White Sox

White Sox: Carlos Rodon gets win, strikes out eight in first MLB start

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White Sox: Carlos Rodon gets win, strikes out eight in first MLB start

Carlos Rodon isn’t about to make it easy for the White Sox to send him back to the bullpen.

One of baseball’s top pitching prospects overcame a rough first inning on Saturday night and eventually rolled in his first major league start, powering his way through six frames.

A temporary replacement, Rodon struck out eight and earned his first victory as the White Sox salvaged a split of a doubleheader with an 8-2 victory over the Cincinnati Reds in front of 27,980 at U.S. Cellular Field. Alexei Ramirez, Avisail Garcia and Gordon Beckham all homered for the White Sox, who lost the opening game of the doubleheader 10-4.

“(Rodon) started out a little shaky,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “He has some poise. He stayed with it. I thought even knowing how the first game went and knowing he has to eat up some innings, it was a big spot and he came through. … “Even after giving up the two runs, he still battled and got through it. That was a big spot for us, for him to come through right there.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

A standout in spring training, Rodon only made the start because the White Sox needed an extra starter with Jeff Samardzija and Chris Sale both out serving five-game suspensions. Rodon, who was selected third overall in last June’s draft and earned a franchise-record $6.582-million signing bonus, has pitched in relief since he was promoted to the majors on April 20.

The White Sox view Rodon’s innings this season as a “scarce resource,” according to general manager Rick Hahn. They likely want to limit Rodon’s workload to between 150-160 innings so they can preserve him for the long haul. Earlier this week, Ventura suggested Rodon’s start would be a one-time thing, that his future plans are undecided.

But Rodon could have put a wrench in the team’s designs with Saturday’s effort, though Ventura didn’t say what the White Sox might do.

Though he hadn’t thrown more than 63 pitches since an April 19 start for Triple-A Charlotte, Rodon got stronger the deeper he went into Saturday’s outing.

[MORE: Sloppy White Sox stymied by Cueto, Reds in Game 1 of doubleheader]

Rodon’s 99th pitch was a 99-mph strike to Todd Frazier, who proceeded to whiff on an 89-mph slider in the dirt. Working with a steady diet of fastballs and sliders (only two of his 108 pitches were changeups), all eight of Rodon’s strikeouts came via swings.

“I was excited to see him pitch,” Cincinnati manager Bryan Price said. “Heard a lot about him. … Lot of velocity and a real good slider. As he gets more and more comfortable at this level, I imagine he’s going to be a real challenge for teams to have to face. He’s got really good stuff.”

Rodon had Cincinnati hitters mostly overpowered for the final three innings. He retired eight straight after surrendering a game-tying, two-run, opposite-field single to Joey Votto in the third inning.

Rodon didn’t start as well as he finished.

He may have been squeezed in a first-inning at-bat against Marlon Byrd but nonetheless walked the first two batters he faced. But with the aid of veteran catcher Geovany Soto, who made several trips to the mound over the first few innings, Rodon got out of that jam, striking out Votto and getting Todd Frazier to pop into a double play as Byrd was off on the pitch and easily thrown out. Rodon said Soto mostly tried to relax the rookie and assured him he was in the majors for a reason.

Rodon looked more comfortable in the second inning before he gave up consecutive singles to Zack Cosart and Billy Hamilton in the third and walked Byrd to load the bases. Votto then ripped a 96-mph fastball just inside the left-field line to tie the score at 2. But Rodon struck out Frazier and got Brandon Phillips to ground out.

[ALSO: Why LaRoche is watching more film on pitchers]

Rodon --- who allowed two earned runs and four hits with four walks -- continues to be open to whatever the White Sox have planned for him, though he knows he’s a starting pitcher in the long run.

“I’ve always been a starter and I think Robin and (Don Cooper), they understand that I am a starter, it’s just a transition,” Rodon said. “We’re just transitioning into it and like I said, like Robin said, like everyone said, ‘This game is about the next day or tomorrow.’ You’re preparing for tomorrow after today and winning tomorrow.”

The White Sox would surely win more often if their offense performs as it did on Saturday.

Ramirez hit his second home run in as many games, a two-run shot in the second, to put the White Sox up by two runs.

Beckham’s fourth-inning RBI single regained the lead for the White Sox, who broke it open against Jason Marquis in the sixth inning on Garcia and Beckham solo homers.

The White Sox, who finished with 14 hits, got run-scoring singles from Melky Cabrera and Adam LaRoche in the seventh inning and Beckham had a sac fly. Beckham went 2-for-3 with three RBIs.

The White Sox improved to 10-2 this season when they score at least four runs. They’re also 1-0 when Rodon starts. But when his next one comes isn’t yet certain.

“He's on the team, yeah,” Ventura said when asked about Rodon’s future. “He stays on the team.

“We're trying to just get through today and then we'll get through tomorrow. Yeah. He's going to stay on the team. Guarantee it.”

In stellar return from injured list, only Yoan Moncada's pride hurt in embarrassing tumble

In stellar return from injured list, only Yoan Moncada's pride hurt in embarrassing tumble

On the day he returned from a weeks-long stay on the injured list with a hamstring strain, the sight of Yoan Moncada face-planting coming out of the batter's box was enough to make an entire fan base hold its breath.

Fans weren't alone, either. Asked if his heart skipped a beat when Moncada hit the ground in the seventh-inning, manager Rick Renteria went a step further.

"Two beats," he laughed.

Moncada was fine, it turned out, hurting nothing but his pride on that embarrassing tumble. The longest lasting effect will be the continued ribbing from his teammates. Jose Abreu and Eloy Jimenez wouldn't let him hear the end of it before, during or after the third baseman's postgame meeting with the media.

"They've been all over me about that," Moncada said through team interpreter Billy Russo. "They say I have weak legs and I need to more work in the gym.

"Everything's good. I have a scratch on my knee, but it's OK."

Other than that on-field folly, Moncada was stellar in his first game back from the IL. He blasted a homer into The Goose Island in his second trip to the plate, a two-run shot that kind of busted things open in what was a dominant 6-1 victory over the visiting Texas Rangers. He added a double in his third at-bat.

Moncada's 2019 slash line is up to .303/.359/.545 after picking up those two extra-base knocks Thursday night, continuing a breakout season that's seen him go from 217 strikeouts in 2018 to the White Sox best hitter a year later.

The 2019 season is about the development of the young, core guys much more than it is about the win-loss record at the end of the year. Moncada is one of those young, core guys, and his big season has been one of the things that has fans and onlookers thinking about 2020 as the year that could see the White Sox move from rebuilding mode to contention mode.

Moncada and the rest of these young White Sox have a handful of weeks remaining in the 2019 to create some momentum for 2020. While offseason additions, the return of a healthy Michael Kopech and the eventual arrivals of top-ranked prospects Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal will have plenty to do with changing the landscape over the coming months, Moncada and Tim Anderson and Eloy Jimenez and James McCann and Jose Abreu and Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez and Dylan Cease can move the ball closer to the goal, to borrow a sports metaphor from a different sport, with their efforts over the next month and change.

For Moncada, the easiest way to do that is to simply stay on the field.

"I think our goal right now is just to stay healthy and play as free as we can," he said before Thursday's game. "Just try to do the things we know we can do and just take advantage of being healthy and being on the field.

"I think we're going to have a strong finish to the season and hopefully we're going to carry that to next season."

Fans know that importance, too, still waiting for the young trio of Moncada, Anderson and Jimenez to all play together in a full game for the first time since late June. That was supposed to happen Thursday, before Jimenez was scratched from the lineup with some mild hip soreness that neither general manager Rick Hahn nor Renteria seemed too concerned about.

But that heightened alertness for the health of these young, core players caused that brief second of panic when Moncada hit the dirt Thursday night.

Thankfully for the White Sox, Dr. Renteria got to the bottom of things rather quickly.

"It looked awkward, but you could tell he stumbled out of the box," Renteria said. "He was staying down there for a little bit. That’s when I started getting concerned.

"But when I go out there, he gets up right away. I said, 'You are little embarrassed right now, aren’t you?' He said, ‘No, it’s my knee.’

"I said, ‘You are embarrassed.' And he started smiling. That’s all it was. He was fine."

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White Sox Talk Podcast: Behind the scenes with Lucas Giolito

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Behind the scenes with Lucas Giolito

Fresh off his complete game shutout against the Twins, Lucas Giolito goes in-depth with Chuck Garfien about his impressive victory and all that went on behind the scenes.

-What it was like striking out White Sox killer Nelson Cruz to end the game (7:30)

-How he beat a Twins team that's trying to hit a home run almost every time they come to the plate (10:00)

-What it will mean to get 200 strikeouts this season (11:10)

-What's different about the baseball (14:40)

-How he's helped Evan Marshall get in touch with actor Jason Segel (16:10)

-Making it a priority to beat the Twins to win a series against them (17:40)

-What he's doing mentally before each game that's different this year (18:30) and more.

Listen to the entire episode here or in the embedded player below.

White Sox Talk Podcast

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