A rejuvenated Carlos Ródon buys time for White Sox’s depth to take shape

Carlos Rodón followed Dylan Cease’s three scoreless innings with three zeroes of his own in the White Sox’s 4-3 victory over the Padres on Tuesday. It doesn’t warrant a full analysis because Rodón isn’t necessarily trying for a different look. The challenge for him has always been staying healthy enough to be seen, and writing about him feels trite when everything ends with “… now let’s just hope he doesn’t get hurt.”

That said, it’s still worth going back and watching his start on MLB.tv if you have the chance. You’ll see a guy who pushed around a decent San Diego lineup with his fastball, the main ingredient in his four strikeouts. He didn’t walk anybody, and the only hit he allowed was a bleeder through the right side.

Rodón’s up to five scoreless innings, and while it’s always possible that he’s merely a pitcher who’s ahead of hitters in spring training, he can point to a reason for any sustained improvement:

First-year pitching coach Ethan Katz is tweaking Rodon’s delivery, primarily with his lower half, and utilizing a core velocity belt, which Rodon said has improved the spin rate on his fastball. His sessions on the back fields and in the two games have built confidence.

“With the velo belt, it’s easier to hone in the command of the four-seamer,” Rodon said. “And it seems like the spin’s getting better, getting a little more carry, having that cleaner delivery.”

* * * * * * * * *

Rodón once again outpaced his main competition for the fifth starting job, as Reynaldo López entered in relief of Rodón and promptly gave up a couple runs. In López’s defense, he probably should’ve gotten out of the fourth unscathed, but neither Adam Eaton nor Tim Anderson could convert difficult-but-makeable plays with two outs. He also settled in to throw two scoreless innings of his own afterward, so his line — 3 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K — doesn’t quite reflect the quality of his effort.

It creates less of a headache for Tony La Russa if he his starting pitching candidates decide a clear top five amongst themselves. It just could create issues later on if and when a sixth or seventh starter needs to join the fray.

The White Sox announced a second round of cuts after Tuesday’s game, and while the first round captured most of the players furthest away from the majors, this batch of reassignments captures some guys who might’ve been expected to put up more of a fight.

PITCHERS

  • Jonathan Stiever
  • Zack Burdi
  • Tyler Johnson
  • Jimmy Lambert
  • Bernardo Flores Jr.
  • Félix Paulino
  • Mike Wright
  • Kodi Medeiros

POSITION PLAYERS

  • Gavin Sheets
  • Blake Rutherford
  • Seby Zavala
  • Micker Adolfo
  • Jake Burger

Lambert was the only one who impressed among the group of arms, and even then, he merely retired the three batters he faced. Stiever managed to rebound from a rough inning that could have really sunk his spring, but he’s not quite a credible candidate for extra starts. Below him, Burdi, Johnson, Flores and Medeiros all walked more batters than they struck out.

Nobody should make too much of spring training performances by themselves, but in this case, the weaknesses all reinforced what we last saw from each pitcher the last time they pitched competitively. In particular, Burdi threw some GIFable pitches, but also got smoked on mistakes, Johnson struggled to find the zone, and Stiever’s fastball didn’t get past bats.

Specific to COVID times, they all spent last summer at an alternate training site, and it’ll be a month and a half before any of them have the option of competitive minor-league play. None of these pitchers will be needed immediately, but it makes all the pitchers currently ticketed for the 26-man roster feel a little more necessary than preferable.

On the position player side, Sheets, Rutherford and Adolfo combined to go 5-for-39 with only one extra-base hit (a double) and 14 strikeouts. None of them were expected to compete for outfield time during the first half of the season, but the Sox would’ve welcomed a surprise if one presented itself.

Instead, the Sox signed Billy Hamilton to a minor league deal to join Nick Williams as the first line of defense against an outfield injury, because while Hamilton can’t hit, his glove and baserunning can offer something to the cause. The hope is the timing of Luis Robert’s mild abdominal strain is only a coincidence.

(Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire)

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Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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Willardmarshall

Recency bias aside, it’s been a surprisingly satisfying 4-8 spring….

knoxfire30

Not very surprising news but Jeff Passan reporting the sox are talking extensions with Giolito and Vaughn.

tommytwonines

Based on Giolito’s recent comments – “I know what I’m worth” – I don’t see that extension happening. He’s in a good situation financially and should accept some risk for a more lucrative free-agency payday.

knoxfire30

Totally true, but that swings both ways. If he is set/secure financially why wouldnt you want to be where you are most comfortable maybe Gio values a no trade clause or something. The bigger signing would be Vaughn to avoid a service time headache and make him the day 1 starting DH. Thats the one I would be more focused on if I am the whitesox.

Last edited 1 year ago by knoxfire30
tommytwonines

His family has a strong union background. Reading between the lines, I think he feels he “owes it” to his baseball brethren to strike the best deal, which the WS never offer.

knoxfire30

odd he seems hardworking… zing! I kid I kid

Last edited 1 year ago by knoxfire30
oldtimer

The Sox took very good care of Abreu. No reason to think they wouldn’t do the same for Giolito. Granted pitchers are a bit riskier.

HallofFrank

I understand the sentiment, but I think it’s overblown. For one, Giolito isn’t going to get paid what he’s worth no matter what. Saying no to an extension does mean he’ll get paid what he’s worth sooner, but it also means he’ll get paid even less in the meantime—and with more expendability if the worse happens.

Second, Giolito comes from money, but how much? He’ll be financially secure either way, but what’s his family worth? $1m? $5m? That’s a lot, but almost nothing compared to the $80m+ he could make in an extension.

All that to say – I agree that, for the reasons you say, he’ll be a more difficult sign than, say, Vaughn, but there’s plenty of motivation for him to sign an extension nonetheless. In the last few extensions the Sox have signed, they have clearly absorbed *some* of the risks. If they are willing to do that here with Giolito, I don’t see why they can’t get a deal done.

tommytwonines

It might happen. Pitching careers are generally more tenuous than those for position players, too.

asinwreck

I was a little surprised that Rodón pitched as well as he did given that he is changing his delivery. We’ll see if it keeps him off the IL, but it’s nice that he’s able to show more command than he had last fall.

Eagle Bones

I mean yeah that line looks nice, but was he managing to not get in his toe? Come on Jim, this is the important analysis I came here for.

MrStealYoBase

The pitching depth seems… okay? (That’s the strongest endorsement I’ll ever give to avoid angering the baseball gods)

The group of Stiever, Lambert, Burdi, and Johnson all need to do some work in the minors, but I can see situations where they are called up in a few months and hold their own.

Not sure what role Lopez is ticketed for at this point. Personally I’m for using that last option and keeping him stretched out in Charlotte as the first guy up for injury or a spot start. I don’t see the stuff being especially effective out of the bullpen, but we also don’t have statcast data yet for the reworked mechanics.

On a different note, have there been any rumblings about MLB keeping 28-man rosters for April at least? Might make sense with the minors being delayed.

knoxfire30

robert back in the lineup today is a sigh of relief

JTerp

I don’t know if it’s because he’s pitching well or not, but he seems to be more positive on the mound than previous years. His control seems to be better than the past couple years which should help. He has good stuff, but the control and injuries are what always get him. I’m rooting for him to do well.

SouthSide Ex-Pat

Cease and Rodon, Wow! Billy Hamilton, Whaat?

lifelongjd

Adolfo, Rutherford and to a lesser extent Sheets not seizing an opportunity to provide outfield depth is concerning. Not even part of the conversation past St Patrick’s Day. The Sox are thin at this spot, as the Billy Hamilton signing shows. I know they have Leury, but here’s hoping a lack of investment here doesn’t come back to bite Hahn.

Foulkelore

Yeah, I’ve had related thoughts lately about how nice it would be if the Sox could get just one nice “surprise”, meaning a guy who isn’t a high draft pick or top international prospect that becomes a good player in the majors. Hell, the three you listed wouldn’t even qualify, though they’d certainly be pleasant surprises if they emerged now. Outside of maybe a couple of the good bullpen arms, this just hasn’t happened. Their starting rotation and position players are going to be exclusively: high draft picks, top international prospects, and a few free agents. Maybe this would have happened with a real minor league season last year, but it just seems like this happens for other teams, and I’m still waiting for the first guy like that during this rebuild. Mercedes as a hitter might have a chance to quality, but even that’s far from certain.

After this post, I remembered that Fernando Tatis Jr. was not a top international prospect when signed (on top 30 lists, but near the bottom), so I guess I want them to not only find one of these players, but keep them or trade them for something useful.

Last edited 1 year ago by Foulkelore
burning-phoneix

Outside of maybe a couple of the good bullpen arms, this just hasn’t happened.

I think that’s a bit of an understatement. Outside of Hendricks and Crotchet, nearly the entire White Sox bullpen was jury rigged from late draft picks and waiver wire pickups and are still arguably the best in baseball.

Position players? Yeah I guess so. I hope Yermin just mashes and Adam Engel proves 2020 wasn’t a small sample fluke.

Last edited 1 year ago by burning-phoneix
jhomeslice

It would be great if Rodon stays healthy long enough for Kopech to build up his arm strength to become part of the rotation. It would be even better if Rodon stays healthy and pitches like he did yesterday often enough to create a real dilemma as to whether to move Kopech to the rotation or stick with Rodon. That’s getting a little ahead of things since it isn’t the regular season, but the Padres are a legit team and Rodon shut them down convincingly, which is a chasm of difference compared to how he looked last year. Rodon could turn out to be the biggest surprise of the entire baseball season if he can stay healthy. If he can, the race with the Twins does not have to be all that close. What a great story and comeback it would be for him. The Eaton signing might not be much of a significant negative if Rodon, Cease, and a couple other things fall into place.