White Sox

Don Cooper likes Carlos Rodon's progress, expects more

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Don Cooper likes Carlos Rodon's progress, expects more

Carlos Rodon’s strides in the bullpen are translating to the mound and while Don Cooper is pleased, he knows there is more to be done.

The White Sox pitching coach has seen the team’s prized rookie left-hander make tremendous strides this season, particularly in his routine between starts.

The effort has resulted in more consistency throwing strikes — “he’s getting better,” Cooper said — and he thinks it's good to see Rodon string together a run of starts like he has, especially in August and September. But Cooper believes Rodon can’t — and won’t — let up at this point.

“We’re all pleased with where he’s at and excited about where he might be going and excited about us having another guy who’s a quality starter,” Cooper said. “But the minute you think you’ve got something in baseball …

“He’s not where he needs to be. He’s still growing. He’s done well and we love him and he deserves the praise for his work because he’s battled through it.”

[MORE: Mike Olt to see plenty of playing time for White Sox]

Rodon has a 1.76 ERA in his last six starts, a span of 41 innings. In that time, he has walked 15 (an average of 3.29 per nine innings) down from 50 (5.32) in his first 84 2/3. Rodon has struck out 41 batters.

Both he and Cooper attribute much of the success to a brand new routine that has been refined over the course of the season. When Rodon arrived in spring training, he didn’t have a routine and was “as green as I’ve seen,” Cooper said.

They’ve since developed a three-part bullpen session that includes something akin to long toss — “just trying to feel that ride to the plate,” Rodon said — to several throw-hops off the mound before he begins to work out of the stretch. The practice has solidified along the way, both said, and Rodon likes the results.

“I had to figure (the routine) out first,” Rodon said. “Finally came up with one and feel more comfortable. It’s come together good.

“I’m more consistent in the strike zone, earlier contact and pitch count is down — all these things that really help and help the team.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Cooper believes Rodon couldn’t produce what he has on the mound without replicating it in sessions between starts. Once he routinely produces in the bullpen, Cooper can expect to see the same in games. Cooper has seen Rodon grow more comfortable and confidence and in turn he’s more consistent.

“I think things are coming together and I think we’re all getting a chance to see them during the game put that together,” Cooper said. “Everything else that goes on before, that has a big say in what’s going on.

“He’s a good kid. I like his demeanor out there and his presence and how he has a way of getting out of some things and he has another gear toward stuff and he’s fighting.”

Dylan Covey attempting to right the ship via mechanics and mentality

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Dylan Covey attempting to right the ship via mechanics and mentality

It was only a couple of months ago that Dylan Covey had an earned-run average of 2.22 and was being touted as a possible future stalwart in the White Sox rotation.

Fast forward to the present, when the 27-year-old right-hander is sitting on a four-game losing skid and sports a 6.06 ERA.

So what happened?

Location, location, location.

Covey has struggled to keep the ball down in the zone and has paid the price as hitters are teeing off on the high offerings.

“I just kind of got away from trying to keep the ball down in the zone and have that be my main focus,” Covey said. “Sometimes when I’m up in the zone I’m trying to be up there, but I need to get back to my bread and butter, which is pretty much being down in the zone with everything.”

The issues have been a combination of mechanics and mentality, according to Covey.

“Having good mechanics will lead to getting the ball down into the zone but more so it’s having the focus be down in the zone,” he said.

Covey’s next attempt to right the ship will be Saturday when he’s scheduled to pitch against the Royals at Guaranteed Rate Field. Despite his struggles, which include a 1-6 record and 7.71 ERA in his last seven starts, manager Rick Renteria has continued to give Covey the ball.

“I’ve kind of been given the luxury to have a couple of opportunities and I appreciate that,” Covey said. “They see me work and they see the stuff that I have. When I can harness it and get control of it, it can be pretty good.”

Renteria said the Sox are “confident and hopeful” that Covey can turn things around.

“In real terms, he’s the one that's got to do it,” Renteria added. “He’s worked and gained a lot of experience and knowledge and had some successes this year that I think will bode well for him. Getting it down, for him is really, really important because the ball has a lot of tremendous action below the zone. We need him to do that in order to be effective and we believe he will continue to progress in that regard.”

Covey said that a stretch from May 23-June 13 when he went 4-0 with a 1.53 ERA gave him the confidence he needs to get through this difficult stretch.

“I’ve seen it this year--I’ve had the success,” Covey said. “When things are working for me I know I can be a really good pitcher. I just need to limit the mistakes and then learn to make an adjustment sooner rather than later.”

With about six weeks remaining in the Sox’s season, Covey plans to use his opportunities on the mound to secure a place on the 2019 roster.

“That’s where a lot of guys on this team are,” Covey said. “Obviously, we want to win games right now but for me, I want to finish this season strong and get some momentum going into next year and leave off on a good note. Just to have that feeling of, ‘OK, this is what I did last year and how I finished and let’s just carry on from there and pick it up from where I left off.’”

Suspended catcher Welington Castillo working his way back to White Sox with minor league rehab stint

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Suspended catcher Welington Castillo working his way back to White Sox with minor league rehab stint

With about a week until the end of his 80-game suspension, Welington Castillo his making his way back to the White Sox.

The veteran catcher joined Triple-A Charlotte for a rehab assignment Friday, in the Knights' lineup for their afternoon game.

Castillo has been serving his suspension since May 24, when Major League Baseball handed down its punishment for his testing positive for a banned substance. He's eligible to return Aug. 23, just nine days before rosters expand.

The White Sox added Castillo over the offseason after he had career years offensively and defensively with the Baltimore Orioles during the 2017 season. The hope was he could provide a veteran presence and help out with the development of the team's young pitching staff — and of course that his bat could help bolster the team's everyday lineup. A two-year contract with an option for a third meant that if all went well, Castillo could be around for the start of the team's transition from rebuilding to contending, a sort of bridge to top catching prospect Zack Collins.

Things obviously did not work out as planned, and Castillo has missed months of time working with the pitchers while he's served his suspension.

Still, his return will perhaps be a welcome help to young pitchers still learning how to succeed against major league lineups, guys like Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, who have had inconsistent first full campaigns in the big leagues — not to mention any young pitchers who might be called up from the minor leagues over the season's final month and a half.

As for the team's catching situation, Omar Narvaez has done very well at the plate since taking over as the starting catcher when Castillo was suspended. Since the beginning of June, Narvaez is slashing .356/.433/.559, and his season batting average of .282 is one of the highest on the team. Kevan Smith, the No. 2 catcher, is hitting .283 on the season. Castillo will return with a .267/.309/.466 slash line in 33 games he played in before being suspended.