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.

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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.”

The White Sox sent down Carson Fulmer, so why isn't Lucas Giolito receiving the same treatment?

The White Sox sent down Carson Fulmer, so why isn't Lucas Giolito receiving the same treatment?

Lucas Giolito is having a rough go of things in his second year with the White Sox.

He came into the season with some pretty high expectations after posting a 2.38 ERA in seven starts at the end of the 2017 campaign and then dominating during spring training. But he’s done anything but dominate since this season started, and after one of his worst outings in Thursday’s 9-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles, he’s got a 7.53 ERA in 10 starts in 2018.

Giolito stuck around for only four outs Thursday, but he allowed the Orioles to do plenty of damage, giving up seven runs on six hits — two of which were back-to-back home runs to start the second inning — and three walks. He leads the American League with his 37 walks.

“I take what I do very seriously. I work as hard as I can at it,” Giolito said. “So when I experience failure like this, it’s kind of hard to deal with. All I can do is come back tomorrow, keep working on things and hopefully have a better one.”

All of Giolito’s struggles have fans wondering why the White Sox haven’t sent him down to Triple-A to work on his craft.

“I don’t foresee that at this particular time,” Rick Renteria said when asked if Giolito could be sent to Triple-A. “I think he’s just a young man who’s got to continue to minimize the emotional aspect of crossing from preparation into the game and staying focused, relaxed and hammer the zone with strikes. And truthfully it’s just first-pitch strike and get after the next one.”

The White Sox have already sent one young pitcher down in Carson Fulmer, who was having a nightmarish time at the big league level. Fulmer’s results were worse than Giolito’s on a regular basis. He got sent down after posting an 8.07 ERA in nine outings.

But hasn’t Giolito suffered through command issues enough to warrant some time away from the major league limelight? According to his manager, Giolito’s situation is vastly different than Fulmer’s.

“I don’t see them anywhere near each other,” Renteria said. “They’re two different competitors in terms of the outcomes that they’ve had. Lucas has at least had situations in which he might have struggled early and been able to gain some confidence through the middle rounds of his start and continue to propel himself to finish some ballgames, give us six or seven innings at times. So it’s two different guys.

“With Gio, I expect that we would have a nice clean start from the beginning, but when he doesn’t I still feel like if he gets through it he’ll settle down and continue to hammer away at what he needs to do in order to get deeper into a ballgame, and that was a little different with Carson. With Carson it was right from the get-go he was struggling, and he had a difficult time extending his outings after the third or fourth because it just kept getting too deep into his pitch count and not really hammering the strike zone as much.”

Renteria is not wrong. Giolito has had a knack to take a rough beginning to a start and turn it into five or six innings. Notably, he gave up a couple first-inning runs and walked seven hitters and still got the win against the Cubs a week and a half ago. And while his first-inning ERA is 10.80 and his second-inning ERA is 12.54, he’s pitched into at least the sixth inning in seven of his 10 starts.

Renteria’s point is that Giolito is learning how to shake off early damage and achieving the goal, most times out, of eating up innings and keeping his team in the game. Those are a couple valuable qualities to develop for a young pitcher. But are those the lone qualities that determine that Giolito is suited to continue his learning process at the major league level? His command remains a glaring problem, and both he and Renteria admitted that his problems are more mental than physical.

“The one thing everyone has to understand is we have to go beyond the physical and attack a little bit more of the mental and emotional and try to connect and slow that down,” Renteria said. “Those aspects are the ones that ultimately, at times, deal in the derailment of the physical action. So if we can kind of calm that down a little bit.

“He’s very focused. Giolito is high intensity. Nice kid but high-intensity young man when he gets on the mound. You might not believe it. He’s going 100 mph. So I think it goes to more just trusting himself, trusting the process, taking it truthfully one pitch at a time.”

Well, if a demotion to the minors isn’t likely, what about moving Giolito to the bullpen? Carlos Rodon and Chris Sale dipped their toes in bullpen waters before moving to the rotation. Could a reversal of that strategy help Giolito?

Well, the current state of the White Sox starting rotation — Fulmer in the minors, Miguel Gonzalez on the 60-day DL and pitchers like James Shields, Hector Santiago and Dylan Covey, who aren’t exactly long-term pieces, getting a lot of starts — doesn’t really allow for another piece to be removed.

“I know they have done it with Rodon and Sale,” Renteria said. “The difference is we don’t have the makeup of the starting rotation that those clubs had in order to put those guys in the ‘pen. We are in a different situation right now. Moving forward, is that something we can possibly do? Absolutely. It has been done with very good success.

“Right now we are in truly discovery mode and adjustment mode and adapting and trying to do everything we can to get these guys to develop their skill sets to be very usable and effective at the major league level and we are doing it to the best of our ability.”

There could be promise in the fact that Giolito has turned a season around as recently as last year. Before he was impressing on the South Side in August and September, he was struggling at Triple-A Charlotte. Even after he ironed things out, things had gotten off to a rocky enough start that he owned a 4.48 ERA and 10 losses when he was called up to the bigs.

It doesn’t seem Giolito will be going back to Charlotte, unless things continue to go in a dramatically poor direction. Right now, these are just more of the growing pains during this rebuilding process. “The hardest part of the rebuild” doesn’t just means wins and losses. It means watching some players struggle through speed bumps as they continue to develop into what the White Sox hope they’ll be when this team is ready to compete.

Danny Farquhar to throw out the first pitch before White Sox game on June 1

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AP

Danny Farquhar to throw out the first pitch before White Sox game on June 1

In another example of how amazing Danny Farquhar’s recovery has been, the pitcher will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the White Sox game on June 1.

Farquhar suffered a brain hemorrhage from a ruptured aneurysm during the sixth inning of the team’s April 20 game against the Houston Astros. But his recovery has been astounding, and he was discharged from the hospital on May 7. Farquhar’s neurosurgeon expects him to be able to pitch again in future seasons.

Farquhar has been back to visit his teammates at Guaranteed Rate Field a couple times since leaving the hospital. June 1 will mark his return to a big league mound, even if it’s only for a ceremonial first pitch with his wife and three children. Doctors, nurses and staff from RUSH University Medical Center will be on hand for Farquhar’s pitch on June 1.

The White Sox announced that in celebration of Farquhar’s recovery, they will donate proceeds from all fundraising efforts on June 1 to the Joe Niekro Foundation, an organization committed to supporting patients and families, research, treatment and awareness of brain aneurysms.