Cooper not counting on Rodon for start of 2018

Lefty had shoulder surgery in September, was expected to miss 6-8 months

January 11th, 2018

CHICAGO -- White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper doesn't see much on the agenda for other than enjoying newly married life with his wife, Ashley.

Rodon had arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder in late September, leaving him out for the next six to eight months. So Cooper wants to watch Rodon actually throw before making more specific plans for Rodon's immediate pitching future.

"I'm not counting on and I don't think anybody is counting on him being ready to start the season," Cooper said. "Obviously, we will learn more at SoxFest [Jan. 26-28] and we'll learn some when Spring Training opens up.

"He's going to have some 'take-care-of-himself' time, some 'let's-get-him-well' time."

The White Sox took it easy on Rodon as he dealt with injuries in 2017, as well. After one four-inning Cactus League start, the lefty didn't make his regular-season debut until June 28, due to biceps bursitis. The season-ending surgery meant Rodon's last start came on Sept. 2, leaving him with a 4.15 ERA over 12 trips to the mound and 76 strikeouts and 31 walks over 69 1/3 innings pitched.

Cooper bristles at any doubts regarding the southpaw's high-end potential. Rodon has one of the game's most effective sliders and a fastball averaging 93.3 mph for his career, per Fangraphs, and has fanned 383 over 373 2/3 innings. But the question is when he'll be back near 100 percent.

"I personally believe this is just an obstacle put in his way and we are going to take care of that obstacle and help him in any way we can," said Cooper. "He is going to resume his career and continue on the path of trying to be as good as you can be.

"Prior to the injury, I would like to hear a club that wouldn't want Carlos Rodon. There are 30 teams that would say, 'Yeah, I'll take a go at Rodon.'

"Who wouldn't? Just his strikeout numbers and the streaks he's been on. But my point is the skepticism should not be on his ability and how good he is, the gifts he has. It should be more on he's run into a couple of physical problems, and how is that going to pan out."

Calls from Cooper and bullpen coach Curt Hasler are going out to White Sox pitchers, gauging what they are doing in the offseason and what to expect at the start of camp. Cooper, Hasler and baseball video coordinator Bryan Johnson had their own calls over the past few months, breaking down video and numbers and looking for ways to improve each hurler.

Improvement for Rodon, at this point, has more to do with ongoing shoulder rehab work.

"As important as Carlos is, he can't be in the front of my mind right now," Cooper said. "He's just got to travel his little course.

"The course he's got is work your [butt] off, rehab, get yourself in top shape, take care of that shoulder. Get on the throwing program and hopefully you can build up from the throwing program to sidelines to games to innings and to pitches and to back in Chicago."