Rodón's status unclear with playoffs in sight

White Sox magic number down to 2, but lefty leaves with shoulder soreness

September 21st, 2021

DETROIT -- ’s short Zoom session following the White Sox 4-3 loss to the Tigers on Monday night at Comerica Park was stopped briefly by a question the left-hander directed at the media.

It was a question about all the questions concerning soreness in his left shoulder, which manager Tony La Russa had spelled out as a reason for Rodón’s concerning departure after three innings and 69 pitches.

“Are all these questions gonna be about how I feel?” said a respectful but clearly frustrated Rodón. “Because I would like to talk about the game.”

But Rodón’s health is what holds significant weight for Chicago moving forward. The White Sox (85-65) are going to win their first American League Central title since 2008, and they will probably do it in Detroit after Kansas City’s doubleheader sweep of the Indians on Monday cut their magic number to 2.

The White Sox also look to be locked into the AL’s No. 3 seed, meaning as of Monday, they would open the playoffs against Houston at Minute Maid Park, where they finished 0-4 this season.

But in order to make a sustained move through the postseason -- with thoughts of winning a World Series title -- the White Sox need a healthy Rodón in the top three of their rotation alongside and . For the season, Rodón has posted a stellar 2.47 ERA and tallied 181 strikeouts against 34 walks over 127 2/3 innings. He has looked dominant while earning his first All-Star nod and was firmly in AL Cy Young contention until the past six injury-riddled weeks.

The White Sox have been cautious with their usage of a pitcher who threw 42 1/3 innings combined over the last two seasons, especially considering Rodón’s trip to the injured list was due to left shoulder fatigue. But as of late, he has not totally responded.

Rodón cruised through the first inning on 11 pitches, but he threw 30 in the second and 28 in the third in his first start since Sept. 10. He has not thrown more than five innings in his last seven starts, dating back to July 18.

"In the first two innings, we were all encouraged. He threw the ball well,” La Russa said. “In the third, he lost command, he was struggling. Actually fortunate to leave [the third inning] with three runs. He came back in and said he wasn't right, soreness. So we're concerned."

“Just disappointed in myself to go out there and give up three runs when they put up three runs for me,” Rodón said. “That’s a shutdown inning, and that’s on me. So honestly it’s pretty [bad].”

As for that shoulder problem?

“Yeah, it’s just normal soreness,” Rodón said. “Nothing crazy.”

Detroit (73-78) scored the go-ahead run on a Harold Castro eighth-inning single to right off Craig Kimbrel that brought home Robbie Grossman. Grossman reached on a two-out hit-by-pitch on a 1-2 count and swiped second base.

But the White Sox still were able to move closer to the first of their numerous goals set for this season.

“At this point, we're exactly where we've been all year. We're taking care of ourselves,” La Russa said. “We haven't been consistent. And it's not like it's not relevant, because when they get beat, the number goes down. But the priority is: What are we doing, and how can we get more consistent? And that's where the focus is."

A previous plan for Rodón, expressed last week by La Russa, had him pitching in Detroit and then at home next week against the Reds. But the skipper wasn’t sure if that scenario would indeed play out after Monday’s outing.

"If you ask for a seat-of-the-pants opinion, I don't see how he'll pitch next week,” La Russa said. “I don't know. You prepare for the worst, hope for the best. It's a tired cliché, but it's exactly what we're going to do."

There was one more question concerning the shoulder soreness for Rodón, who averaged 93.2 mph on 44 four-seam fastballs per Statcast -- down from a season average of 95.6 -- though he did record nine of his 10 swings and misses on the pitch. The left-hander was asked whether he was as concerned about his shoulder as his manager seemed to be.

He gave a polite but direct response.

“No. I think we’re good,” Rodón said. “Thank you guys.”