It's safe to say Jose Rondon probably doesn't have ambitions of becoming baseball's next two-way sensation.
Matt Davidson made headlines last season when he made three trips to the pitcher's mound. But instead of just being a bullpen-saving novelty — though he was that, too — Davidson raised eyebrows by repeatedly saying that he'd like to add relief pitching to his game, which to that point had consisted almost exclusively of bringing a power bat to the White Sox lineup.
Davidson's a Texas Ranger now, but Rick Renteria isn't done using position players to pitch in times when his bullpen needs saving.
Friday night, in the same game where Chris Sale shut down his former team, Renteria turned to Rondon, who, to put it mildly, looked a lot different than Davidson did during the latter's tryout of sorts in 2018. While Davidson leaned on the pitching experience of his high school days to rack up three scoreless innings over the course of the year — highlighted by a strikeout of home-run machine Giancarlo Stanton in a game against the New York Yankees — Rondon was lobbing balls to the plate, sometimes not even fast enough to register on the in-stadium radar gun at Guaranteed Rate Field.
"That's my first time," Rondon said after the White Sox loss to the visiting Boston Red Sox.
Regardless of how it looked, though, Rondon did the job while throwing what he laughingly confirmed was a screwball. He faced five batters, allowing a pair of singles but getting the other three out in a scoreless inning.
"They just were laughing," Rondon said, through team interpreter Billy Russo, of the on-field reaction to his work, "and stared at me like, 'You're really doing this?'"
Renteria made it seem like the White Sox had this planned out a bit, if the situation presented itself, admitting that the team had Rondon throw some practice pitches before Friday's game. Renteria said if the game was within a swing, he wouldn't have used a position player in the ninth inning. But with the White Sox down five, the opportunity arose, and Rondon became the latest bullpen saver.
"Listen, you never want to resort to that, but I think that under the circumstances, for us, it was just a necessary thing we needed to do," Renteria said. "Fortunately, it didn't get out of hand, it didn't get ugly. You're always concerned about things like that. But it didn't, and we were able to save a few arms today."
Certainly the White Sox bullpen has been used frequently during the season's first month-plus. Short outings from starting pitchers early in the season led to Renteria leaning on his relief corps more heavily than he would've liked. The pitching staff, in general, has been a sore spot, and as of this writing, only two teams in baseball had staff ERAs higher than the White Sox mark of 5.30.
Though Dylan Covey has been elevated to the rotation in the wake of Carlos Rodon's significant arm injury, Renteria described Sunday's plan as "almost like a bullpen day," presenting an even greater need to keep the bullpen arms fresh. As of now, Sunday's starter is to be announced.
"We have been using these guys, we've been trying to search for ways to kind of refresh them a little bit," he said. "We've been pushing them out of necessity, pretty much. Hopefully today puts us in a little better position. Obviously, it's almost like a bullpen day on Sunday, so we need as many guys available as possible. That's just where we're at."
And so, Rondon.
Will he be this year's Davidson? Or is this the last we've seen of him? Will he go out with a spotless 0.00 ERA?
"It felt good. It was fun," he said. "Definitely something I'd be willing to do again."
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