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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.”

White Sox Talk Podcast: Are the White Sox looking for more?

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Are the White Sox looking for more?

The offseason is still going on, which means the White Sox could make even more moves. Host Chuck Garfien is joined by NBC Sports Chicago White Sox writer Vinnie Duber and producer Chris Kamka as they discuss various options the Sox could go with to fill out the roster.

(1:35) - How will the Sox fill out the rest of the roster?

(6:02) - Will Nicholas Castellanos be on the South Side?

(8:15) - Is Yasiel Puig an option for the Sox?

(13:26) - Options for the Sox at second base

(21:16) - Who can the Sox get to fill out the Bullpen?

(25:44) - Adding more starting pitching

(29:04) - Who should the Sox sign ASAP?

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

White Sox Talk Podcast

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Freshly cut Michael Kopech feels 'different energy' around White Sox

Freshly cut Michael Kopech feels 'different energy' around White Sox

On the eve of the most anticipated SoxFest in recent memory, Michael Kopech got a haircut.

He likely won't be the only one sporting a fresh look when the White Sox gather for the annual fan convention this weekend at McCormick Place. But he's probably the only one who had his restyling attended by the local media.

Kopech got his trademark flowing locks clipped off Wednesday as part of a charity event that raised $20,000 for the Ronald McDonald House and White Sox charities, meaning there'll be a noticeable difference the next time he steps on a major league mound. There was bound to be a difference, considering he last pitched in a big league game in September of 2018. But how much of a difference there will be in his pitching style remains to be seen.

Kopech has long been promised as a flamethrower that can touch ungodly speeds like 101, 102 and 103 miles an hour on the radar gun. He'll still be able to do that, he says, but there will be a difference.

"I don't know if I'm going to necessarily be that type of power pitcher again in my career," he said Wednesday. "I think I'm going to be a little bit smarter and cautious about how I pitch. That being said, velocity will always be a part of my game."

We'll have to wait and see exactly how Kopech will attack opposing hitters after his recovery from Tommy John surgery. "Wait and see" will be a theme of at least the early portion of Kopech's 2020 campaign. The White Sox have signaled that he'll be limited in some capacity in an effort not to overwork him — remember that his next major league appearance will be only his fifth — but we don't know what that will look like yet. Will he be part of the rotation, but be skipped at times? Will he pitch out of the bullpen for a little bit? Will he start the season in the minor leagues?

According to Kopech, he doesn't know the plan, either, knowing only that he feels great and will be looking to earn a roster spot in spring training.

"Not really," he said, asked if he's talked with the team about what it has planned for him. "My plan for myself is to be competitive in the spring and give my team a chance to win, and hopefully that's giving myself the best chance I can.

"But for what the team has in store for me, I really don't know those answers. I'm just going to do my best when I get there."

Between the moves Rick Hahn's front office has made this winter and the way so many of the White Sox young, core players broke out in 2019, there are realistic playoff expectations on the South Side for the first time in a long time, with the expectation being that the team will make its long awaited leap out of rebuilding mode and into contention mode. Kopech would figure to be a big part of that, still ranked as one of the best pitching prospects in baseball. Even with plans to limit his workload, the White Sox would figure to want him to be pitching in meaningful games if they should roll around in August and September, or even October.

Of course, these kinds of expectations are nothing new for these White Sox players, who have long been willing to express their confidence in the organization's bright future. Kopech has talked about wanting to win the 2020 World Series. Eloy Jimenez has talked about being a part of a championship outfield. Lucas Giolito, "sick of losing," has been talking playoffs since the end of last year's 89-loss season. And the freshly extended Luis Robert is talking about winning multiple championships.

This group has always been about setting lofty goals. But now the fan base is buying in to all that, too, and setting its own set of expectations, ones that end with the White Sox reaching the postseason. Kopech can already feel a different vibe surrounding this team, though added that the expectations inside the clubhouse haven't changed from what they've always been.

"We were just talking about that a couple of days ago. We were out playing catch, me, Zack Burdi, Ryan Burr, Grandal was out there. It was that camaraderie, but more so, the underlining competitiveness in all of us. It felt like a different energy, was the word that was used," Kopech said. "We were all pulling in the same direction, which I think is kind of a glimpse to us what the future is going to look like.

"Not to look too far ahead, but I think we all are pulling in the same direction, not that that wasn't the case before. We're all starting to get that taste, sort of speak.

"(Playoff expectations are) what we've put on ourselves, as well. We're always going to want to be a competitive team, and we're going to want to be a competitive team at the highest level and that's to be in the playoffs.

"Those expectations that people are putting on us, we're going to also put on ourselves and try to achieve that."

It's still a bit of an unknown when and in what capacity we'll first see Kopech contributing toward reaching those expectations. But don't adjust your television set when he does make his first appearance. That's him, all right. Just lighter now without all that extra hair.

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