlos completes his rehab and begins throwing in spring training. There won’t be any updates on timing there until we get to Glendale next spring.”
There are significant differences between the latest injury and the one that knocked Rodon out in the spring.
This time the White Sox and Rodon are more certain of the path ahead and can try to prepare accordingly.
Headed into spring 2017, the White Sox had Rodon on a program designed to help him slowly build up so he could withstand the full season and pitch 200 innings.
But once Rodon’s shoulder issues surfaced in late March, all bets were off. The White Sox didn’t know when the left-hander would return or how he’d rebound after a diagnosis of bursitis of the biceps. Rodon endured a lengthy, frustrating process that he said in May had “taken a lot longer than I imagined.” His rehab was full of ups and downs and wasn’t complete until his June 28 return.
Rodon brought plenty of stuff when he returned, striking out 76 batters in 69.1 innings. He looked every bit like a front-of-the-rotation starter as the White Sox hoped he would.
But signs of regression began to appear — it took him longer to get warm than it should have on several occasions and “you could tell from watching him it wasn’t quite right,” Hahn said. Then Rodon was scratched from his Sept. 7 start, which led to a second round of MRIs and tests.
“You knew this issue wasn’t going away and it needed to be explored to try to get to the bottom of it,” Hahn said. “Certainly, we were cautiously optimistic that it would be bursitis-based, but we didn’t really know until they went in there and took a look (Wednesday).”
With how tricky shoulder surgery can be, the White Sox are cautiously optimistic about Rodon’s return.
“It was as good as we could hope and he is projected to make a full recovery,” Hahn said.
It’s a recovery for which the White Sox can better plan. It would seem likely the White Sox rotation will feature Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, James Shields and potentially Carson Fulmer. The team can also add depth via free agency in order to avoid rushing some of their top pitching prospects and fill gaps while Rodon recovers.
Though Rodon has vowed he’ll pitch again in 2018, an extra arm or two would give the White Sox the flexibility they’ll almost certainly need to combat an uncertain situation.
“If everything goes perfectly, and you’re dealing with more of the softer side of this, there isn’t a set, you know, at three months, he’s supposed to be doing this, at four months, he’ll be able to do that,” Hahn said. “It’s going to be more about how the body heals and then ultimately how we’re able to build up arm strength. Conceivably, the front end of that is around Opening Day. The back end is about June 1. Again, we’re just not going to know just where he’s able to fall on that until he gets back to throwing come next spring.”