White Sox

Carlos Rodon’s high school coach sees White Sox getting great pitcher, person

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Carlos Rodon’s high school coach sees White Sox getting great pitcher, person

Carlos Rodon’s homecoming was cancelled this week, but for an awfully good reason.

The Holly Springs, N.C. native was scheduled to start for Triple-A Charlotte on Tuesday against Durham, about a half-hour drive through the Raleigh area from his hometown. Instead, the No. 3 pick in the 2014 MLB Draft will be seated in the White Sox bullpen at U.S. Cellular Field on Monday.

Rodon’s high school coach, Rod Whitesell, has kept in touch with the left-hander ever since he went off to North Carolina State (which is also in the Raleigh-Durham area) in 2011. Whitesell said Rodon will visit him at Holly Springs High School once in a while to catch up, bring him mementos of his career or — as he did last fall — throw to some of his prep alma mater’s catchers.

And, according to Whitesell, the 22-year-old mega-prospect is “absolutely” the same person he was back in high school.

[MORE WHITE SOX: White Sox to call up Carlos Rodon]

“He’s a confident, awesome baseball player but I think when he steps off the lines in between he is just a well-rounded, awesome young man,” Whitesell said in a phone interview Monday. “He’s got that switch. Between the lines, people may think he’s a butthole or he’s too competitive or they may not like him, but when he steps off that field he is an unbelievable, well-spoken nice young man. You could tell he was raised right.

“He’s the same kid he was when he played for us. Still has that infectious love for the game but also love for his friends and his teammates and his coaches.”

As a freshman playing on varsity, he threw a pair of one-hitters. He was “literally lights out” his junior year, Whitesell said. And Holly Springs won state with Rodon starting and hitting cleanup in 2011, his senior year.

After winning the state title, Rodon’s teammates started asking him for autographs. But Rodon, despite his rising national profile, never carried himself like a big-man-on-campus superstar. 

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

“He was a great teammate then,” Whitesell said. “He got obviously a lot of attention and a lot of accolades and all that, but he would always deflect to others. He worked hard. He never saw himself as like, I’m better or I’m anything — I think he teammates, if you would ask them today, would look at him as just another teammate.”

What’s made Rodon one of the top pitching prospects in baseball is the competitiveness he pairs with his mid-to-upper 90’s fastball, strong slider and good changeup. Whitesell saw it in high school, and still sees it today whether Rodon’s on the mound or playing him in ping pong during a visit to Arizona for spring training earlier this year.

Whitesell said that confidence is what pushed Rodon to a dominant junior year, which is when he began to emerge in draft conversations (though signability questions dropped him to the 16th round, and he wound up attending N.C. State). And it’s just another reason why Rodon has rocketed through the minor leagues and should make his major league debut sometime this week on the South Side.

“He always was competitive and had that nature,” Whitesell said. “His junior year, he said here it is, let’s see what happens. It kind of reminds me of what you see now. He’s willing to throw any pitch at any time to anyone and say here it is, I’m better than you — maybe that’s not what he’s saying, but that’s his mentality on the mound.”

Dylan Cease struggles early, but finishes strong in second White Sox start

Dylan Cease struggles early, but finishes strong in second White Sox start

Dylan Cease picked up a win in his first start, but his second did not go as well.

Cease pitched six innings Tuesday at the Royals and gave up six runs (four earned) on eight hits and a walk. He struck out seven, but took the loss in an ugly game for the White Sox.

The game got off to an ominous start with Eloy Jimenez getting injured on the first batter Cease faced. The White Sox defense didn’t help Cease much either with three errors (Cease had one of those on an errant pickoff throw).

After giving up six runs in the first four innings, Cease settled down to retire the final eight batters he faced. He finished with seven strikeouts against just one walk and threw 67 of his 108 pitches for strikes.

Cease struck out six in his first start and is the first pitcher in White Sox history to strike out six or more in each of his first two career appearances.

A deeper look at Cease’s numbers show his swing and miss stuff hasn’t quite caught on as expected so far. Cease got 13 swinging strikes in 101 pitches in his major league debut. He got 12 whiffs on 108 pitches on Tuesday. His slider did get five swinging strikes on 25 pitches against the Royals.

Fastball command remains a key part to Cease’s success. He only threw 26 out of 54 fastballs for strikes in his debut. Cease improved upon that with 31 strikes on 50 fastballs against the Royals.

Most of the Royals’ damage came against Cease’s fastball as well. Six of the Royals’ eight hits off Cease, including all three extra base hits, were off heaters. Cease also gave up four hits with two strikes.

There has been plenty of hype surrounding Cease since he joined the White Sox, but he hasn’t hit the ground running in the majors just yet. Having 13 days between the first two starts of his career due to the all-star break and the White Sox giving him some extra rest also isn’t the ideal scenario for a young pitcher.

Cease’s ERA is now at 5.73, which isn’t going to set the world on fire. Still, there have been enough positives in his first two starts to see where reasonable improvement could lead to Cease becoming the pitcher the White Sox expect him to be.

 

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Sports Talk Live Podcast: Next steps for the White Sox rebuild

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Next steps for the White Sox rebuild

David Haugh, Sam Panayotovich and Chris Bleck join Kap on the panel.

0:00 - The Cubs deal World Series hero Mike Montgomery to the Royals for catcher Martin Maldonado. So what does that mean for Willson Contreras' injury? And who will get the majority of the playing time behind the plate?

10:30 - The guys look ahead to Dylan Cease's second Major League start and discuss what players should be dealt at the deadline to continue the White Sox rebuild.

16:00 - The Blackhawks deal Artem Anisimov to the Senators. Could this mean Kirby Dach can make the team on opening night?

18:30 - Robbie Gould won't be a Bear next season. Is the Bears Week 1 kicker currently on their roster?

20:00 - Did EA Sports diss Mitch Trubisky? DARN NATIONAL MEDIA!!!!

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