White Sox

White Sox officially add Steve Cishek as 2020 bullpen takes shape

White Sox officially add Steve Cishek as 2020 bullpen takes shape

The White Sox biggest addition to their bullpen became official Tuesday, the team announcing a one-year deal for Steve Cishek.

The former Cubs hurler adds some heft to the back end of the South Side relief corps, the owner of a 2.55 ERA in his two seasons on the other side of town. Cishek has proven to be dependable above all else, trotted out 150 times by Joe Maddon during the 2018 and 2019 campaigns.

“We believe Steve is a solid addition to our bullpen,” general manager Rick Hahn said in the announcement. “He complements our other relievers well, provides a different look to opposing hitters later in games and has consistently proven to be both durable and successful throughout his career.”

Like the addition of 37-year-old slugger Edwin Encarnacion, bringing in the 33-year-old Cishek is another indication of the White Sox win-now intentions. While multi-year deals for Yasmani Grandal and Dallas Keuchel not only improved the team in the short-term but also matched up with what the front office hopes is an extended contention window, these short-term deals for older players point to a run at a playoff spot in 2020.

If that's where the White Sox are going to end up, playing October baseball for the first time in more than a decade, they'll need a reliable bullpen. With Cishek in the fold, that corps doesn't seem terribly difficult to project, though there are a few points of note.

The back end seems secure with closer Alex Colome, setup man Aaron Bummer and Cishek. Evan Marshall and Jimmy Cordero don't have the same track records as some of the more veteran members of the 'pen, but they're strong performances in 2019 figure to have earned them spots in Rick Renteria's high-leverage rotation.

Kelvin Herrera and Jace Fry struggled in 2019, but the White Sox think highly of both and will keep them around for 2020. Herrera has a great track record of late-inning success from his days as a key member of those pennant-winning Kansas City Royals squads of the last decade. Hindered by the after effects of a foot injury last season, he finished with a 6.14 ERA in his first year on the South Side. The hope is that a healthier 2020 will produce better numbers. Fry, meanwhile, has to find his control if he's going to be the high-impact relief arm the White Sox believe he can be.

There's some mystery in projecting how the bullpen could round out come the end of spring training. Carson Fulmer, Ian Hamilton and Jose Ruiz all remain on the 40-man roster. Young guys like Zack Burdi and Matt Foster might not be ready to make the jump to the majors. Will the White Sox want a long man? The hope would be that they wouldn't have to use one quite as much as they have in recent seasons. Dylan Covey, DFA'd to make room for Cishek, could fit that bill. But there's the thought that he or Ross Detwiler, who rejoined the team this offseason on a minor league deal, would be more valuable as starting-pitching depth at Triple-A Charlotte.

Heck, Hahn and his front office might even have another move up their sleeve before the March 26 opener rolls around.

But the guys you'll see trotted out in high-leverage situations are in place. Colome, Bummer, Cishek and more will play big roles if the White Sox are going to reach their new playoff expectations.

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White Sox say Carlos Rodon is a long-term starter, but his 2020 role is far less certain


White Sox say Carlos Rodon is a long-term starter, but his 2020 role is far less certain

Carlos Rodon does not want to move to the bullpen.

“In my heart, I think I’m a starter,” Rodon told MLB.com’s Scott Merkin earlier this month. “I’m not a bullpen arm.”

In the long term, his team very much agrees with him. The White Sox view Rodon as a member of their rotation in 2021, the next season in which he’s scheduled to pitch a full complement of games, after his recovery from Tommy John surgery is complete sometime in the middle of this season.

“We view Carlos, long term, as a starter,” Rick Hahn said last week. “Certainly a year from right now, I expect to be talking about him as one of the five guys in the rotation.”

But what does that mean for Rodon in 2020?

“Over the course of this season, let him finish up his rehab, let us see where we’re at as a starting rotation, let us see where he is from a stamina and endurance standpoint and how we project him the rest of the year, and then we’ll figure out how to best bring him back to the big leagues,” Hahn said. “Long term, Carlos Rodon’s a starter. Let’s get him through his rehab, and then we’ll talk about his role for the balance of the 2020 season.

“I also know Carlos has said repeatedly, whatever we want him to do to help the team win, he’s there for. So long term, starter. Short term, we’ll figure out once he’s healthy where he’s at.”

Rodon won’t be back from his recovery until summer, so don’t worry about trying to wedge him into the rotation for the first few months of the campaign. The Opening Day starting five seems well set, even while Lucas Giolito and Gio Gonzalez work their way back from nagging springtime issues: Giolito, Dallas Keuchel, Reynaldo Lopez, Dylan Cease and Gonzalez.

Michael Kopech will be waiting in the wings, the White Sox opting to slow-play his return to a big league mound after his own Tommy John recovery. He hasn’t pitched in any game above instructional league since September 2018, and logic points to him starting this season at Triple-A Charlotte until he’s ready to return to the bigs in a way that allows him to pitch meaningful games in September.

That’s when the White Sox hope to be in the middle — or, in a perfect situation, far out in front of — a playoff race. And Rodon could certainly factor into the chase for the first bout of October baseball on the South Side in more than a decade.

“I don’t know what’s in store,” Rodon told Our Chuck Garfien on the White Sox Talk Podcast. “I’m just trying to be ready by whenever they need me ready. There’s a lot of things that go into making a move. Make a move for me, you’ve still got to take somebody off the 40-man, send someone down. There’s a whole lot of correlating moves to that. What the timing is for that, I don’t know. Maybe the guys are doing well and I’m not needed yet.

“Whatever it may be. I don’t know what it is. But when it’s my time, I’ll be ready to go, I know that.”

Rodon can throw pretty darn hard, something that intrigues those wanting to stick him in the ‘pen and call on him to get a few batters out rather than soldier through six or seven innings. But White Sox fans are plenty familiar with what he can be when he’s healthy and at his best, the kind of starter who can mow down opposing lineups.

Either role would be a valuable midseason addition for a team in the playoff hunt. You’d have to figure that this is a bridge the White Sox will cross when they come to it, meaning that Rodon will likely be deployed in whatever area he’s needed.

A wrinkle in all this is that Rodon is not under the same kind of long-term team control as many of his teammates. He’s slated to hit free agency after the 2021 season, giving him a shorter amount of time to show he deserves to be part of the White Sox long-term planning.

Though with the team that drafted him on the verge of making the transition from rebuilding mode to contending mode, Rodon said he wants to be a part of the glory days after living through the darkest days of the rebuild.

“I definitely don’t want to go anywhere,” he said. “I’ve gone through the losses. It’d be so rewarding to chip away slowly, maybe make a playoff game, make a wild card game, who knows. I don’t know what’s in store for our future. But start there. It would be super rewarding for me.”

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Zack Burdi feeling positive after making second return from a major injury

Zack Burdi feeling positive after making second return from a major injury

When Zack Burdi was drafted, he was expected to be a fast riser in the White Sox system, but injuries have derailed that.

Burdi made it to Triple-A in 2016, just a couple months after he was drafted, and held his own in nine appearances for the Charlotte Knights. He returned to Charlotte in 2017, but Tommy John surgery ended his season and cost him almost all of 2018.

Last year, he returned, this time reaching Double-A Birmingham before a knee injury ended his season in June. Burdi last pitched in a competitive game on June 20.

On Tuesday, he pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning against the San Francisco Giants in a spring training game. Burdi’s return to the mound included a first-pitch flyout and two groundouts to second. He talked to reporters on Wednesday about his outing.

“To go out there and have a good Day 1 was huge,” Burdi said. “The last thing you want is to go out there after eight months and not do well and kind of double check yourself and all the work you’ve been putting in. To go out there and to have success and to see all that work come to light was truly good.”

Reports from Arizona had Burdi in the mid 90s, which is a bit off his previous consistent fastball velocity in the high 90s and reaching 100 mph. His velocity was down last year when he returned, but seeing it in the mid 90s in his first outing back this time around is reasonable.

Burdi also showed off his wicker slider, getting a couple swinging strikes on Kean Wong.

The White Sox will likely stay conservative with the 24-year-old right-handed reliever to start the year. If he is healthy and ready to go, he could be a midseason addition to the bullpen.

“My first outing in eight months there was a lot of nerves coming back for sure and I was anxious in the bullpen,” Burdi told reporters in Arizona. “I was walking around a lot, but I was excited. I’ve been working really hard the last couple months on mechanics and trying to get that right for the season so to go out there and see that be put to work was really nice for sure.”

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