White Sox

Carlos Rodon finding his groove in White Sox rotation

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Carlos Rodon finding his groove in White Sox rotation

Carlos Rodon continues to check off rookie benchmarks as he wades deeper into major league waters.

The 22-year-old left-hander threw a career high 116 pitches over six shutout innings as the White Sox beat Houston, 4-2, in front of 18,439 Tuesday night at U.S. Cellular Field. Rodon allowed four hits, issued two walks and struck out five in his first scoreless outing as a major league starter.

With those six shutout innings, Rodon’s season ERA dropped to 2.86. After a rocky, walk-filled introduction to the starting rotation, Rodon has issued five walks against 19 strikeouts in his last 18 1/3 innings, in which he’s allowed four runs (two earned) on 17 hits.

Rodon’s drop in walks and string of success has come after having his turn in the rotation skipped in late May, affording him an opportunity to hit the reset button and return to the mound with a better mindset.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

“Attacking the zone, man,” Rodon said of what he worked on during that nine-day hiatus. “First pitch strikes, let them hit it. Go at it early and make them swing the bat. That’s all you can do.”

Manager Robin Ventura speculated before Tuesday’s game Rodon’s recent improvement has been partially due to him settling into the routine of being a starter after moving from the bullpen to rotation in early May.

“I think part of it is when we put him in there of being able for him to have the ability to go out every five days and the repetition that goes with pitching has been better for him,” Ventura said before Tuesday’s game. “I think it’s more of a natural thing and the command stuff has gotten better.”

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The fourth inning on Tuesday brought around some trouble for Rodon, who loaded the bases on a single, hit batsman and walk with one out. But the No. 3 overall pick in 2014’s MLB Draft struck out Luis Valbuena and got Jake Marisnick to ground out to end the threat, though it took him 31 pitches to do so. 

Rodon retired nine of the final 10 batters he faced after the fourth, which allowed him to stay in the game through the sixth.

“He has a competitor mentality,” catcher Tyler Flowers said. “We’re not giving in, we’re executing pitches. If we miss, we’re missing in good spots, go get the next guy. To bounce back after that, he did a good job of trusting his stuff.

“He wasn’t overthinking when he missed or if he left something up, he did a good job of moving to the next pitch which is the common characteristic of the very good pitchers at this level.”

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As Rodon has settled into his newly-found groove, he’s grown a trust in his stuff Flowers said was key in helping him get out of a dangerous fourth inning. According to Brooks Baseball, Rodon only threw eight changeups in his first 22 1/3 innings in the majors, in which he had a 21/19 strikeout-to-walk ratio. In his last three starts and 18 1/3 innings, he’s thrown 22 changeups with that 19/5 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

While the changeup isn’t a go-to pitch just yet, he’s been able to work it in more by throwing his fastball and slider for strikes at a higher rate. His walks are down and his ERA is down as he's focused on getting ahead in the count and generating weak contact more than anything else.

But while the tangible details of his development are pointing in the right direction, his manager has observed the kind of mentality from Rodon that leads him to believe the young left-hander will continue to improve as the season wears on.

“He absorbs a lot,” Ventura said. “He has that bulldog mentality of just going out and gutting his way through it and just battling. I think that’s an impressive part of what we are learning about him, the way he goes about it and how much he cares and how much he puts on his own shoulders.
 
“… You hear a lot of things about people through draft stuff, just reports. But when you actually get to see this kid and be around him and see him on a daily basis and go out and do things like this, it’s pretty impressive what he’s capable of.”

White Sox Talk Podcast: Manny Machado Mania

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Manny Machado Mania

Manny Machado to the White Sox?? It's been the dream for many White Sox fans for months.

With Machado in town to the play the White Sox, Chuck Garfien and Vinnie Duber discuss the White Sox chances of signing the soon-to-be-free agent.

Garfien also talks with Nicky Delmonico who played with Machado and fellow free agent to be Bryce Harper on the U.S.A. 18-under national team.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

Rick Renteria issues another benching after Welington Castillo doesn't hustle on popup

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USA TODAY

Rick Renteria issues another benching after Welington Castillo doesn't hustle on popup

One thing you better do if you play for Rick Renteria is run to first base.

Yet again, Renteria benched one of his players Monday for the sin of not hustling down the line.

Welington Castillo, a veteran, not a developing player in need of ample “learning experiences,” popped up to first base with two runners on and nobody out in the sixth inning of Monday’s eventual 3-2 loss to the visiting Baltimore Orioles. He did not run down to first, instead staying at home plate.

So when the inning ended and the White Sox took the field, Castillo stayed in the dugout.

Ricky’s boys don’t quit, or so the slogan goes. But what happens when a player doesn’t live up to that mantra? What happens when they don’t play their absolute hardest for all 27 outs, as the T-shirts preach? This is what happens. A benching.

“It was towering fly ball in the infield at first, probably had 15, 20 seconds of hangtime,” Renteria explained after the game. “I assumed the dropped ball. It has occurred. He could, at minimum, at least start moving that way.

“That’s uncharacteristic of him, to be honest, it truly is. Maybe he was just frustrated in that he had the fly ball and just stayed at the plate, but there was no movement toward first at all. And you guys have heard me talk to all the guys about at least giving an opportunity to move in that particular direction.

“Everybody says, ‘Well, 99 out of (100) times he’s going to catch that ball.’ And then that one time that he doesn’t, what would I do if the ball had been dropped? Would it have made it easier to pull him? Well, it was just as easy because you expect not the best, but the worst.

“That is uncharacteristic of that young man. I had a quick conversation with him on the bench, and he knew and that was it.”

It might seem a little overdramatic, a little nutty, even, to sit down a veteran catcher brought in this offseason to provide some offense and to do it in a one-run game. But this rebuild is about more than just waiting around for the minor league talent to make its way to the South Side. It’s about developing an organizational culture, too. And Renteria feels that if he lets this kind of thing slide at the big league level, that won’t send the right message to those precious prospects who will one day fill out this lineup.

“There’s one way to do it, you get your action, you start moving toward that direction in which you’ve got to go,” Renteria said. “What would’ve happened if everybody’s watching it — and I’m setting the tone for not only here, our club, (but also for) everybody in the minor leagues — and they’re saying, ‘Well, at the top, they said they’re going to do this and then they don’t do it.’

“It’s really simple. And people might like it, not like it. I’ve got to do this, do that so everybody understands what we’re trying to do here. We’re not done with what we’re trying to do.”

This isn’t the first time this has happened in 2018. Avisail Garcia was taken out of a game during spring training for not giving maximum effort. Leury Garcia was removed from a game earlier this month for not busting it down the first-base line on a weak grounder that went right to the first baseman.

It’s become a somewhat common tactic for Renteria, and while it might strike some as taking things a little too seriously, what good is this developmental season if a culture goes undeveloped? The White Sox have placed their bright future, in part, in Renteria’s hands, and they’ve talked glowingly about how the players have bought into his style and how the team played last season under his leadership.

If Renteria truly is the right man for the rebuild, things like this are how he’s going to establish his culture. And it will, he hopes, impact how all those prospects play when they’re no longer prospects and the White Sox are contending for championships.