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Ex-Sox catcher Narváez knew Rodón 'was this kind of pitcher'

/ by Vinnie Duber
Presented By Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
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MILWAUKEE — Boy, 2018 sure feels like forever ago.

Global circumstances aside, back in 2018, the Chicago White Sox were still mired in the losing seasons of their rebuilding process, Carlos Rodón was still mired in an endless stream of recovery modes, and Omar Narváez was still playing his home games on the South Side.

Despite some solid offensive production during his stint with the club, Narváez isn't likely to go down in White Sox lore, perhaps his most notable contribution being the player the team sent away to acquire Alex Colomé from the Seattle Mariners. And even that deal didn't end up making a monumental impact on the direction of the franchise, as Rick Hahn's front office moved on from two seasons of Colomé to ink Liam Hendriks to a big free-agent contract to be the team's new closer last winter.

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But Narváez does have knowledge of the before times, back before the White Sox were contenders and back before pitchers like Rodón and Lucas Giolito turned into All Stars.

Playing for his own Central Division leader right now, the Milwaukee Brewers, Narváez gets to see his old mates this weekend in Wisconsin. He'll be happy to see them. And happy that's all he'll have to do against Rodón, who he called "one of my friends in baseball."

 

"I'm really glad I'm probably not going to face him," Narváez told NBC Sports Chicago on Friday.

Rodón's transformation from oft-injured, underachieving No. 3 draft pick into a no-hitter-throwing, All-Star Cy Young candidate has been well chronicled and is a significant reason the White Sox look capable of such big things this season and this postseason, where he could lengthen the starting rotation into a force that'll be difficult for any opposing lineup to handle.

Just look what he's done to the Houston Astros, a fellow World Series contender, in a pair of starts: He's got a 0.64 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 14 innings. He'll face another contending lineup in Narváez's Brewers on Saturday night.

But Narváez, whether he's in the lineup or not, will get an up close and personal look at a pitcher who's pitching very differently from the last time he caught him in 2018.

"I'm seeing a little bit what I saw in the minor leagues, being a hard-thrower, spotting everything he needs to. I'm really glad he's coming back to who he is," Narváez said. "I always knew he was that kind of pitcher. ... That great pitcher's always been there, and it's going to be there for a while.

"I feel like he has become the best of himself, playing through those injuries. I feel like he knows himself a little bit better. So he knows when he needs to pump himself up and when he needs to calm himself down. I'm really happy for him. I always knew he was this kind of pitcher."

When Narváez was with the White Sox, the front office and fans alike were busy plotting out the rotations of the future, so much potential in a variety of young arms that the projections were changing seemingly every couple weeks.

In 2018, Narváez's final season on the South Side, it might have been difficult to envision that Rodón and Giolito would be two of the driving forces three years later.

Rodón finished that season with an ERA north of 4.00 thanks to an 0-5 month of September; he made just 20 starts, not making his season debut until June because of an injury. Giolito, meanwhile, put up the worst statistics of any starting pitcher in baseball in his first full year in the bigs.

Fast forward, and Rodón's a Cy Young candidate, with Giolito — who Narváez described as "becoming one of the greatest pitchers in the game" — is the ace of the staff.

Both pitchers are helping to power the White Sox championship dreams. And if they make it to the World Series, Narváez and the Brewers could be there waiting for them.

"I always thought, the time I was there, we had great talent. It was just a matter of time until everybody grew and played the game a little better," Narváez said. "They've got great people over there. ... It was a matter of time before everything started to come together and they would win games."

 

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