White Sox

White Sox: Efficiency the next step in Carlos Rodon’s development


White Sox: Efficiency the next step in Carlos Rodon’s development

Carlos Rodon returned from a nine-day break, but his time off didn’t result in anything but more of the same.

To be clear, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Rodon allowed four runs (three earned) in five innings as the White Sox losing streak was snapped with a sloppy, four-error 9-1 loss to Baltimore Sunday afternoon at U.S. Cellular Field. But the 22-year-old left-hander still hasn’t pitched more than 6 1/3 innings despite throwing an average of 100 pitches over his 10 starts since joining the White Sox rotation in early May.

“That’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a little while now, after a couple starts,” Rodon said of going deep into games. “It’s tough when you throw a lot of pitches and it’s hard to stay consistent and it doesn’t work out. If you walk guys, it’s not going to happen. I gotta figure out the command and repeating pitches and just getting guys out early.”

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When Rodon was promoted to the major leagues on April 20, general manager Rick Hahn referred to the 2014 No. 3 overall pick’s innings as a “scarce resource.” The plan after inserting him into the starting rotation always was to give him a few breaks, like the eight- and nine-day layoffs he’s had in May and June/July, respectively.

Walks have been the chief culprit in keeping Rodon from pitching into the seventh inning with any regularity. He issued four more against Baltimore on Sunday and is averaging 5.3 per nine innings pitched, the highest rate among pitchers who’ve thrown at least 50 innings this season. He’s issued three or more walks in seven of his 10 starts.

“You’ll see him miss sometimes, something going in and it’s outer half or going out there,” manager Robin Ventura said. “You want him to improve and get to that point where I would say a guy’s been in the league a few years, you’re going to end up spotting it a little bit better.”

[MORE: White Sox past, present aces face off on Monday]

What Rodon has done well, though, is keep the ball in the park and rack up strikeouts. Jonathan Schoop’s second-inning solo home run was only the fourth he’s allowed in 54 innings as a starter, and he has 58 strikeouts in that span.

“You see a guy that has come up fairly quickly and I think his progression is the biggest thing,” manager Robin Ventura said. “Early on it was command. He’s getting some tough lineups and to be able to get through it. For him, he learns a lot of going through these lineups.”

The White Sox view Rodon as a rotation centerpiece for years to come, though he’s not there yet. For now, he’s a solid back-of-the rotation starter who’s still less than a year removed from his professional debut.

“He’s going to get better,” Ventura said. “But stuff-wise and who he is, we’re still happy to have him.” 

Jose Abreu's got a new beard, but what he really deserves is a contract extension


Jose Abreu's got a new beard, but what he really deserves is a contract extension

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Sunday marked the first surprise of White Sox spring training, courtesy of first baseman Jose Abreu.

“This year, I’m going to try to steal more bases,” Abreu said through a translator.

This might have sounded like a joke, but Abreu was completely serious.

On paper, he’s not exactly Rickey Henderson. In 614 career games, Abreu has only six stolen bases. However, the slimmed-down first baseman does have some sneaky speed. His six triples last season ranked third in the American League. So there are some wheels to work with.

“I like the challenge. I think that’s a good challenge for me. I’m ready for it,” Abreu said.

How many steals are we talking about? A reporter asked sarcastically if a 30-30 season is in the offing? Abreu didn’t exactly shoot down the possibility.

“Who knows? When you fill your mind with positive things, maybe you can accomplish them,” Abreu said. “The mind of a human being works in a lot of different ways. If you fill your mind with good things, good things are going to happen.”

The morning began with Abreu walking to the hitting cages with his Cuban compadres Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert, who the White Sox signed last summer. He held his first workout on Sunday. At the White Sox hitters camp last month, Moncada took Robert under his wing, showing him the ropes, even telling Ricky Renteria, “I got him.”

But Sunday, Abreu was in charge, holding court with the three of them in the cage. Abreu watched closely as Robert hit off a tee, giving him pointers about his swing.

“I just like to help people,” Abreu said. “When I started to play at 16 in Cuba, I had a lot people who hounded me to get better. At the same point, I want to give back things that I’ve learned and pass that along to other people. That’s what I’m doing. I’m not expecting anything else. I’m just glad to help them and get them better.”

What kind of advice has he passed along to Robert?

“Since I came to this country, I learned quickly three keys to be a success: Be disciplined, work hard and always be on time. If you apply those three keys, I think you’re going to be good. Those are the three keys I’m trying to teach the new kids, the young guys,” Abreu said.

Abreu lost about 10 pounds during the offseason. He said he hopes to learn more English in 2018. He also arrived at spring training sporting a scruffy beard which he grew while he was in Cuba so he “could be incongnito.”

Abreu likes his new look. Moncada thinks he should shave it off.

“If the organization doesn’t say anything, I’m just going to keep it,” Abreu said.

Well, so much for that.

Moments after Abreu spoke with the media, Renteria told reporters that Abreu will have to “clean it up a bit.”

The two will find a compromise. Come to think of it, maybe Abreu and the White Sox should do the same about a contract extension in the near future.

Yes, he’ll be 33 when his contract expires in two years, but there have been no signs of a decline with his performance. Instead, Abreu is only getting better both offensively and defensively.

Heck, now he wants to steal bases, too.

After Renteria, Abreu is the leader of this team. He commands ultimate respect inside the clubhouse. He’s become another coach to Moncada, Robert and others. He’s a huge brick in the present and too big of an influence and cornerstone to not have around in the future.

“I hope to play my entire career in the majors with the White Sox,” Abreu said Sunday. “But I can’t control that.”

At some point, a decision will have to be made whether to keep Abreu or trade him. In the meantime, ask yourself this question: What will bring more value to the White Sox, getting a high-end prospect or two in return not knowing if they’ll ever succeed in the majors? Or keeping your best player, the heart and soul of your team, allowing him to show your future stars the way while they’re developing in the major leagues?

Seems like an easy decision to me.

Jose Abreu has already begun mentoring Luis Robert


Jose Abreu has already begun mentoring Luis Robert

As the White Sox have added young Cuban stars in the making in Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert, Jose Abreu's long-term role on the team has shifted.

The 31-year-old first baseman has been looked at as something of a mentor for the two young Cubans. He seems to be delivering on that so far.

Abreu picked up Moncada from the airport when he first was called up to the White Sox last July. Now he's helping Robert in the batting cage.

The Cuban trio is expected to play a big part of the White Sox future in the coming years. 

Robert has already stated his goal of making it to the majors this year to join Abreu and Moncada, but that may be an overly ambitious goal. Either way, plenty of eyes will be on him throughout 2018 as he marches towards the White Sox roster and his Cuban teammates.