White Sox

Carlos Rodon shines again as White Sox top Indians

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Carlos Rodon shines again as White Sox top Indians

Carlos Rodon continues to look like he’ll be the one to fill the No. 2 spot in the 2016 White Sox rotation.

The rookie left-hander put together another fantastic outing on Tuesday night as he worked out of early trouble en route to seven strong innings. Rodon struck out eight and allowed one run and five hits and Rob Brantly and Jose Abreu homered as the White Sox beat the Cleveland Indians 7-4 at U.S. Cellular Field. Trayce Thompson also singled twice, walked and drove in two runs in support of Rodon’s sixth straight quality start.

“He always seems to come back and have a little more,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “And teams that have seen him for the second time, I think that's the impressive thing, he's still able to get at it.”

In his last six starts, Rodon has lowered his earned-run average from 5.00 to 3.94.

All it has taken him to accomplish the reduction is a stretch in which he has allowed 10 runs (eight earned), 27 hits with 15 walks and 41 strikeouts in 41 innings (1.76 ERA).

[SHOP: Buy a Carlos Rodon jersey]

Several keys to Rodon’s success are improved command and feel for his pitches, which has led to a lowered walk rate. Whereas he walked an average of 5.32 batters per nine over his first 84 2/3 innings, Rodon has lowered his average to 3.29 in the past 41 innings.

Over the first few months of his career, Rodon often walked himself into trouble. On Tuesday, he didn’t issue a walk until his sixth inning when he led 5-0.

“For him to do this as quickly as he has is the impressive part,” Ventura said. “He didn't have too many innings in the minor leagues. To be able to come up here and do this is impressive.”

Catcher Rob Brantly is impressed with the difference in Rodon’s mound presence. Brantly last caught Rodon in spring training and said the difference is remarkable.

“It’s light out,” Brantly said. “It’s a tough guy to face right there, I’m glad I’m just on the receiving end of it. But he came out with some great stuff today and really did a great job shutting them down.”

Rodon’s defense provided him with a huge lift in the second inning and then he was off to the races.

[ALSO: Ventura 'absolutely' wants to return to Sox in 2016]

With two on base via singles, Rodon’s inning was extended on a two-out error by Mike Olt. But Rodon got Jason Kipnis to hit a grounder to second and Carlos Sanchez made a fantastic play to strand the bases loaded.

“I thought that ball was getting through there and all of I sudden I see Carlos picking up that play and making it look easy,” Rodon said. “Hats off to him.”

Rodon made it look just as simple after that as retired 16 of the last 19 batters he faced.

Cleveland didn’t score until the fifth inning and by that time Rodon already had a five-run lead.

Rodon’s development is significant for next season as the White Sox figure to have at least one opening in the rotation. Jeff Samardzija is headed for free agency, which likely leaves the White Sox with a vacancy near the front of the rotation. The team may also consider trading Jose Quintana, something that would be made easier by Rodon’s ascent.

What has to boost the team’s confidence is how Rodon has handled himself as his innings have increased. Rodon has pitched 135 2/3 innings this season between the White Sox and Charlotte. Prior to this, he threw 132 1/3 innings in his sophomore year at North Carolina State with some extra work for Team USA that summer.

[MORE: Micah Johnson promoted from Triple-A]

Last season, Rodon finished with 123 1/3 innings between NC State and the minors.

“I feel strong for the firsttime playing 162 games and playing for this long,” Rodon said. “It’s actually real fun. I’m enjoying it. It is a grind, but I enjoy every minute of it, coming into this clubhouse and hanging out with these guys and play baseball.

“It is nice, to do that (many innings in) year and pretty soon you’ll be looking at 200 innings and I'll be able to do that for them.”

Brantly got Rodon headed in the right direction with a three-run homer in the second inning. Abreu homered off Carlos Carrasco in the second inning and added an RBI single in the fifth to make it 5-0.

Thompson, who singled and walked in his first two trips, singled in two more in the seventh inning to put the White Sox ahead by six runs.

James Shields is having a stellar May and making comeback wins possible for the White Sox

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USA TODAY

James Shields is having a stellar May and making comeback wins possible for the White Sox

If you haven’t checked in with what James Shields is doing in a while, your opinion of the veteran pitcher’s performance might need some updating.

Shields didn’t exactly win the confidence of White Sox fans during his first two seasons on the South Side. After arriving in a midseason trade with the San Diego Padres in 2016, he posted a 6.77 ERA in 22 starts, during which he allowed 31 home runs. He followed that up with a 5.23 ERA and 27 home runs allowed in 2017.

And the 2018 season didn’t start out great, either, with a 6.17 ERA over his first five outings.

But the month of May has brought a dramatic turn in the vet’s production. In five May starts, he’s got a 3.27 ERA in five starts, all of which have seen him go at least six innings (he’s got six straight outings of at least six innings, dating back to his last start in April).

And his two most recent starts have probably been his two best ones of the season. After allowing just one run on three hits in 7.1 innings last Thursday against the Texas Rangers, he gave up just two runs on five hits Tuesday night against the Baltimore Orioles.

The White Sox, by the way, won both of those games in comeback fashion. They scored four runs in the eighth against Texas and three in the eighth against Baltimore for a pair of “Ricky’s boys don’t quit” victories made possible by Shields’ great work on the mound.

“That’s what it’s all about,” he said after Tuesday’s game. “It’s our job as starters to keep us in the game as long as we possibly can, no matter how we are hitting in a game. At the end of the game, you can always score one or two runs and possibly win a ballgame like we did tonight.”

The White Sox offense was indeed having trouble much of Tuesday’s game, kept off the scoreboard by Orioles starter Kevin Gausman. Particularly upsetting for White Sox Twitter was the sixth inning, when the South Siders put two runners in scoring position with nobody out and then struck out three straight times to end the inning.

But Shields went out and pitched a shut-down seventh, keeping the score at 2-0. Bruce Rondon did much the same thing in the eighth, and the offense finally sparked to life in the bottom of the inning when coincidentally presented with a similar situation to the one in the sixth. This time, though, the inning stayed alive and resulted in scoring, with Welington Castillo, Yoan Moncada and Yolmer Sanchez driving in the three runs.

“I’m out there doing my job,” Shields said. “My job is to try to keep us in the game. And we had some good starters against us that have been throwing well. If I can keep them close, we are going to get some wins and get some wins throughout the rest of the year like that. That’s the name of the game.”

Shields’ value in this rebuilding effort has been discussed often. His veteran presence is of great value in the clubhouse, particularly when it comes to mentoring young pitchers like Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, among others. Shields can act as an example of how to go about one’s business regardless of the outcomes of his starts. But when he can lead by example with strong outings, that’s even more valuable.

“I’m trying to eat as many innings as possible,” he said. “We kind of gave our bullpen — we taxed them a little bit the first month of the season. We are kind of getting back on track. Our goal as a starting staff is to go as deep as possible, and in order to do that, you’ve got to throw strikes and get ahead of hitters.

“Not too many playoff teams, a starting staff goes five and dive every single game. My whole career I’ve always wanted to go as deep as possible. I wanted to take the ball all the way to the end of the game. And we’ve done a pretty good job of it of late.”

It’s a long time between now and the trade deadline, and consistency has at times escaped even the brightest spots on this rebuilding White Sox roster. But Shields has strung together a nice bunch of starts here of late, and if that kind of performance can continue, the White Sox front office might find that it has a potential trade piece on its hands. That, too, is of value to this rebuild.

Until that possibility occurs, though, the team will take more solid outings that give these young players an opportunity to learn how to come back and learn how to win.

Ozzie Guillen offers his solution to PED use in baseball

Ozzie Guillen offers his solution to PED use in baseball

Ozzie Guillen is not one to shy away from having a strong opinion about something.

On NBC Sports Chicago’s Baseball Night in Chicago show on Tuesday, Guillen gave his view on how Major League Baseball can stop the usage of performance-enhancing drugs.

“Major League Baseball, you want to cut this thing down?” Guillen said on the show. “You cancel the contract to this kid. Then you’re going to see that. You get caught one time, you’re banned from baseball, then you’re going to stop with that. Because if you’re going to make $200 million and lose $11 million? I’m going to do it.”

Guillen is going off the idea that a player who used PEDs to get a big contract only loses part of it when he eventually gets caught and suspended. Canceling the rest of a contract takes away some of the financial incentive to use PEDs.

“If you get caught when you are young and you try to survive in the game, well, I don’t agree with them, but you can survive in this game that way,” Guillen said. “You know how hard it is right now. How Major League Baseball is on the top of this thing, day in and day out. They’re not going to play around with this thing.”

Marlon Byrd, who was twice suspended for PED use, was also on the show and talked about his PED suspensions.