Carlos Rodon returned from a nine-day break, but his time off didn’t result in anything but more of the same.
To be clear, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Rodon allowed four runs (three earned) in five innings as the White Sox losing streak was snapped with a sloppy, four-error 9-1 loss to Baltimore Sunday afternoon at U.S. Cellular Field. But the 22-year-old left-hander still hasn’t pitched more than 6 1/3 innings despite throwing an average of 100 pitches over his 10 starts since joining the White Sox rotation in early May.
“That’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a little while now, after a couple starts,” Rodon said of going deep into games. “It’s tough when you throw a lot of pitches and it’s hard to stay consistent and it doesn’t work out. If you walk guys, it’s not going to happen. I gotta figure out the command and repeating pitches and just getting guys out early.”
[SHOP: Buy a Carlos Rodon jersey]
When Rodon was promoted to the major leagues on April 20, general manager Rick Hahn referred to the 2014 No. 3 overall pick’s innings as a “scarce resource.” The plan after inserting him into the starting rotation always was to give him a few breaks, like the eight- and nine-day layoffs he’s had in May and June/July, respectively.
Walks have been the chief culprit in keeping Rodon from pitching into the seventh inning with any regularity. He issued four more against Baltimore on Sunday and is averaging 5.3 per nine innings pitched, the highest rate among pitchers who’ve thrown at least 50 innings this season. He’s issued three or more walks in seven of his 10 starts.
“You’ll see him miss sometimes, something going in and it’s outer half or going out there,” manager Robin Ventura said. “You want him to improve and get to that point where I would say a guy’s been in the league a few years, you’re going to end up spotting it a little bit better.”
[MORE: White Sox past, present aces face off on Monday]
What Rodon has done well, though, is keep the ball in the park and rack up strikeouts. Jonathan Schoop’s second-inning solo home run was only the fourth he’s allowed in 54 innings as a starter, and he has 58 strikeouts in that span.
“You see a guy that has come up fairly quickly and I think his progression is the biggest thing,” manager Robin Ventura said. “Early on it was command. He’s getting some tough lineups and to be able to get through it. For him, he learns a lot of going through these lineups.”
The White Sox view Rodon as a rotation centerpiece for years to come, though he’s not there yet. For now, he’s a solid back-of-the rotation starter who’s still less than a year removed from his professional debut.
“He’s going to get better,” Ventura said. “But stuff-wise and who he is, we’re still happy to have him.”
White Sox prospect Luis Robert headed to the Arizona Fall League to get more playing time after injuries limited to 50 games in 2018.
He just got hurt in the Arizona Fall League.
Robert is playing with the Glendale Desert Dogs in the AFL and left Friday's game with an injury.
It's not clear what the injury was, but Robert walked off on his own power. He also has pulled out of the Bowman Hitting Challenge (a modified home run derby) that will take place Saturday.
Robert, the No. 4 White Sox prospect and No. 44 overall prospect according to MLB Pipeline, was 1-for-3 in Friday's game before exiting. He has hit safely in all four games in the AFL, going 5-for-17 (.294) with a walk and three strikeouts, but no extra base hits.
The 21-year-old is the third youngest player on the team and the AFL is a respected offseason league for prospects. A good showing from Robert would be a sign that he is beginning to develop his talent into playable tools.
The injury could be minor so no need to ring the alarm bells yet, but the AFL season is barely more than a month long. Even a short-term injury could prevent him from making up for some of the lost playing time from the 2018 minor league season.
The White Sox have a hole or two to plug in their starting rotation. Could Sonny Gray be an answer?
New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Friday that he's looking to trade Gray away from the Bronx this winter.
Gray isn't as attractive an add as he was a few years back, when he was coming off a sensational 2015 campaign that saw him post a 2.73 ERA and log 208 innings. He went to the All-Star Game and finished third in the AL Cy Young vote that year.
Since, he's been less successful. He made just 22 starts with the Oakland Athletics in 2016 and had a 5.69 ERA. The following season, he started with a strong 3.43 ERA in 16 starts for the A's before the midseason trade that sent him to the Yankees, where he made 11 starts with a 3.72 ERA. This season didn't go too well, earning Gray a move to the bullpen. He finished with a 4.90 ERA in 30 games, only 23 of those being starts. He threw just 29.1 innings over his final 10 appearances of the season, three of which were starts. He had a 5.26 ERA with 50 walks in 113 innings as a starter in 2018.
Those numbers won't leap off the page (in a positive way) for anyone, but there's no doubt that a potential deal for Gray would be a low-risk move for the White Sox. For a team looking to add 40 percent of a starting rotation, being able to do so cheaply — be it from a dollar or prospect standpoint — would be a good thing, especially if the strategy ends up being to simply add one-year fill-ins while Michael Kopech recovers from Tommy John surgery and Dylan Cease makes his way to the major leagues.
However, Gray's 57-walk total from the 2018 season could be something the White Sox would want to stay away from. After all, White Sox pitchers led the AL with 653 walks this season. They also had five of the top 21 walk-issuing pitchers in the Junior Circuit: Lucas Giolito led the league with 90, James Shields was third with 78, Reynaldo Lopez was fifth with 75, Hector Santiago was 15th with 60, and Carlos Rodon was 21st with 55. Gray slotted in right ahead of Rodon.
But Gray has obviously produced results in the past, and whether the White Sox are looking to simply plug the holes in the 2019 staff or potentially find a sign-and-flip candidate for the 2019 trade deadline — he's slated to hit free agency after the 2019 season — Gray could fit that bill. One thing's for sure: He's available.