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 shows off big velocity in first spring training start

Dylan Cease shows off big velocity in first spring training start

Dylan Cease is entering the 2020 season with plenty to prove. Considering how important he is to the future of the White Sox, it is perhaps fitting he was the first White Sox pitcher to take a mound in a spring training game.

On Saturday, Cease pitched two innings against the Cincinnati Reds as he ramps up to full strength. The most notable thing wasn’t how long he pitched or what his stat line was. It was his fastball.

Cease's fastball sat mostly at 96-98 mph and topped at 99. Cease quipped there could be a bit more in terms of his velocity.


Cease averaged 96.5 mph on his fastball in the majors in 2019. In 73 innings, he threw nine pitches that were at least 99 mph, topping out at 100.1 mph, according to Baseball Savant. He was capable of throwing that hard, but didn't do it often. For Cease to be on the higher end of his average and feature a 99 mph fastball in his first pitches of Cactus League baseball might be a sign that he could have added a touch more velocity.

It’s also just a two-inning spring training start, meaning Cease knew he could let fly a bit more in a shorter outing. Cease told reporters after his start he was focusing on his fastball command. He struck out three with no walks and three hits allowed.

In his rookie season, Cease struggled with command and consistency. He had a 5.79 ERA with 81 strikeouts and 35 walks over 14 starts.

February baseball doesn't carry any meaning, but this is a small encouraging sign for Cease.

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Kenny Williams shuts down rumor connecting free agent Yasiel Puig to White Sox

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USA TODAY

Kenny Williams shuts down rumor connecting free agent Yasiel Puig to White Sox

You can put to bed the rumors about free agent outfielder Yasiel Puig possibly signing with the White Sox. It’s not happening.

The two sides did get together during the MLB Winter Meetings in December. Kenny Williams, Rick Hahn and Rick Renteria met with Puig for about 90 minutes to discuss the possibility of the 29-year-old joining the White Sox as their everyday right fielder.

But instead, the White Sox chose to take a different route. That same week, they acquired Nomar Mazara from the Texas Rangers for minor league outfielder Steele Walker, ending any chance of Puig coming to the South Side.

“After our meeting we came away big Yasiel Puig fans, but he wasn’t the right fit for us then and he isn’t right now,” Williams said.

With spring training games starting this weekend and the regular season a little over a month away, fellow Cuban Jose Abreu says he’s surprised the flashy 29-year-old outfielder remains a free agent.

“Yes, I am (surprised). That’s one of those things that happen that you don’t understand. A guy with his talent. He’s still so young,” Abreu said through a translator. “He doesn’t have a team yet. It’s a surprise. I’m confident he’s going to find something this year.”

Even with Puig’s talent, Abreu looks around the White Sox clubhouse and agrees with the decision by the White Sox not to sign the former All-Star who hit .267/.327/.458 with the Reds and Indians last season.

“I don’t think he would be a good fit here. Don’t get me wrong. He has a lot of talent but we’re full," Abreu said. "Our outfield is looking great with Nomar (Mazara), Eloy (Jimenez) and (Luis) Robert. There’s no reason for us to make more moves in that area of our team. He’s someone who would fit in with any major league ball club because he has the talent to help any of those teams.”

What about possibly platooning Puig with Mazara in right field? On paper, that might sound like a good plan, although Puig has traditionally hit better against righties than lefties in his career. But a larger issue could be the timeshare. The idea of Puig, nicknamed “Wild Horse,” being forced to the stable for half the season could spell problems not only for him, but the chemistry inside the clubhouse.

“It would be difficult, especially for him being an everyday player,” Abreu said about Puig being a platoon player.  “When you have to make that decision, it’s not easy.”

So, where will Puig end up?  No one knows for sure but it won’t be with the White Sox.  

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