White Sox

White Sox: Progress is fine, but Carlos Rodon really wants to win


White Sox: Progress is fine, but Carlos Rodon really wants to win

ANAHEIM, Calif. — He realizes how big the last start was toward his development but Carlos Rodon said Tuesday he’d trade it for a team victory.

The White Sox rookie made perhaps the best start of his career on Monday night, pitching efficiently en route to the first complete game of his career. Attacking hitters first and working ahead in the count, Rodon only allowed two runs and four hits in a 104-pitch effort, his second straight start against the Los Angeles Angels.

But Rodon said the sting of a 2-1 loss makes it trickier to accept the praise his manager and teammates had for the effort.

“It’s hard to go back and look over after losing a close ballgame because like anybody else on this team, we really want to win and we need to win,” Rodon said. “It’s tough to go back and look at ‘Hey, you actually did well.’ But you’re not worried about that because you really just want to win. You’re trying to go at it for your team.”

[MORE WHITE SOX: Robin Ventura: Jeff Samardzija experiencing bump in road]

Even though he faced the Angels for the second time in six days, Rodon was in control the entire way. He got ahead of hitters earlier with his fastball, which made life easier, catcher Tyler Flowers said. Rodon also threw 13 changeups, including nine for strikes.

“That’s big for him, it opens up the slider/changeup mix later in the count,” Flowers said.

Rodon also pitched unafraid, Robin Ventura said. After he gave up the first of two solo homers — Albert Pujols homered in the second inning — the prized rookie quickly bounced back with a strikeout and two weak grounders.

“He got right back in the strike zone, didn’t let it affect him,” Ventura said.

The homers may not have bothered him, but the rookie said his up and down season hasn’t been as easy to digest.

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Buy a Carlos Rodon jersey]

Back at North Carolina State, Rodon could get by with subpar stuff and strike out 10. He went 25-10 with a 2.24 ERA in college, striking out 436 batters in 346 innings en route to becoming the third overall pick of the 2014 draft.

Life was easy.

Rodon — who is 5-5 with a 4.42 ERA in 20 games (17 starts) with 54 walks and 106 strikeouts in 99 2/3 innings — expected to struggle in the majors, but he couldn’t fully grasp the concept.

Like being told he pitched one of his best games only to end up with a tough loss.

“This game will humble you real quick,” Rodon said. “It’s different. I never really experienced losing or getting hit around like that before. It’s just a step you’ve got to take and take it with a grain of salt and move on and those things happen. You give lumps and you take lumps, even the best do. This game is a funny game and that’s the way it goes.

“Sometimes you go back to thinking, ‘Maybe this pitch or that pitch,’ and it’s hard not to do that, to go back and look at stuff. But I threw well and on to the next is the way you’ve got to look at it. It’s behind me.”



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