Rodón aces final test ahead of playoff run

La Russa, Sox to keep close eye on southpaw ahead of ALDS

September 30th, 2021

CHICAGO -- Carlos Rodón had one primary goal when he took the mound in a 6-1 White Sox victory over the Reds on Wednesday night at Guaranteed Rate Field.

“I just wanted to go out there and compete and get outs,” said Rodón, after notching a career-high 13th victory in the White Sox fourth straight win.

That goal was accomplished, as Rodón allowed one hit over five scoreless innings, throwing 43 of his 69 pitches for strikes. He struck out four and walked two, giving him a final regular-season total of 185 strikeouts against 36 walks to go with an impressive 2.37 ERA in 132 2/3 innings.

Rodón made his first start since Sept. 20 at Detroit, where he threw just three innings and 69 pitches before exiting when he didn’t feel right, per manager Tony La Russa, with left shoulder discomfort. After throwing a bullpen session Sunday in Cleveland, the southpaw looked playoff-ready against the Reds (82-77).

But more will be known about Rodón as he responds to Wednesday’s workload over the next few days.

“It's an off-day, but we'll be checking in on him. And for sure, Friday,” said La Russa of Rodón. “I thought he moved the ball around, he had command of his slider and he reached back a couple times for a little extra. It really depends on how he feels and we'll reserve judgment.

“We've seen all year long what he can do if he's himself. The key is: Is he himself? He sat down and went back out there five times. That's a big box checked, that's important. But you reserve judgment 'till you see how he feels."

Michael Kopech threw three scoreless innings behind Rodón. He struck out three, walked two and gave thought to a possible playoff combo with Rodón, but Kopech’s value should extend across more than being lined up for one particular game.

Gavin Sheets homered in his second straight game, connecting in the third off Sonny Gray for a 2-0 lead. Sheets drove in three, while Leury García added two hits and an RBI and Tim Anderson homered in the seventh.

“I’ve been around a lot of really good hitters here, been learning from them, and it’s all starting to click at the right time, in my opinion,” Sheets said. “Put together a good season so far, but I think the most important part is still to come. It’s cool to see the way the season’s evolved and just starting to click at the right time here.”

“Today we got three or four runs of the six from the guys like García, and I think Sheets drove in three,” La Russa said. “The ability to score each inning, nowadays, that's a requirement if you want to get to October, because you're going to face other teams like that. That is definitely something that we can feature as well."

Having offensive balance will be important to the White Sox cause, but Rodón figures to be just as important of a cog to the South Siders moving forward in October. He has been one of the best starting pitchers in the Majors this season when healthy, and the White Sox (91-68) have taken care to give Rodón the proper rest needed to keep him sharp.

Over 47 four-seam fastballs thrown Wednesday, Rodón averaged 90.9 mph and topped out at 92.7 mph, per Statcast. Despite Wednesday’s average being 4.6 mph down from his season average of 95.5, Rodón didn’t seem concerned when questioned about the reason behind the drop during his postgame Zoom.

“I went out there and got 15 outs. Gave up one hit,” Rodón said. “Some days I’m not going to have it all. It was one of those [where I] didn’t have my best stuff, but went out there and pitched and just tried to get outs and give the team a chance to win.

“Sometimes you have to go out there and pitch. Didn’t have that overpowering fastball, but had some secondary stuff and got weak contact. Defense made good plays and [catcher Yasmani Grandal] mixed it up well.”

Rodón’s 2021 innings total is considerably up from the 7 2/3 thrown in '20 and the 34 2/3 hurled in '19. He wouldn’t start again until Game 3 or Game 4 of the American League Division Series, so he would have almost two weeks off in between, with the White Sox just wanting to make sure he’ll be ready.

“I’ll probably be sore. Just like after every time I pitch,” said Rodón of his day-after projection. “Just take these days and get ready for whatever the postseason holds for me and my team.”