DETROIT — Tony La Russa and the Chicago White Sox are concerned.
Carlos Rodón says it's "nothing crazy."
Two different opinions on the left-hander's health and one big mystery about one of the South Siders' most important pieces on the doorstep of the postseason.
Rodón's battled bouts of soreness after multiple starts during the second half of the season, once landing on the injured list and at other times having his ensuing starts delayed as he recovered. He's dealt with significant injuries throughout his career, and the White Sox have been careful not to overwork a left arm that threw a combined 232.1 innings over the previous four seasons, giving Rodón extra rest from spring training on. Just six of his 23 starts in 2021 have come on regular four days' rest.
But the soreness that's cropped up in recent weeks and months isn't going away, it seems.
Rodón made an early exit from Monday night's White Sox loss in Detroit, giving up three runs in the bottom of the third inning — after which he had logged 69 pitches on the evening — and making a worrisome comment to La Russa upon his return to the visitors' dugout.
"The first two innings, we were all encouraged. He threw the ball well. In the third, he lost command, he was struggling, actually fortunate to leave (the third inning) with three runs." La Russa said. "He came back in and said he wasn't right, soreness. So we're concerned."
The South Side skipper said the White Sox will need to reassess Rodón on Tuesday to figure out exactly what's going on. But for someone who's had to give plenty of "we'll see what happens tomorrow" answers throughout the campaign, La Russa was not acting even the slightest bit optimistic Monday night.
"If you ask for a seat-of-the-pants opinion, I don't see how he'll pitch next week," La Russa said. "You prepare for the worst, hope for the best. It's a tired cliche, but it's exactly what we're going to do."
But if you're looking for a second opinion to manage your worry — or perhaps just confuse you further — just ask Dr. Rodón.
"Yeah, it's just normal soreness," Rodón said, not revealing any of the same kind of concern his manager had moments earlier. "Nothing crazy."
Rodón might not be a doctor, but it is his arm. He's the one who rehabbed his way through one frustrating injury after another, and the abrupt end he brought to his postgame media session upon learning that reporters' interest centered on his physical condition rather than his three innings of work Monday night could well have been a reflection of renewed frustration over this once more being the topic central to his story.
"Are all these questions going to be about how I feel?" Rodón asked. "Because I would like to talk about the game."
Asked once more if there was a reason to be concerned, Rodón answered, if briefly: "No. I think we're good."
Rodón worked hard during the offseason, helped out by first-year pitching coach Ethan Katz, to turn a December non-tender into a legitimate Cy Young candidacy. He threw a no-hitter in April and spent the rest of his time on the mound dominating. He's a significant part of the White Sox' success this season, as well as a significant part of why they could make a serious run at a World Series championship.
But in playing such a significant role, any concern over his health cannot be brushed aside so easily, especially not at this time of year, when the White Sox' magic number to clinch a division title is down to 2 and the number of games remaining until the postseason is not much bigger.
Starting pitching brought the White Sox to this point, and blessed with full health, Rodón would figure to be in line to start one of the team's guaranteed playoff games, a spot as the Game 3 starter, perhaps, depending on the matchups, well earned by a terrific regular season.
But if the team's biggest postseason strength is negatively affected by Rodón's health, well then that's a big deal. Otherwise known as a reason to be concerned.
Time will tell, of course, if Rodón was correct in presuming that "we're good." The White Sox will do their reevaluation Tuesday and have a better idea of how much, if at all, they need to be "concerned."
In the meantime, it's a brand new mystery of the same kind of genre that's always clouded Rodón's big league career.
We'll find out, eventually, if it's enough this time to cloud the White Sox' chase for a World Series championship.