That sort of response comes with the territory when you retire 25 straight hitters before hitting Cleveland's Roberto Pérez with a 1-2 back-foot slider in the ninth to lose an attempt at the fourth perfect game in White Sox history. That sort of attention arrives when you strike out seven, induce 19 swings and misses over 114 pitches (75 strikes) and hit 98.8 mph (per Statcast) with your four-seam fastball after topping 100 pitches in the ninth.
It’s a moment that Rodón might not have been able to envision as recently as December, when he was non-tendered by the White Sox, but maybe became a bit more in focus when he rejoined the only big league team he's ever played for via a one-year, $3 million free-agent deal in February. Rodón had something to prove, and he proved plenty against Cleveland.
“It's a pretty special moment,” said a beaming Rodón postgame. “Not many people can say they've thrown a no-hitter in Major League Baseball. We always talk about it, it seems like.
“Any interview with you guys, it's like, 'Oh, there's been some ups and downs. What's it like to go through that, go through some adversity?' It just feels good to finally sit here and tell you, 'I dominated today.' And it felt good. I've never really done that. I've never done it on this level at least. It feels good to say, 'I did it.'"
Rodón did it despite an injury-riddled past, with Tommy John surgery and shoulder surgery limiting the southpaw to 42 1/3 innings over the last two seasons. The talent, however, was always there -- you don’t get to be the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 Draft by luck of the draw or winning a bet.
And through his work with new pitching coach Ethan Katz, focusing on cleaning up issues with his lower half, and a rededication to his craft, the happily married father of two is starting to reach that potential.
“Second start of the year, it's going to be hard to top this one,” Rodón said. “Lance Lynn said it a couple days ago, when he threw that complete game shutout. He goes, 'Baseball gives you 24 hours.' And then what's his name from San Diego [Joe Musgrove] threw that no-hitter. And then I come up and throw the no-hitter.
“Baseball's pretty humbling. It's that quick. It'll eat you, spit you out. And sometimes it'll reward you. It's kind of the same mentality I have to have. I've got [another start] five days from now. Obviously, right now, I'm going to enjoy the moment. But tomorrow, work starts all over, because there's quite a few more starts to go."
Cleveland’s biggest challenge to Rodón’s bid for history came in their final at-bats. Josh Naylor hit a squibber to first, which pulled José Abreu to the right of the bag to open the frame. He fielded the ball, raced to the bag and slid foot first to beat a hustling Naylor, who used a head-first slide to finish the play. If Naylor ran through the base or if his right hand hit the base instead of popping over it, the no-hitter and perfect game might have been gone. Instead, a video challenge upheld the call.
Pérez was the next hitter and became the only baserunner via hit-by-pitch. Rodón finished the no-hitter by striking out Yu Chang looking and getting Jordan Luplow on a hard grounder to third baseman Yoán Moncada. Rodón joked postgame about asking Pérez if he got hit, but he said it was all in good fun.
“To be honest, I really didn’t think he had a perfect game until I got hit,” Pérez said. “I thought he had a no-hitter going on, but I really didn’t think he had a perfect game. So, it’s hard, man. I’m not gonna try to stand there and get hit, you know? Especially after a night like tonight that it was cold. But that’s just part of the game. That’s all I can say.”
“He kind of overwhelmed us,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. “When he’s good, he gets stronger as the game goes. You know, you saw him touch 99 [mph] and [throw] 114 pitches, and his breaking ball got better and he even threw some changeups. He got into a rhythm and just got stronger as the game went.”
The White Sox provided Rodón all the offensive support he needed by scoring six runs in the first against Cleveland starter Zach Plesac, knocking him from the game after two-thirds of an inning. Yermín Mercedes, who had another three-hit game, launched a three-run home run during the opening rally.
Rodón was supposed to start Monday’s game against Cleveland but was scratched with a stomach issue. He praised his good friend, Dallas Keuchel, for stepping in for him and getting through five, even calling the fellow southpaw his hero postgame.
That wait was worth it.
Rodón had Tommy John surgery on May 15, 2019, and became the first MLB pitcher ever to throw a no-hitter within two years after having the procedure, according to STATS. And in the mind of Rodón and the White Sox, there are still better days ahead.
“It was a great night. Carlos in particular,” White Sox manager Tony La Russa said. “He was very determined. He never really got tight. Everything had the same life, he proved to me he’s a finisher. That’s a really good thing for his future and ours.”
“Extreme respect for him,” said White Sox catcher Zack Collins, who caught his first no-hitter in his 16th career game behind the plate. “He was highly touted coming out of the Draft and got up real quick, and showed people he could do the job and had a couple of injuries. For him to battle back from a couple of different surgeries like he has, and come back to us to show what he’s shown so far has been incredible.”