White Sox

Carlos Rodon frustrated again after a weird, long day at Wrigley Field

Carlos Rodon frustrated again after a weird, long day at Wrigley Field

Carlos Rodon became the first pitcher in major league history to strike out 11 batters in a start that lasted only four innings in the White Sox 7-2 loss to the Cubs Tuesday at Wrigley Field. That’s the good part of the story of Rodon’s afternoon. 

The bad part of Rodon’s fifth start of the year: The Cubs put six balls in play, but only one went for an out. Willson Contreras launched a three-run home run in the first inning and Rodon issued three walks — including one to pitcher John Lackey — while allowing four runs. Rodon needed 98 pitches to get through four innings as he oscillated between being dominant and hittable. 

“As you see, the command is not there,” Rodon said. “Very inconsistent. Have to find the consistency again, find the strike zone, find the strike zone.”

Perhaps the promising — or maddening, depending on how you look at it — part of Rodon’s start was that he was unhittable at times. Even with a generous strike zone (that led to Kris Bryant’s first career ejection), Rodon’s 11 strikeouts tied a career high. 

“It feels good,” Rodon said. “It’s coming out good. The stuff is there. I’ve punched out 11 before, but you’d think, try to (get) 11 through seven.”

It wasn’t as if the Cubs necessarily sat back and made Rodon come to them, though. The Cubs took 12 of Rodon’s 22 first pitches (eight balls, four strikes), swung at nine (six foul balls, three whiffs) and bunted at one (which went foul). That the Cubs didn’t have a hit on any of those first pitches speaks to Rodon’s stuff, though they were still squaring him up later in at-bats. 

But that stuff hasn’t led to efficiency. Through five starts, Rodon is averaging 4.24 pitches per batter, a higher average than he had in 2016 (3.90) and 2015 (4.02) and higher than 2017’s league average (3.88). 

“… It could be mental,” Rodon said. “Who knows. It’s something we have to figure out.”

Rodon pointed to his final two innings as being encouraging — he threw 39 total pitches in them and didn’t allow a run — and said he felt like he was in a better rhythm in the second half of his start. But he recognizes he has to find that rhythm sooner.

“I would trade those 11 strikeouts in for six or seven innings just to not tax the bullpen to go out there and go that long,” Rodon said. 

One of the ancillary positives to Rodon’s frustration, though, was the line drive double he ripped off John Lackey in the second inning, which brought in the only two runs the White Sox scored on Tuesday. Rodon — who was an accomplished hitter in high school — gapped his double with an exit velocity of 104 miles per hour, just one mile per hour slower than the exit velocity of Willson Contreras’ first inning home run. 

“It’s nice, it gives us a couple of runs,” Rodon said. “Once again, my job is to pitch and not hit. It so happened I got a hit, but four innings is not going to cut it.”

White Sox free-agent focus: Dallas Keuchel

White Sox free-agent focus: Dallas Keuchel

This week, we’re profiling some of the biggest names on the free-agent market and taking a look at what kind of fits they are for the White Sox.

The White Sox need starting pitching, so why not bring in a guy with a Cy Young Award sitting on his mantle?

Dallas Keuchel is one of the two biggest names on the starting-pitching market this winter, along with Patrick Corbin, who will get more attention — and likely more dollars — because he's two years younger. But Keuchel's the guy with the track record, the AL Cy Young winner in 2015 (when he was also a top-five MVP finisher), a two-time All Star, a four-time Gold Glove winner and the owner of a 3.28 ERA over the past five seasons, during which he helped the Houston Astros transition from rebuilding to one of baseball's perennial contenders. You might have heard something about them winning the World Series in 2017.

It's true that things have been somewhat up and down for Keuchel since his Cy Young win. After posting a 2.48 ERA with a career-high 216 strikeouts in 33 starts during that 2015 season, he had a 4.55 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 26 starts in 2016, then a 2.90 ERA and 125 strikeouts in 23 starts in 2017 and a 3.74 ERA and 153 strikeouts in 34 starts last season. But three times in the last five years he's finished with an ERA under 3.00. In other words, he's pretty darn good.

How might he fit with the White Sox? Well, in terms of whether or not he lines up with their long-term plans. Keuchel's older than Corbin, but it's not like he's old. He'll be 31 on Opening Day 2019, and a long-term deal, which he's expected to fetch, would keep him around for another planned transition from rebuilding to contention. Keuchel — a veteran who's accomplished a lot already, including putting a World Series ring on his finger — could be viewed as a Jon Lester type for these rebuilding White Sox, a big name who buys into the front office's long-term plan and helps make those plans become reality.

And there's no doubt the White Sox are in the market for starting pitching this winter. Michael Kopech is recovering from Tommy John surgery, and the White Sox decided not to pick up James Shields' option for 2019. That leaves two holes in the starting rotation. An addition like Keuchel would be a long-term one, which means the White Sox would opt to make him a safety net for their still-developing fleet of young pitchers and choose not to roll the dice on a homegrown starting staff for 2020. However, if they're confident in a quintet of Kopech, Carlos Rodon, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dylan Cease, then maybe they opt for a couple one-year fill-ins in 2019. Keuchel would not be a one-year fill-in.

Keuchel could also fill the role vacated by Shields, a veteran who could help bring along the young guys in an off-the-field mentor role. His experience going through the dark days of a rebuild — he was a member of Astros teams that lost a combined 310 games from 2012 to 2014 — and coming out the other end a world champ would also figure to be of value.

Of course, the White Sox wouldn't be alone in a pursuit of Keuchel, if they were interested. Thanks to Clayton Kershaw signing a new contract extension with the Los Angeles Dodgers, he's one of the two biggest names on the market when it comes to starting pitchers. The White Sox would likely have to go through the same bidding war and pitch of planned future success they would with other big names like Corbin, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.

But there's no doubt Keuchel would be an upgrade to this rotation in 2019 and could provide plenty of value for years beyond.

ESPN forgot about the White Sox again, and the Big Hurt let 'em hear about it

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USA TODAY

ESPN forgot about the White Sox again, and the Big Hurt let 'em hear about it

ESPN forgot about the White Sox again.

The Worldwide Leader in Sports has made a habit of failing to remember the South Siders in recent years, most notably forgetting (on multiple occasions) that the White Sox did in fact win the 2005 World Series.

It happened enough times that A.J. Pierzynski had some opinions about it.

This time, the omission came in an effort to illustrate how good Mike Trout is, with ESPN researcher Paul Hembekides listing baseball players who appeared in the top four in MVP voting three or more times. Trout, the Los Angeles Angels superstar, has already done it seven times, and boy that is terrific.

But Hembekides left someone out. And that someone let him hear about it.

You tell 'em, Frank.

Yes, the Big Hurt finished in the top four of the AL MVP vote on six separate occasions: 1991 (third), 1993 (first), 1994 (first), 1997 (third), 2000 (second) and 2006 (fourth, while playing for the Oakland Athletics).

ESPN's blind spot for the White Sox doesn't end up meaning much of anything, though it's amusing that they've now managed to leave out a relatively recent World Series champion and a relatively recent first-ballot Hall of Famer.

We all make mistakes. But it's a little funny that ESPN's are, repeatedly, White Sox related.