White Sox

Carlos Rodon continues to excel as he eclipses personal innings mark

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Carlos Rodon continues to excel as he eclipses personal innings mark

MINNEAPOLIS — Carlos Rodon has never pitched more innings in a season, yet he shows no signs of slowing down.

Though he was tagged with the loss on Wednesday night, the White Sox rookie continued an outstanding stretch with six more sharp innings in a 3-0 loss to the Minnesota Twins. Rodon, who eclipsed his personal mark for innings in a season with a scoreless first inning, allowed two earned runs and five hits as he pitched five more frames.

“He’s been great,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “Mentally, tough competitive kid. When he know he has the right stuff to go out there and give you a chance to win. His progression of maturity and getting through with experience, this is good stuff for him.”

When they promoted him in April, the White Sox believed that Rodon’s final step in his development would be pitching at the big league level. His stuff was too good for the minors, and they knew it would benefit him most to face big league hitters.

Not only did Rodon need to see how much the addition of a solid changeup would help, he also needed to know how important it is to get ahead of hitters.

[MORE WHITE SOX: Tyler Saladino could be White Sox SS until Tim Anderson is ready]

He struggled early on, walking 37 batters in 60 innings over his first 11 starts. Rodon has since grasped both concepts, and it has made him a much more effective pitcher at a time when he should be showing the signs of a long rookie season.

Over his last five starts, Rodon — who has thrown a combined 128 2/3 innings — has a 1.85 ERA.

“Now he’s actually pitching,” catcher Tyler Flowers said. “There’s a game plan we’re able to execute now. There are situations where we can throw secondary pitches in there for strikes. It’s even turned into where we’re getting guys to strike out on changeups, which is a pitch we couldn’t even throw in the vicinity in spring. So I think it started there and it’s been an impressive job just the growth he’s shown since his time up here, and the sky’s the limit for him. He’s got a great arsenal. If he can just continue to improve the command, he’s going to be pretty good for us.”

Rodon threw 14 changeups on Wednesday night. He didn’t rate the pitch as being good on Wednesday and only six went for strikes. But the fact he has enough confidence to throw gives him an extra element as he can change speeds and not allow hitters to sit on his fastball or his slider.

In his previous start, Rodon threw strikes on seven of eight changeups.

[MORE WHITE SOX: Frankie Montas ready to pitch from White Sox bullpen if needed]

How far has it come along?

“A lot,” Rodon said. “Last start, it was real good. I tried to use it this start, and it wasn’t as good as it could have been. Just wish it was better. It would have helped a lot.”

Rodon would like to be discussing wins right now and not development.

He would prefer to be helping the White Sox to their first postseason appearance since 2008. But he also realizes that keeping the club within striking distance is his real job, and he’s done that over the last month.

As for the rest of the way, Rodon wants to keep his goals simple: “Just get better, more consistent and just enjoy it. Just have fun.”

Avisail Garcia, slated for offseason knee surgery, has been playing hurt since Opening Day

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USA TODAY

Avisail Garcia, slated for offseason knee surgery, has been playing hurt since Opening Day

While some players' seasons have been open for interpretation, it's been an undeniably disappointing one for Avisail Garcia.

Turns out there's a good reason for the big change in his production from 2017 to 2018.

Garcia's battles with injuries this year have been no secret, but the White Sox outfielder revealed Tuesday that it's literally been going on all season long. He said that he felt something in his knee on Opening Day and that he's played hurt throughout the entire season. He also reported that he'll have arthroscopic knee surgery on Oct. 2, two days after the end of the season.

"Opening Day, I feel something in my knee," he said. "I had been feeling something, something, something and then I started feeling my hammy because I think I was favoring it. Especially because it’s my right knee, and that’s where all my power is. It’s crazy, but it is what it is.

"It’s sore. Every time I go home, it’s a little swollen. But I’m going to fix it soon. It’s been a crazy year, not for me, but for the whole team. Thank god we are alive and we are here. We have a chance. Let’s see what happens next year."

Garcia did make two trips to the disabled list this season, both due to an injured hamstring, which he said stemmed from the hurting knee. He played in 88 of the team's first 154 games, with six remaining on the schedule heading into Tuesday night's contest with the visiting Cleveland Indians.

Entering 2018, Garcia had the tall task of repeating his breakout campaign from a season before, when he made his first career All-Star appearance and posted some of the best offensive numbers in the American League with a .330 batting average and a .380 on-base percentage. During this injury-filled season, those numbers plummeted to .238 and .278.

"It’s been difficult. Difficult year," he said. "Nothing that I can do. I’ve been playing like this the whole season. Just gotta play and get after it, so it is what it is. I can’t control that. I can control what I do on the field.

"(The knee injury has) always been there. Everybody knows it’s hard when you get injury and then sit down and then go play and then sit down again. It’s hard to be consistent like that. This game is difficult so you have to be out there every day so you get to used to it and it’s hard to play like this. But it is what it is. It’s not an excuse. Everybody knows that. I’ve been playing like this so I’m trying to do my best."

Obviously, it's tough to judge Garcia's follow up to his All-Star season knowing how much his knee bothered him. But it still leaves unanswered the question of what his place is in the organization's long-term plans. He's under team control for one more season. The White Sox have the flexibility to do one of many things this offseason: keep him for one more season, try to trade him this offseason, hold on to him and try to trade him to a contending club next summer or extend him and keep him in the mix for when rebuilding mode transitions to contention mode. Garcia is just 27 years old.

Garcia said he'll be "100-percent" ready for spring training next year, and should his health be back to normal, his prove-it campaign that was supposed to come in 2018 could come in 2019. But there's also a wave of outfield prospects making its way toward the South Side that includes Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Micker Adolfo and plenty of others. So no matter what statistics Garcia might be shooting for, the pressure will be on to show he's a safer bet than all that young talent.

White Sox Talk Podcast: Daniel Palka on Palkamania and his breakout season

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Daniel Palka on Palkamania and his breakout season

Chuck Garfien speaks with White Sox outfielder Daniel Palka who as a 26-year-old rookie has come out of nowhere to become one of the White Sox most popular players in 2018.  They talk about the time Palka gave a pitcher a black eye in Little League, how he used to be a relief pitcher at Georgia Tech,  why the Twins gave him up on him, the time when Chuck called Palka’s walkoff homer this year, his friendship with Kyle Schwarber and more.   

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below: