White Sox

White Sox offense backs Carlos Rodon in win over Twins

White Sox offense backs Carlos Rodon in win over Twins

MINNEAPOLIS -- His rookie campaign might have ended early, but the White Sox have no such plans for Carlos Rodon this season.

Rodon matched a season-high with seven innings pitched on Friday night and the White Sox rallied back to beat the Minnesota Twins 11-4 in front of 20,806 at Target Field. Jose Abreu drove in three runs and Todd Frazier blasted his 35th home run in support of Rodon, who has won four straight decisions. With four or five starts left to make, Rodon could reach the 160-inning mark after pitching 139 1/3 last year.

“I think he’s going through the whole thing,” manager Robin Ventura said. “He’s getting better as he goes along and this is part of the growing of a guy who’s still young and getting through it. He understands how to go through a whole season. I think it’s important for him where he had a little time off. It has been a good run for him.”

The left-hander wasn’t quite as sharp against the Twins on Friday as he was when he posted a 1.47 ERA in five starts in August. Holding a 1-0 lead, Rodon gave up three straight hits to start the third inning, including a three-run homer by Brian Dozier.

“Dozier has been on me the whole year now,” Rodon said. “I just can’t get him.”

He also surrendered a one-run lead in the fifth after giving up consecutive singles to Byron Buxton and Dozier to open the frame. But Rodon would eventually settle down and retired the last seven batters he faced. He credited catcher Omar Narvaez once again for making a mid-game adjustment that helped him find a rhythm.

With only 79 pitches thrown, Ventura intended to keep Rodon going. But the White Sox offense prevented him from staying in the game with a long eighth inning.

The effort gives Rodon 136 innings this season, which is only 3 1/3 fewer than he had in 2015. Because he had also thrown 10 innings in the minors last season, the White Sox wanted to curb Rodon’s workload and he didn’t pitch in any of the team’s final eight games.

But that won’t be the case this season, Ventura said before the game.

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With Miguel Gonzalez returning on Tuesday, the White Sox intend to employ six starting pitchers for at least this turn. Were they to stay with a six-man rotation, Rodon would have at least four turns left. But the team could very easily manipulate the rotation and Rodon may be in line for five more starts. With him averaging nearly six innings per start, Rodon seems destined to surpass the 160 mark, which is fine by him.

“We are trying to build this year,” Rodon said. “Finish out. What do I have five starts left? Finish out strong and next year plan is to get up to 200 innings and let me go hopefully.”

He’d love to have this kind of support to go with those 200 innings.

Rodon -- who allowed four runs (three earned), walked one and struck out four -- entered Friday in the bottom quarter of the majors in average run support.

But for the second time in three starts, the White Sox offense delivered big production for Rodon as they matched a season high in runs and hits.

Trailing 3-1 in the fourth, Frazier blasted a game-tying shot to center off Twins starter Kyle Gibson. It was Frazier's 35th home run of the season and the 34th Frazier has hit while playing third base this season, which is a new franchise record. Bill Melton hit 33 in 1971. Manager Robin Ventura hit 34 in 1996, with 32 coming at third base. As Frazier rounded third, he stared into the dugout at Ventura and then walked over to shake his hands with Ventura nonchalantly acting as if he didn’t see the team’s current third baseman.

The White Sox took a 4-3 lead in the fifth on a two-out RBI single by Melky Cabrera, who finished with three hits and three RBIs. They regained a 5-4 lead in the sixth on a ground-rule double by Carlos Sanchez and scored three times in the eighth and ninth innings.

Abreu had a two-out, two-run single in the eighth to break it open. He has now reached base in 29 consecutive games and upped his RBI total to 79.

“Congratulations to Todd Frazier No. 35,” Rodon said. “Excited to see that one go.

“Yesterday we swung it well and today we were swinging it well. I knew I had to keep them at four and let my offense work and let the guys make plays out there and they did a great job.”

White Sox name James Shields as Opening Day starter


White Sox name James Shields as Opening Day starter

The White Sox have announced who will toe the rubber when the season begins later this month.

As expected, James Shields will be the team's Opening Day starting pitcher when the White Sox kick off the 2018 campaign against the Kansas City Royals on March 29 at Kauffman Stadium.

The starting rotation's elder statesman at 36, Shields seemed the logical pick for the first start of the season.

It's been a rough go for the one-time All Star since he came to the South Side in a trade with the San Diego Padres in the summer of 2016. In two seasons with the White Sox, he's got a 5.99 ERA with 181 strikeouts and 58 home runs allowed in 231.1 innings. Last season, he made 21 starts, finishing with a 5.23 ERA and 103 strikeouts and 27 home runs allowed in 117 innings.

While that trade still smarts considering the player the White Sox gave up, Fernando Tatis Jr., is currently ranked as the No. 8 prospect in baseball, Shields brings plenty of value to the 2018 rotation as a veteran mentor for young major leaguers like Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, as well as pitchers making their way to the big leagues like Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen and Dylan Cease.

If Shields could rediscover some of the magic that made him a great pitcher during his best years with the Tampa Bay Rays and the aforementioned Royals, with whom he made World Series trips in 2008 and 2014, respectively, and have a strong couple months out of the chute, he could provide Rick Hahn's front office with a midseason trade piece, someone who could potentially fetch a prospect or two that could help advance the franchise's rebuilding efforts.

The Royals have announced that it will be Danny Duffy opposing Shields on Opening Day.

White Sox opposition research: What's there to know about the Houston Astros?


White Sox opposition research: What's there to know about the Houston Astros?

What’s there to know about the Houston Astros?

They’re the best, that’s what there is to know.

The Astros are the defending world champions for a multitude of reasons, and it’s all those and more that will have them as a favorite to repeat in 2018. Yes, the Cubs and New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers and Cleveland Indians will all have something to say about that. But right now, no team is better on paper than the team the just won the big enchilada not five months ago.

The best 1-2 starting-pitching in combo in baseball? It belongs to the Astros. Justin Verlander was sensational for them after coming over in a late-summer trade with the Detroit Tigers. All he did was post a 1.06 ERA in five regular-season starts and a 2.21 ERA in six postseason outings. Justin Verlander. Again. And then there’s his running mate Dallas Keuchel — who doesn’t like the Cubs very much, apparently — has been just as good. He had a 2.90 ERA last year and won the American League Cy Young in 2015 with a 2.48 ERA and 20 wins.

Get past those guys and you’ll have to face the new guy. Gerrit Cole is now an Astro, as well, the reigning champs bolstering their already excellent rotation by importing one of the National League’s best pitchers. Cole saw his numbers jump last year (4.26 ERA) but still almost had 200 strikeouts and now has a much better roster around him than the one he left in Pittsburgh.

Charlie Morton? He threw four one-run innings in Game 7 of the World Series. Lance McCullers? He had 2.1 shutout innings in Game 7 of the World Series. This rotation is a force that could mow down the AL. There are questions, sure, but this five is entering 2018 as the best collection of arms in the Junior Circuit.

And we haven’t even gotten to the hitting. Oh, the hitting! The Astros scored 34 runs in seven World Series games. They banged out 56 hits. They hit 15 home runs. This after they were baseball’s best offense during the regular season.

The names are obvious to anyone who watched the postseason. Jose Altuve, surely tired of all the short jokes, is arguably the best player in baseball, and he won the AL MVP last season with a ridiculous .346/.410/.547 slash line. Carlos Correa, perhaps baseball’s best young shortstop, had a .315/.391/.550 slash line. George Springer, your World Series MVP, hit 34 regular-season home runs and got on base at a .367 clip before hitting five homers and slashing .379/.471/.1.000 in the Fall Classic.

Then there’s Alex Bregman and Josh Reddick and Marwin Gonzalez, who were all very good to great in 2017. They shouldn’t all be expected to do what they did last season — you need look no further than the Cubs to see what a deep World Series run can do to a team, especially early. But is there a better lineup than this in the AL? Anyone? Bueller?

It’s hard to repeat, and “hard” is becoming one heck of an understatement considering no one’s repeated in almost two decades. The Yankees last did it when they beat the broken-bat-throwing Mike Piazza and the New York Mets in the 2000 World Series. Since then, no one’s done it twice in a row.

Last year, most of us looked at the Cubs and said, “They have the best team, they are favorites to do it again.” And then they were not even in first place in the NL Central at the All-Star break. A similar fate could await the Astros. But right now, they look like the best team the AL has to offer.

Houston, you are clear for takeoff ... again.

2017 record: 101-61, first place in AL West, World Series champions

Offseason additions: Gerrit Cole, , Joe Smith, Hector Rondon

Offseason departures: Carlos Beltran, Cameron Maybin, Mike Fiers, Tyler Clippard, Luke Gregerson, Francisco Liriano

X-factor: The Astros now count one-time Cubs closer Hector Rondon among their relievers now, but the X-factor pick here is Bregman. After a fine but nothing special first half, he was one of baseball's best after the All-Star break last year, slashing .315/.367/.536 with 11 homers and 44 RBIs in 71 games in the second half.

Projected lineup:

1. George Springer, CF
2. Alex Bregman, 3B
3. Jose Altuve, 2B
4. Carlos Correa, SS
5. Josh Reddick, RF
6. Marwin Gonzalez, 1B
7. Brian McCann, C
8. Evan Gattis, DH
9. Derek Fisher, LF

Projected rotation:

1. Justin Verlander
2. Dallas Keuchel
3. Gerrit Cole
4. Lance McCullers
5. Charlie Morton

Prediction: First place in AL West

Catch up on the AL:

Oakland Athletics
Texas Rangers
Seattle Mariners
Los Angeles Angels
Houston Astros

Catch up on the NL:

San Diego Padres
Colorado Rockies
Arizona Diamondbacks
San Francisco Giants