White Sox

Carlos Rodon, White Sox rocked by Pirates on road

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Carlos Rodon, White Sox rocked by Pirates on road

PITTSBURGH -- The White Sox have entered one of those free falls where nothing seems to go right.

The current downward spiral is now four games old with three more contests upcoming against the red-hot Pittsburgh Pirates.

On Monday night, rookie starter Carlos Rodon got hit hard early and the bottom fell out in an 11-0 White Sox loss to the Pirates in front of 24,536 at PNC Park. Losers of four straight, the White Sox made three errors and dropped to six games below .500. Rodon allowed a career-high seven runs and nine hits in 3 2/3 innings and former White Sox pitcher Francisco Liriano twirled a gem against his former team, striking out 12. Liriano and Rob Scahill combined on a two-hit shutout as the White Sox struck out 13 times.

“We get a good hustle play from Eaton getting on base (to start the game) and after that I don't know what we did well,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “We didn't do anything well after that. It's that simple.”

Rodon (2-1) looked out of sync early.

One of the biggest positives of the 2015 season so far, Rodon struggled immediately as he issued a leadoff walk to Josh Harrison in the first inning. The left-hander then gave up five straight hits, including a two-run triple to Francisco Cervelli, as the White Sox fell behind 5-0.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Rodon got out of the inning with a pair of strikeouts and a Tyler Flowers caught stealing and pitched around singles over the next two frames. But Rodon only lasted into the fourth as he surrendered a leadoff double to Jordy Mercer and Harrison followed with one of his four singles to make it 6-0. With the game out of hand, the White Sox yanked Rodon after 69 pitches. Harrison stole second and Starling Marte, who had four hits, singled off Daniel Webb to close the book on Rodon. On the play, Jose Abreu dropped the throw he cut off.

“Fastball command wasn’t too great, leaving balls over the plate and balls were getting hit,” Rodon said. “That was a good hitting club. It’s the big leagues, anybody can hit. You’ve just got to forget about today and go on to tomorrow. Q’s going to give us a good start. He’ll turn this thing around.”

Hector Noesi took over and immediately issued a pair of walks, one scoring on Mercer’s double to make it 8-0.

An inning later, Harrison singled with one out ahead of three straight doubles that made it 11-0. Marte’s double resulted in a Little League home run as Emilio Bonifacio’s relay throw to third got away from Gordon Beckham, who was charged with an error. Alexei Ramirez also had an error for the White Sox, who entered the game second to last in the league in Defensive Runs Saved, according to fangraphs.com.

The White Sox offense was no match for Liriano, who struck out 12 over eight scoreless innings. Liriano -- who appeared in 12 games (11 starts) for the White Sox in 2012 -- had a no-hitter into the fifth inning. Melky Cabrera singled up the middle to break up the no-hit bid, only his sixth hit in 54 at-bats against left-handed pitchers this season.

[MORE: Gillaspie adapting to new role with White Sox]

Liriano (4-5) struck out the side in the fourth and sixth innings. He threw strikes on 69 of 100 pitches and limited the White Sox to two hits and a walk.

It’s the 12th time this season the White Sox have lost by at least five runs.

“It went downhill pretty quick,” center fielder Adam Eaton said. “You hope you can get more than two hits offensively. Defensively you have three errors and throw the ball around and its not a good sign. But this is a good team. We’ve got to continue to work hard and try to compete every game and every at-bat. But we need to start doing it a little more frequently and grind out at-bats and same thing on the mound and defensively it has got to be much better.”

Michael Kopech's arrival shows White Sox and a rebuild-loving fan base what progress looks like

Michael Kopech's arrival shows White Sox and a rebuild-loving fan base what progress looks like

Tangible, visible, hit-you-over-the-head obvious signs of progress have at times seemed hard to come by for the rebuild-loving legions watching the White Sox on a nightly basis during this developmental 2018 campaign.

That’s not to say there haven’t been tons of positives throughout the organization. Those who sprung for the MiLB.TV package have been able to see every Eloy Jimenez home run, and people around the baseball world found out just how fantastic Dylan Cease has been when he represented the organization at the Futures Game.

But the inconsistencies of Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, the strikeout-heavy first full major league season from Yoan Moncada and the early season demotion of Carson Fulmer have left those watching the big league team praying for some sign that things are improving.

Enter Michael Kopech.

The news that the team’s top-ranked pitching prospect, one of the top 15 prospects in baseball, will make his major league debut Tuesday night at Guaranteed Rate Field must have seemed like an oasis in a 31-games-below-.500 desert when it was announced Sunday afternoon.

It’s sure to make for an even more hyped atmosphere than the one that greeted Yoan Moncada last July, when the No. 1 prospect in the game made his debut in a White Sox uniform. And while the architects of this rebuilding effort know the inner workings of the organization like no outsider ever could, they’re going to be part of that atmosphere Tuesday, too, part of a celebration of progress coming to the South Side.

“As focused as we have been, the front office and even White Sox fans, on the future and progress we feel we’re making, we’ve also been tested,” general manager Rick Hahn said on a conference call Monday morning. “We’ve talked about, going back to last offseason, this would very likely be the most difficult year of the rebuild and the patience this year would require would be a challenge for all of us. So I do think it’s important to try and enjoy these moments along the way where you do see that progress.

“We can talk all we want about how we’re only in Year 2 and that it is going to take time and there is a bright future ahead of us, but we’re all human, we’re all sports fans, we all want to see progress along the way. That has nothing to do with the timing of making a move like this, but when a move like this does occur and when the developmental reasons line up accordingly, we all should take a moment to enjoy the progress and excitement that comes.”

Those paying close enough attention knew what Hahn cautioned prior to the beginning of the season, that this was going to be the hardest part of the rebuild. Tom Petty said it first, to be fair, that the waiting is the hardest part, and that’s what 2018 was always going to be for the White Sox, a waiting game. The incredible amount of talent Hahn brought into the system needed time to develop, and in many cases it still does.

And so during that waiting came what fans and observers have seen on a nightly basis at the major league level. For the young players who are still slated to be key pieces of the team’s long-term plans, we’ve seen growing pains and the continued development that comes in the bigs. In certain cases, we’ve seen players who are fighting to make themselves a part of the long-term plans and players who simply won’t end up being a part of those long-term plans.

But few players are expected to have as a big a starring role as Kopech, hence the excitement surrounding his promotion. He’s tantalized with his last seven starts at Triple-A Charlotte, posting a 1.84 ERA with a ridiculous strikeout-to-walk ratio — 59 punch outs and only four free passes — over his last 44 innings.

While fans have been clamoring for promotions — be it of Kopech or top-ranked prospect Eloy Jimenez — for months, it’s taken this long into the season for a big one to come to the major league team. That, too, has all been part of the plan. Hahn mentioned multiple times throughout the year that how the team handled Giolito and Lopez a season ago could be a kind of template for how they handled Kopech this season. And while all three are different pitchers dealing with their own developments, Kopech will make his debut one day away from the one-year anniversary of Giolito’s White Sox debut.

In the end, though, Kopech’s promotion is the manifestation of the patience Hahn said everyone involved with this organization — him and his own front office included — had to practice this season. The White Sox waited until they knew Kopech was absolutely ready. They didn’t make a promotion to better a team that wasn’t contending for a playoff spot or to please an antsy fan base hungry to see progress happen as soon as possible. Baseball players constantly say that it’s all about execution. Well, Hahn and the White Sox executed their plan exactly how they wanted.

“Outside noise or emotion or even passion or excitement for seeing the rebuild progress has nothing to do with our decisions in terms of the timing of promotions,” Hahn said. “Each of these decisions are motivated by what’s best in terms of putting both the organization and the individual player in the best long-term position to reach their potential.

“We knew the 2018 season would be a challenging one and one in which we were going to have to not fall prey to outside influences or the influence of outside factors beyond what’s best for the organization and what’s best for our players’ long-term development. It’s going to require patience. I think you’ve seen that we’ve exhibited that this season, and we’re going to have to continue to do that throughout the coming weeks and months.

“The short-term gratification that would come from eliminating white noise or promoting a high-profile player just isn’t worth it when you consider the long-term benefits that come from us just showing the requisite patience that is required to put these guys in the best long-term position to succeed.”

Now it’s time for Kopech to execute his own plan and meet the huge expectations he has for himself and that Chicago has for him.

But for those watching the big league team, this is the hit-you-over-the-head sign of progress you’ve been waiting for, a tangible sign that the rebuild is moving forward.

White Sox Talk Podcast: White Sox call up Michael Kopech

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: White Sox call up Michael Kopech

With the big news that Michael Kopech is coming to the majors, Chuck Garfien and Vinnie Duber talk about the decision by the Sox to bring up their top pitching prospect and the excitement that Kopech will bring to the team and the 2018 season.

Kevan Smith discusses what kind of stuff Kopech has and what it was like catching him in the minor leagues. Plus, they talk about Paul Konerko’s unforgettable day in the booth with Hawk Harrelson.

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