White Sox

A guy the White Sox traded twice will start Game 1 of the NLCS: Could he finally come to the South Side this offseason?

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USA TODAY

A guy the White Sox traded twice will start Game 1 of the NLCS: Could he finally come to the South Side this offseason?

The first pitch of the penultimate round of the 2018 postseason will be thrown by a guy the White Sox traded. Twice.

A more noteworthy guy the White Sox traded (only once, though) could end up throwing the first pitch of the ALCS, too — his name is Chris Sale, you've probably heard of him — but let's instead focus on the guy who will take the mound in the top of the first inning of Game 1 of the NLCS. Gio Gonzalez is the Milwaukee Brewers' starting pitcher for Game 1 against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and he's a somewhat memorable figure in White Sox history in that they dealt him as part of the trade for Jim Thome in 2005, then reacquired him in the Freddy Garcia-for-Gavin Floyd swap a year later, then traded him away again the following offseason, that time to the Oakland Athletics in the Nick Swisher deal.

All of that happened before Gonzalez even made his big league debut, but he's more notable than some of the other throw-ins in those trades, more notable than Daniel Haigwood or Fautino De Los Santos, because he became a two-time All Star and has twice finished in the top 10 in Cy Young voting. Is he "the" one who got away? Maybe not. But he's "a" one who got away.

And now he's adding another accomplishment to his mighty productive 11-year major league career, pitching in the NLCS and trying to help his team get to the World Series.

Why does this warrant any further discussion in White Sox circles, though? Well, Gonzalez has had himself a heck of a go of things since getting traded from the Washington Nationals to the Brewers at the end of August, making the 32-year-old — who just a year ago finished sixth in the NL Cy Young vote — a somewhat attractive free agent when the baseball calendar flips from the World Series to the Hot Stove. And the White Sox just happen to be in the market for a starting pitcher or two.

How about that idea? Gonzalez, drafted by the Whiite Sox in 2004 and twice a part of their organization, finally pitching on the South Side.

The stock that was so high thanks to a sensational 2017 — a 2.96 ERA and 188 strikeouts in 201 innings — plummeted thanks to a rocky first five months of the 2018 regular season. Before the trade, Gonzalez had a 4.57 ERA, but he found some sort of rejuvenation in Wisconsin (we all do, to be honest, it's called Spotted Cow) and was excellent in his five regular-season starts with the Brew Crew, allowing just six earned runs and striking out 22 guys in 25.1 innings. Friday's start in Game 1 of the NLCS will be his first appearance this postseason. Don't be surprised if it doesn't last long, as Craig Counsell wisely leans on his uber-talented bullpen.

But thanks to what he's done with the Brewers, Gonzalez is suddenly a more attractive free-agent candidate than he was a month and a half ago. Could he be a fit for the White Sox?

Rick Hahn's front office has a decision to make in what kind of starting pitcher they want to sign this winter to plug the hole created by Michael Kopech's recovery from Tommy John surgery. And the number of holes to fill in the rotation becomes two if the White Sox don't have any interest in re-signing James Shields. Do the White Sox want to add two one-year fill-ins and just wait for Kopech's return and Dylan Cease's arrival? Or do the White Sox want to add an insurance policy of sorts, pitchers who could help a contending 2020 club if Kopech and/or Cease are experiencing the to-be-expected growing pains of players in their first full major league seasons?

Gonzalez, perhaps, could fit either category depending on how the market and how his market, specifically shakes out. He just turned 33, meaning he'll be 34 by Opening Day 2020. But he's made 32 starts in each of the last three seasons and 31 the season before that.

Certainly, if the White Sox are fishing in longer-term waters this winter, there will be more attractive names than Gonzalez. But he could still be a viable option. Not to mention, perhaps, a sentimental one.

His postseason story isn't done being written yet, which could of course impact the kind of deal he gets this winter. But if it has a good enough ending, perhaps the White Sox could look his way and finally bring him to the South Side — the place he thought he'd end up 14 years ago.

White Sox Talk Podcast: Carlos Rodon says it's time to s**t or get off the pot

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Carlos Rodon says it's time to s**t or get off the pot

In a candid interview with Chuck Garfien, White Sox pitcher Carlos Rodon talks about the rebuild, his struggles last season, Manny Machado and more.

He explains his troubles from last September (04:04), if he thinks he deserves to be the White Sox Opening Day starter (07:34), why it's time for the White Sox to start winning (08:20), if the White Sox did everything they could to sign Manny Machado (10:32) and more.

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

White Sox Talk Podcast

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Carlos Rodon is ready for White Sox to start winning: 'There's a point in time where it's s**t or get off the pot'

Carlos Rodon is ready for White Sox to start winning: 'There's a point in time where it's s**t or get off the pot'

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Even though the White Sox failed in their attempt to sign Manny Machado, spring training goes on.

There’s a season to be played. Machado certainly would have helped in 2019, but as someone who was here before the rebuild began and hopes to play a big role with the White Sox when their contending window opens, Carlos Rodon says it’s time.

It’s time for the White Sox to start winning.

“There’s a point in time where it’s s**t or get off the pot, man. I mean, there’s a point where you’ve got to make a turn,” Rodon said in an interview on the White Sox Talk Podcast. “I’ve been on teams like this before, not in the big leagues, but during my younger baseball career, where they’re OK or weren’t good at all, and there’s a point where the team turned and we became great or just winners. We just came together and it just happened. It’s got to happen soon. We’ve got to start picking up some ground. This is about winning, and I get the whole ‘there’s a process to winning,' and I agree a hundred percent with Rick (Hahn), but it’s time.”

Rodon isn’t promising an AL Central crown in 2019, but if White Sox fans are starting to feel a little itchy after 195 losses in the first two seasons of the rebuild, you’re not alone. Rodon feels your impatience.

The impressive prospects that Hahn and the front office have signed or acquired are starting to find their way to the majors, but is there enough talent in the clubhouse right now to answer Rodon’s hope of turning the corner in 2019?

“These guys are here for a reason, so I believe in every guy beside me in this locker room. I think we have the ability. I’ve always liked being the underdog. I’ve always liked being the guy that has something to prove. It just gives you a little fire,” Rodon said.

For the White Sox to take that next step, several players must start reaching their potential. Rodon includes himself in this category.

Coming back from shoulder surgery last season, Rodon returned in mid-summer and showed flashes of that ace the White Sox envisioned he’d become when they picked him third overall in the 2014 draft.

He combined to go 5-0 with a 1.84 ERA in July and August. What happened in September?

“For a lack of a better term, I s**t my pants. It seems like it always happens. Right in the middle of August and July, I get on a good run and then I s**t my pants,” said Rodon, who went 0-5 with a 9.22 ERA in the final month of the season.

What went wrong?

“I don’t know. I try to do too much. I have stuff that I don’t have to throw that 96 (mph) up there all the time. Just kind of let it work. Something I was working on today just kind of smoothing it out. I try to do more than I should when what I have is already good enough,” said Rodon, who turned 26 in December. “It’s just being young, I guess you could say. Still learning how to pitch.”

Entering his fifth season in the majors and holding the most seniority in the White Sox starting rotation, Rodon could be in line to start for the White Sox on Opening Day. But ask him if he thinks he’ll get the ball when they begin the season March 28 in Kansas City, he gives a very honest answer.

“It would mean a lot, but I feel like I haven’t really deserved it. I haven’t really earned it,” Rodon explained. “But if I am the Opening Day starter, I’ll take it with pride and go out there and compete. I’m not going to lie to you, I don’t feel like I’ve truly earned a top-of-the-rotation kind of guy, but that’s because we have a young rotation and I guess you could say (I have) most of the experience except for Ivan (Nova).”

While many White Sox fans would have loved to have seen Machado in a White Sox uniform on Opening Day, Rodon doesn’t fault the front office in their attempt to sign the All-Star free agent.

“Guys that make it to free agency have been in the big leagues for six years and they’ve earned the right to decide where they want to go. Now granted, I commend Rick, Jerry (Reinsdorf) and Kenny (Williams) and all of the guys in the front office that put in all of the hard work to try to make a run at Machado. They should be able to go home at night and sleep well because they did everything they could. It’s not up to us. The player still has a decision. He has a decision to make and he decided to go a different route and we did everything we could, so there’s nothing you can do about it. Something you move on from and the season continues,” Rodon said.

Do you believe the White Sox did everything they could to get Machado?

“I believe we did. I think we did, so they say. And I’m going to go with that. I trust what they say.”

And trust Rodon when he says it’s time for the White Sox to turn things around. There’s a clubhouse filled with players who feel the same way.

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