White Sox

White Sox pitcher Carlos Rodon OK with slow start to spring training

White Sox pitcher Carlos Rodon OK with slow start to spring training

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Carlos Rodon played catch behind the scenes on Friday morning in what could be a preview of much of his spring camp.

Even though it will require a slight adjustment for his competitive spirit, the White Sox hurler said he’s on board with the slower, methodical throwing plan the team has put in place in order to combat a longer spring schedule.

Rodon made 30 tosses when he played catch early Friday before the rest of his teammates took the field, his first throws of the week. While most White Sox pitchers have now completed two bullpen sessions, Rodon doesn’t expect to throw off the mound for another week. But Rodon — who went 9-10 with a 4.04 ERA and 168 strikeouts in 165 innings — and the White Sox maintain that the left-hander is healthy and will be ready for the regular season.

“Just getting it back going again,” Rodon said. “Staying on the plan. I’ll be there.

“Everything feels good. Everything feels great.

“I think we’ve got about a week or so (until a bullpen). We’re just going to take it slow and we’ll be there.”

The White Sox said they’ve opted for a measured approach with Rodon this spring because of the extra days on the calendar and bigger expected workload in season.

Similar to how they handled Chris Sale last year, Rodon is very limited early. He hasn’t played catch with his teammates in their morning workouts and isn’t throwing the ball in pitcher’s fielding practice. The left-hander also expects that many of his spring starting assignments would occur on the back fields, whether in minor league contests or simulated games.

Those events can sometimes test a pitcher because the lack of a crowd and absence of major league hitters mean less adrenaline. Rodon doesn’t seem worried about those elements, however, because he knows it will lead to more focused work than he’d get in an exhibition game.

“(In games) you’re working on stuff, but you still want to get guys out and be competitive,” Rodon said. “It’s a great thing, but it’s backwards. I’m still competitive, but (now) I really get to focus on working on the changeup, working on new things, not making a fool of myself I guess.”

Rodon said he began his offseason throwing program the day after Christmas when the team asked him to slow down. He didn’t question the plan because he knows what it did for Sale, who pitched a career high 226 2/3 innings last season. So even though he’ll probably ache to get into game action earlier than he will, Rodon is trusting the process.

“I thought it was a good idea when they came up with the plan,” Rodon said. “How many innings did (Sale) throw last year? Is that a career high? There you go. It worked, right? That’s what I’m hoping to do.”

Remember That Guy: Mike Caruso

Remember That Guy: Mike Caruso

Mike Caruso was the White Sox starting shortstop the year he turned 21, but didn’t play a game beyond age 25.

It all happened so fast. Remember that guy?

Caruso was born May 27, 1977, in Queens, New York. He shares a birthday with both Frank Thomas (1968) and Yoan Moncada (1995). He was drafted in 1996 by the Giants in the 2nd round (42nd overall); Jimmy Rollins was taken 46th and Josh Paul 47th. Caruso, like Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, attended Stoneman-Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which later in 2018 was the scene of a tragic shooting that shook the nation.

Caruso made his pro debut in 1996 with Bellingham (Low-A Northwest League), and hit .292 with 24 stolen bases in 73 games. He started out well in High-A San Jose in 1997, hitting .333 with 11 triples and 11 stolen bases (despite 16 times caught stealing) in 108 games before a trade sent him to Chicago.

On July 31, 1997, Caruso along with outfielder Brian Manning and pitchers Keith Foulke, Bob Howry, Lorenzo Barcelo & Ken Vining were sent to the White Sox in exchange for pitchers Wilson Álvarez, Danny Darwin and Roberto Hernández in what is referred to in Chicago as the “White Flag” trade. Through games on July 31, the White Sox were 53-53, seemingly in striking distance in third place, a half-game back of the second-place Brewers and three games back of the first-place Indians. With a new superstar outfielder in Albert Belle, there were high expectations for the 1997 Sox. South Side fans were frustrated.

Caruso slumped through the end of 1997, but ended up making the big league roster for opening day 1998. Caruso debuted for the White Sox on March 31, 1998 as the opening day shortstop at age 20, replacing Ozzie Guillen who signed with the Orioles. He went 1 for 5 with a single off the Rangers’ Bobby Witt. The first home run came April 15 in Baltimore off former Cy Young winner Doug Drabek, but power wasn’t his game. Regardless, he had a very solid rookie year, hitting .306/.331/.390 with 5 home runs, 55 RBI and 22 stolen bases. Caruso’s .306 average was the highest by a White Sox rookie (minimum 500 at-bats) since Minnie Miñoso in 1951 and remains one of only seven White Sox rookie seasons of .300 and 500 at-bats. José Abreu is the only one to do it since. Caruso celebrated his 21st birthday with a 4-hit game on May 27 – he’s the only White Sox player to collect four hits on his birthday since Mike Kreevich on June 10, 1937. It was the first of his four 4-hit games in 1998.

In addition to that, the young shortstop led the AL in at-bats per strikeout (13.8). Caruso posted a 14-game hitting streak in May-June, and hit a scorching .365 in June. Caruso also topped the American League in 1998 with 20 bunt hits, though he also led the Majors with 35 errors in the field. Despite the miscues in the field, he still placed third in the AL in Rookie of the Year voting, behind winner Ben Grieve & Rays hurler Rolando Arrojo and ahead of El Duque Hernández & Magglio Ordóñez.

In 1999, Caruso hit an underwhelming .250/.280/.297 with 12 stolen bases (but 14 times caught). Again he was the toughest qualified batter to strike out (14.7 AB/K) but when he wasn’t striking out he wasn’t doing much, collecting only 17 extra-base hits in 529 at-bats, and walking only 20 times. Caruso slashed his errors from 35 to 24 but his performance was still far from ideal. Caruso’s biggest moment of the season was June 13 at Wrigley Field, where he hit a 2-run homer off the Cubs’ Rick Aguilera in the top of the 8th inning to give the White Sox a 6-4 lead which they held.

In January 2000, the White Sox acquired José Valentín from the Brewers, and the White Sox at first attempted to give Caruso some reps at second base to stick in the big leagues. The thought at the time was that Caruso was still young (he was, still not yet 23), and could figure things out, but he ended up spending the season at Charlotte (AAA). And he never did figure it out, hitting .246/.301/.314 with no home runs at triple-A in 2000. Caruso was claimed off waivers by the Mariners in December, but failed his physical due to a bad back and was ordered back to the White Sox, who released him.

Caruso signed with Devil Rays in February 2001 and hit .292/.340/.364 for Durham (AAA), but still couldn’t make it back to the Majors for a 62-100 Tampa Bay team. In December, Caruso signed with the Reds and was selected off waivers by the Royals at the end of April. Mike played what would end up his final 12 Major League games for the Royals in 2002, going 2 for 20 at the dish.

Caruso popped up in 2004 for the Long Island Ducks (independent Atlantic League), and again in 2007 through 2009 for a few other independent teams, including a 25-game stint for the Joliet Jackhammers in 2008.

Mike Caruso’s Major League career lasted all of 281 games for the White Sox and Royals. He hit .274 with 294 hits, 7 home runs, 90 RBI and 34 stolen bases. He replaced a White Sox legend at a key position and for a minute looked like he’d be a star. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out. But 1998 was a fun ride.

You remember Mike Caruso.

White Sox 2005 Rewind: How the Carlos Lee trade helped win the World Series

White Sox 2005 Rewind: How the Carlos Lee trade helped win the World Series

Carlos Lee was pretty good.

But as Hawk Harrelson laid out in the eighth inning of the White Sox win over the Texas Rangers on May 17, 2005, the trade that sent Lee to the Milwaukee Brewers in December 2004 was more like a 4-for-1 than the 2-for-1 swap it went down as in the transaction log.

The White Sox got Scott Podsednik and Luis Vizcaino from the Brew Crew in exchange for El Caballo. But they saved a good deal of money, too. Lee made $8 million in 2005. Podsednik and Vizcaino made $2 million combined. The $6 million in savings was spent on a pair of free agents. Orlando Hernandez and A.J. Pierzynski made a combined $5.75 million that season.

“When you can go out and get Podsednik, Vizcaino, El Duque and A.J. Pierzynski,” Harrelson said on that night's broadcast, “you’ve got to do it.”

It takes only a little more than a microsecond for White Sox fans to recall the postseason heroics Hernandez, Podsednik and Pierzynski turned in en route to the World Series championship in October. But the value went well beyond those few weeks. Those were seven-month additions for the 2005 season.

Obviously, Lee was a valuable hitter, and he kept on being one of those in Milwaukee, and later when he played for the Rangers and the Houston Astros. After leaving the White Sox, he played another eight seasons, made three All-Star teams and hit 206 home runs. In 2005 alone, he hit 32 home runs and drove in 114 runs for the Brewers, winning a Silver Slugger and finishing in the top 20 in NL MVP voting.

Keeping Lee in the middle of the White Sox order would have been nice. But they found their replacement power hitter four days earlier when they signed Jermaine Dye. With Dye set to take over Lee’s spot in the middle of the lineup, the White Sox had the luxury of addressing a need, acquiring Podsednik to be that stereotypical leadoff man and provide an incredible burst of speed. He stole 70 bases for the Brewers in 2004 and 59 more for the White Sox in 2005.

Vizcaino helped shore up the ‘pen. Hernandez gave the White Sox a fifth starter with playoff experience. They found their catcher for the better part of the next decade in Pierzynski.

Lee was a great player for the White Sox. But he couldn’t fill all those holes by himself.

Had it not resulted in a world championship, perhaps it wouldn’t have been considered the same kind of smart move it looks like 15 years later. Even Kenny Williams couldn’t have foreseen that Hernandez would turn in a relief performance for the ages against the Boston Red Sox in the ALDS. He couldn’t have foreseen that Pierzynski would almost single-handedly win Game 2 of the ALCS by running to first base on what was probably a strikeout. He couldn’t have foreseen Podsednik, of all people, hitting a walk-off homer in Game 2 of the World Series.

But he made it for the same reason any move is made: to put his team in a better position to win a championship. And because that’s what happened, trading Lee ended up a brilliant move.

What else?

— As discussed often during #SoxRewind, Jon Garland was sensational to start the season, and this game was no different. He went seven innings and gave up just two runs, bringing his ERA on the year to this point to 2.41. This was his eighth win in eight starts, a season-opening steak that ended in his next outing. But as good as Garland was in general, he was even better on the South Side. This was his fourth start at U.S. Cellular Field in 2005, and in those four starts, he allowed just six runs in 31 innings for a 1.74 ERA.

— Garland did his best work by getting out of what could have easily snowballed into a nasty top of the sixth inning. After walking the leadoff hitter and hitting the next guy, he gave up an RBI double to Mark Teixeira that not only brought the Rangers within a run but kept two runners in scoring position. How’d Garland dance out of it? With back-to-back strikeouts of Hank Blalock and Alfonso Soriano and getting Kevin Mench — who hit a game-winning homer the night before — to pop out to end the inning. I’ve talked about Garland pulling Houdinis before, but this was a pivotal one in a one-run game.

— I wrote last week about May 2005 being Pierzynski’s most powerful month in a White Sox uniform. He broke out of an early season slump and hit seven homers and put together a .557 slugging percentage with a .903 OPS in May. The sixth-inning bomb he hit into the visiting bullpen in this game sent a mildly tenuous one-run advantage to a far more comfortable three-run edge.

— Is it too late to join the Pod Squad?

Since you been gone

While #SoxRewind is extensive, it doesn’t include all 162 regular-season contests, meaning we’re going to be skipping over some games. So what’d we miss since last time?

May 14, 2005: The White Sox had a 5-2 lead on the Orioles, but the visitors from Maryland put up a three spot in the fourth and another crooked number with four runs in the seventh. Freddy Garcia was tagged for seven runs, the second most he gave up in a start in 2005. White Sox lose, 9-6, fall to 27-10.

May 15, 2005: The bats couldn’t do much damage against Erik Bedard, the White Sox only getting two runs and five hits against the Canadian lefty. White Sox lose, 6-2, fall to 27-11.

May 16, 2005: The White Sox went up 4-1 in the first, only for Hernandez to cough up five more runs over the next two innings. But the South Siders rallied, and Tadahito Iguchi homered to tie the game in the bottom of the eighth, only for Mench to hit a game-winning home run off Damaso Marte in the ninth. White Sox lose, 7-6, fall to 27-12.

Next up

#SoxRewind rolls on Friday, when you can catch the May 24, 2005, game against the Angels, starting at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago. Mark Buehrle goes nine innings but doesn’t earn the complete game when things spiral into extras, where Iguchi comes through in the clutch.

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