Rodón's 2021 playoff fate a 'tough call'

October 4th, 2021

CHICAGO -- White Sox manager Tony La Russa was noncommittal about ’s status for the upcoming American League Division Series against Houston, beginning Thursday at Minute Maid Park.

The left-handed starter, who should garner AL Cy Young Award votes for his stellar 2021 performance, has been bothered by left shoulder soreness. He allowed one hit over five scoreless innings and 69 pitches in a victory over the Reds on Wednesday, lowering his ERA to 2.37. But Rodón’s fastball averaged 90.9 mph, per Statcast, which was down from a season average of 95.4 mph. He topped out at 92.7 mph.

“The only comment I'll say is the obvious one: One of the things of why he's been so special this year, it's not just that he's had stuff. He's had velocity, he's had breaking ball, changeup,” La Russa said Sunday. “It's just that he's pitched with those.

“His velocity wasn't what it has been, but he pitched. He got pitches to both sides of the plate, slider was good, threw some changeups. So that's the issue, stamina and strength. Is he going to have as much as he had? More than he had? Less than he had?”

Rodón played catch on Sunday, with La Russa adding the plan is for Rodón to throw a bullpen Tuesday. He wouldn’t be needed as a starter until Game 3 or Game 4 (if necessary), which would be Oct. 10 or 11 in Chicago.

“He's like the great unknown,” La Russa said. “I think the plan now is for him to throw a bullpen, maybe Tuesday, and [we'll] check that out very carefully and fast-forward to when he would go out there and make a determination. But that could be a tough call.

“Since he just pitched, and he's been getting work in and getting treated, there's no way to answer it today without flipping a coin. We just need to check him out Tuesday. I think the roster doesn't go in until Thursday morning, maybe see how he feels on Wednesday. It's that important and that tough a call.”

Rodón finished 13-5 with 185 strikeouts and 36 walks over 132 2/3 innings. He had thrown 42 1/3 innings combined over the last two seasons prior to ’21.

Playoff roster permutations
Even after a meeting with the coaching staff and general manager Rick Hahn Friday, La Russa said there still was no final decision on the breakdown between position players and pitchers for the playoff roster.

“There were a lot of smart people in that room with experience, and there was a lot of discussion,” La Russa said. “And it could have gone on for another hour or two, and Rick said, ‘OK, we've got to talk about playing Detroit [on] Friday night.’

“So we stopped it. The answer is anywhere from 11-15, 12-14 and 13-13. Because we didn't have a crystal ball about Friday or Saturday. And now, we don't have a crystal ball about today. So you really need to get more information. The important thing was to get the dialogue going and we did that, and we'll start meeting again Monday and Tuesday and nail it down.”

Third to first
and will start the White Sox first two playoff games. But La Russa would not announce their order on Sunday.

trailed Kansas City catcher Salvador Perez by four RBIs (121-117) entering Sunday in Abreu's quest for his third consecutive AL RBI title. But La Russa sat his team leader, who was a little under the weather on Saturday.

“It just doesn’t make sense to push him today,” La Russa said. “He’s had a hell of a year. The bottom line is this is a day to refresh. And oddly enough, he agrees.”

• The White Sox finish the regular season in first place in the AL Central every day since May 7.

He said it
“I can only control what I can control, and my job is to be the best teammate possible whether I’m on the playoff roster or not. So I’m going to be there for the guys regardless. But I would be lying if I told you I don’t think about it.” -- , whose 2.45 ERA over 34 games makes him a playoff roster bullpen candidate