White Sox

White Sox: Carlos Rodon’s AAA catcher confident in changeup

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White Sox: Carlos Rodon’s AAA catcher confident in changeup

Carlos Rodon struck out nine over five innings in his first Triple-A start of 2015, a game that featured the left-hander throwing his “equalizer pitch” quite a bit. 

That’s how Charlotte catcher Kevan Smith refers to Rodon’s changeup — it’s the pitch that keeps hitters off his outstanding fastball/slider combination and could ultimately be the key to his big league success. Smith caught Rodon’s first minor league start April 11 and came away impressed with the 2014 first-round pick’s ability to throw that changeup. 

“I said, any chance that I can squeeze some changeups in there we’re going to do it just to get to work on it no matter if it’s a good or bad one,” Smith said in a phone interview. “And a lot of times with him, maybe if he didn’t throw one he liked I would just double up on it. It was a great pitch that night for him.

“… When he really focuses on it and throws it the right way, it’s a great pitch compared to his slider.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

The unofficial count was 14 changeups — about 16 percent of his 87 pitches — against 17 sliders. But even though he’s out of a starting rotation and into a major league bullpen, where power fastballs and sliders are the norm, Rodon said Monday he still expects to use his changeup and continue to work on it over the coming months. 

The 22-year-old Rodon still isn’t able to throw it with the kind of consistency of his fastball or slider, which Smith said comes with the developmental territory of throwing it more.

“Sometimes he’ll kind of fly open on occasion and his arm will get way out there and that’s what kind of makes it tail or kind of wobble into the zone,” Smith said. “But when he thinks like it’s his fastball and just thinks, freaking get on top of it and throw the crap out of it, it comes out looking like a fastball. 

“So I think it’s just kind of, he just needs to have that mental standpoint of throw this just like a fastball, stay closed, stay on top of it and get down over it. I’d rather him bounce it to me than miss up. I think when he can get that confidence of I’d rather miss down than up, it’s an awesome pitch.”

Watch Hawk Harrelson's sign off from his final broadcast

Watch Hawk Harrelson's sign off from his final broadcast

Hawk Harrelson has been the voice of the White Sox for decades, but Sunday was his last broadcast as the play-by-play announcer of the team.

As the bottom of the ninth took place on the field, Hawk started to get emotional in the booth. He began to thank the fans for listening to him in the booth.

"The big thing is I want to thank the fans," Harrelson said. "I love our White Sox fans and I always will."

Later on, Hawk continued: "I want to thank Sox fans for giving me all those 35 years of their time."

After the game ended, players and staff from both teams came out on the field to tip their caps to Hawk.

Hawk sent it to break with one more "this ballgame is ova" call. After returning from break, Hawk gave a final thought.

"I love you all and I always will," he said. "I'll go to my grave with that. Thank you."

Watch the video above for all the memorable moments from his final broadcast.

Cubs' status as championship contender is the light that awaits at the end of the White Sox rebuilding tunnel

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USA TODAY

Cubs' status as championship contender is the light that awaits at the end of the White Sox rebuilding tunnel

Cubs Twitter and talk radio feature a lot of discussion of panic levels and fretting over playoff pitching scenarios. It’s hard for the North Siders to live up to the immense expectations they brought upon themselves by going from Lovable Losers to World Series champions.

But on the other side of town, that qualifies as a really good problem to have.

The White Sox dropped the second Crosstown series of the 2018 campaign, one that’s been dubbed the “toughest part of the rebuild.” The White Sox will once again have a very high draft pick. The Cubs will once again be playing in October.

But while they aren't fond of complimenting the team from the North Side, White Sox fans can look at the Cubs and see what they hope to see from their own team in a few years’ time. The team that they simply do not care for is the perfect embodiment of a rebuild gone right. It’s the light at the end of the White Sox rebuilding tunnel.

“That’s a good team, man,” Carlos Rodon said after the Cubs’ offense jumped all over him Sunday and forced him into his shortest outing of the season. “Hopefully, throughout this rebuild when we get to the end of it, all the pieces start falling together and we can be a championship club like that, because that’s a good team.”

The Cubs aren’t the only team the White Sox have seen this season that qualifies as a rebuild success story. The Houston Astros are the reigning champs. The Cleveland Indians are American League Central winners again. The Kansas City Royals are down again but had their own brief time as baseball’s phoenix.

But with the Cubs so close by — and the fan bases constantly jabbing one another — it’s noteworthy that the White Sox are following such a similar path. For the Cubs, five straight fifth-place finishes turned into three straight trips to the NLCS. The Cubs went from hodgepodges of veteran fill-ins to homegrown stars like Kris Bryant, Javy Baez, Kyle Hendricks and Kyle Schwarber.

The White Sox have their own list of future stars, one not dissimilar from the list Cubs fans followed for years. Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Michael Kopech have already reached the South Side. The waiting game is still on for Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Dylan Cease, Dane Dunning and so many more.

The White Sox would obviously prefer fighting for a division title and playoff positioning to playing out the end of a losing season. They believe — and the Cubs are as good an example as any that there’s good reason for South Side optimism — that once all these youngsters finish their development and reach the major leagues, that that’s exactly what they’ll be doing on an annual basis.

“We see it not only in the Cubs,” Rick Renteria said, “we’ve seen it with the Astros, the Indians, a multitude of clubs that have gone through that process. The Braves. It took the Braves four years. It took the Astros four or five years.

“It’s a process that if you get frustrated along the way — which it can become frustrating because you want to win more games than not — if you really keep perspective of what you’re trying to do in the long term and really understand and appreciate what we have coming and the guys that are here working to try to remain with us, it’s hard for me to explain to the fans other than my own belief that what we have coming is going to be something that is going to be very fruitful in the near future.”

The Cubs have been through this process. They’ve been through these losing seasons. They’ve been through the waiting game with highly ranked prospects. They’ve been through it all — including watching those prospects turn into All Stars and waving to millions of celebrating fans during a championship parade.

The White Sox are in the thick of their own rebuilding process, and confidence about the future abounds. Perhaps because it’s a template that’s worked so well for several teams, including their Crosstown rivals.

“The similarities are simply that we’re going through a transition,” Renteria said before Sunday’s game. “We do have, not only these guys who are working here to try to show everybody what they’re capable of doing and what part they may play in us moving forward, but we certainly have a lot of young men who are coming up through the season that are hopefully going to be a part of who we are here in the near future.

“In that regard, that is very similar (to what the Cubs went through). I do think that some of the men that we have coming are going to be just as impactful of some of the guys they have on the other side.”