White Sox

White Sox still determining how to use Carlos Rodon

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White Sox still determining how to use Carlos Rodon

MINNEAPOLIS — The White Sox want Carlos Rodon to get comfortable in the bullpen while picking the appropriate time to use him in games. And, they have to balance that against maintaining arm strength for when the left-hander could eventually move into the team’s starting rotation.

This is Rodon’s 13th day in the majors. Entering Saturday’s game, the team’s top pitching prospect has appeared in two games, the last on Wednesday. While he threw 60 pitches in his first outing, over 2 1/3 innings, Rodon only needed five for a scoreless frame against the Baltimore Orioles.

“He hasn’t really had that spot to come in,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “I know we got him an inning the other day. I think he’s getting used to being out there and being able to get up and get ready quick. When you are in the bullpen, you don’t have the luxury of showing up on your day and eating a nice breakfast and having a couple of hours to get ready for your performance.

“You have to snap in to be ready to go. He’s getting a lot more where he’s able to do that. We need him to do that if he’s going to be in the bullpen.”

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That’s the big if.

White Sox general manager Rick Hahn has said Rodon’s 2015 innings are scarce resource. The franchise has a tried and true program for keeping pitchers healthy and therefore isn’t going to run Rodon’s inning count up to 180. But Rodon could still move into the rotation sometime in the foreseeable future. The challenge is keeping him built up enough, something pitching coach Don Cooper has a plan for just like the White Sox employed with Hector Noesi last season.

“He’s going to be pitching regularly and there are things coming up that believe me, he’s way up in the front of our minds in keeping him ready,” Cooper said. “Not only to pitch in the role he’s in, but eventually hopefully if he does make a jump in the starting rotation. But again that doesn’t worry me because we did it last year with Noesi.”

Rodon isn’t worried about when — or if — he’ll make the jump into the rotation this season. His current role — though he’s not totally clear on how he’ll be used — ensures he needs to be focused on if he gets the call that day.

“I guess my role is a long relief guy so I’ll be a guy that throws numerous pitches,” Rodon said. “Who knows what that pitch count will be? So I have to get used to being extended. That’s normal for long relief.”

White Sox sign Enoy Jimenez, the 17-year-old brother of Eloy Jimenez

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USA TODAY

White Sox sign Enoy Jimenez, the 17-year-old brother of Eloy Jimenez

One Jimenez just isn't enough for the White Sox.

The White Sox signed the younger brother of top prospect Eloy Jimenez this weekend. Enoy Jimenez is a 17-year-old infielder, and the 21-year-old outfielder ranked as the No. 3 prospect in baseball was on hand for his brother's big moment.

Eloy figures to hit the big leagues early next season, though it will likely be a while longer before his teenage brother could do the same. Still, they're likely hoping for the chance to play together one day.

According to this pretty exhaustive list from MLB.com, four sets of brothers have played together on the White Sox: Homer and Ted Blankenship in the 1920s, Dick and Hank Allen in the 1970s, Roberto and Sandy Alomar in 2003 and 2004 and John and Jordan Danks in 2012.

Should we be getting ready for the fifth pair?

Matt Davidson's incredibly interesting 2018

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USA TODAY

Matt Davidson's incredibly interesting 2018

This season, Matt Davidson became the fourth player in MLB history to hit three home runs in a season opener. It definitely raised a few eyebrows, especially after Paul Konerko noted during spring training that a 40-home run season and an All-Star selection isn’t out of the question for the California native. After clobbering nine home runs (seven of them coming at Kauffman Stadium) in his first 21 games, anything seemed possible.

Unfortunately it didn’t quite turn out that way, though he did rack up his second straight 20-homer season. But it’s hard to argue that 2018 wasn’t a success for Davidson — mostly because of the swings he didn’t make.

Everything else aside, Davidson walked as often as Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo in 2018.

OK, the more meaningful comparison would be Davidson to himself.

What stands out is his walk rate. One hundred fifty three players had at least 400 plate appearances in both 2017 and 2018. Among them, Davidson had the second-highest increase in walk percentage this past season.

Consider this: In 2017, Davidson and Tim Anderson became (and still are) the only players in MLB history with 160-plus strikeouts and fewer than 20 walks in a season.

Davidson, while logging 20 more at-bats in 2018, had the same number of strikeouts, 165, but he increased his walk total from 19 to 52. Give him credit for that. It’s a tough adjustment to make at the minor league level let alone in the major leagues. The increased walk rate brought his on-base percentage from .260 in 2017 (well below the AL average of .324) to .319 in 2018 (a tick above the AL average of .318) and pushed his overall offensive production from 16 percent below league average (as measured by his 84 weighted runs created plus, or wRC+) to four percent above league average (104 wRC+).

And I haven’t even mentioned the most fun aspect of his 2018 season: He pitched! And he pitched well.

Thirty pitchers took the mound for the White Sox in 2018, all of whom made at least three appearances. And only one of them didn’t allow a run: Davidson.

He topped out at 91.9 MPH and had as many strikeouts, two, as baserunners allowed in his three innings of work. The two batters he struck out, Rougned Odor and Giancarlo Stanton, combined for 56 home runs in 2018. They combined for 89 home runs (and an MVP award) in 2017.

In his career, Stanton had a combined 16 plate appearances and zero strikeouts against Barry Zito, CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka and Edwin Díaz. He struck out in his one plate appearance against Davidson.

Davidson is one of just three players with 20 or more home runs and at least three mound appearances in a season in MLB history:

— Babe Ruth (1919): 29 home runs, 17 games on the mound
— Davidson (2018): 20 home runs, three games on the mound
— Shohei Ohtani (2018): 22 home runs, 10 games on the mound

Facts are facts. Davidson is actually serious about expanding his role on the mound.

“To be honest, I would love to maybe explore that idea,” he said in July. “Pitching was a dream. As a young kid, everybody wants to hit that walk-off homer, right? I was the guy striking that guy out. That’s how I first loved the game. My favorite player was Randy Johnson and doing that.

“So, it’s something I would be interested in. I don’t know if the game would necessarily allow that or something like that. It’s something that is really close to my heart is pitching.”

Whether or not it ever happens, Davidson’s 2018 was all about finding ways to increase his value. For the White Sox, that’s a good problem to have.