Matt Davidson

Not exactly a Matt Davidson moment, but Jose Rondon becomes latest position player to pitch for White Sox

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USA TODAY

Not exactly a Matt Davidson moment, but Jose Rondon becomes latest position player to pitch for White Sox

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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Matt Davidson reportedly joining Rangers as he continues to chase two-way dream

Matt Davidson reportedly joining Rangers as he continues to chase two-way dream

The next time Matt Davidson throws a big league pitch, it could come at the first stadium where he threw a big league pitch.

According to ESPN's Jeff Passan, the former White Sox slugger is heading to the Texas Rangers on a minor league deal. This after the White Sox non-tendered him earlier this offseason.

Passan notes that Davidson could have the opportunity to do what he's very serious about doing: being a two-way player in the major leagues.

Davidson grabbed headlines on the South Side when he became a part of one of 2018's hottest trends, managers using position players to pitch and save a few outs for their relief corps. Davidson, who pitched growing up, found some success, too, retiring all but two of the 11 batters he faced over three appearances, the first of which came against the Rangers in Arlington, the first of two 1-2-3 innings.

Davidson made an even bigger splash when, in his third outing of the season, he struck out New York Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton.

While plenty of fans and observers saw Davidson's foray into pitching as a throwaway handful of outings to help spell White Sox relievers in a trio of lopsided games, Davidson thought this could become a regular thing. He grew up pitching and talked all about his dream of pitching in the major leagues.

Well, maybe the Rangers will give him that opportunity.

Before the White Sox non-tendered Davidson, general manager Rick Hahn said that Davidson "knows, still, his bread is buttered with the offense he provides" and that he didn't "anticipate" Davidson getting some work as a pitcher during spring training. Then the White Sox made the decision to part ways with Davidson, opting to stick with Daniel Palka, who at the time was competing with Davidson for at-bats at the designated hitter position. The White Sox later added Yonder Alonso via trade and said he'd be splitting time at first base and DH with Jose Abreu.

It left little room for Davidson on the South Side, but he could find a role — or two — in Texas. In addition to the three successful stints as a pitcher last season, Davidson upped his walk total dramatically, going from just 19 of them in 2017 to 52 walks in 2018. His on-base percentage jumped from .260 to .319. He also hit 20 home runs for the second straight season.

So perhaps the AL West, already home to Shohei Ohtani, could have a pair of two-way players.

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It sounds like there could be a White Sox reunion brewing with the Rays

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USA TODAY

It sounds like there could be a White Sox reunion brewing with the Rays

Get non-tendered by the White Sox, end up playing for the Tampa Bay Rays. Is that this winter's hottest trend?

According to The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal, the Rays are moving toward a deal with Avisail Garcia, who was non-tendered by the White Sox earlier this offseason. This just a couple days after Rosenthal reported the Rays are looking at Matt Davidson, who the White Sox non-tendered earlier this offseason.

Garcia was in the White Sox outfield for six seasons and had one All-Star season in 2017, when he was one of the better hitters, statistically, in the American League with a .330 batting average and a .380 on-base percentage. His numbers cratered, though, last season as he spent the entire year dealing with a knee injury. Garcia played in only 93 games and slashed .236/.281/.438, though he did hit a career-best 19 home runs.

Though they knew it was tough to evaluate Garcia based on last year's injuries, they opted to move on from him, choosing to better spend the money he was probably going to make in his final year of arbitration eligibility elsewhere.

Davidson, meanwhile, was coming off back-to-back 20-homer seasons (26 in 2017), but was generating more headlines based on his desire to pitch as well as hit. The White Sox couldn't keep two designated hitters on their roster, Davidson and Daniel Palka, and opted for Palka, who hit 27 homers as a rookie last season.

Will Davidson get an opportunity to pitch regularly if he ends up with the Rays? Maybe. The Rays, who almost made the playoffs last season, showed a willingness to break baseball's norms by using "openers" on a regular basis, relievers starting the game and only pitching a few innings, sometimes just one inning. They could perhaps find value in Davidson as a two-way player — if he can show he can consistently pitch effectively. He only made three one-inning appearances last season with the White Sox, exclusively as an option to save the bullpen in games with lopsided scores. But Davidson expressed a desire to pitch in higher-leverage situations.

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