White Sox arms of the future up to the task vs. Sano
Montas debuts by fanning Twins slugger; Rodon makes adjustments
MINNEAPOLIS -- For Carlos Rodon and Frankie Montas, two of the standout arms the White Sox future is based upon, their success in a 3-0 loss to the Twins on Wednesday can be based on a new, highly unofficial baseball metric.
Let's call it the Sano Factor.
To see how this judgment works, take a look at Montas' Major League debut, which came in the eighth inning at Target Field.
Montas didn't know he would get in the game when he threw in the bullpen in the seventh. But once the Twins extended their lead to three, the September callup got the call for the eighth.
"I was nervous. My legs were kind of shaking. I was like, 'Oh, my God. I'm really here,'" said Montas with refreshing candor in the discussion of achieving his lifelong goal. "I was thinking just try to throw the ball for a strike."
The first task for Montas was Miguel Sano, from whom the Sano Factor derived its name. It would be a daunting opening assignment for any young hurler, but with a fastball that touched 99 mph on Wednesday and a developing slider, Montas attacked the task with confidence.
It didn't hurt that Montas had faced Sano previously in the Minors. Sano worked the count to 3-2, dealing with three fastballs at 97 and another fastball at 98, before Montas aced him with a slider, looking.
"Especially 3-2, he still has confidence in throwing it," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura of Montas' slider. "It's nice to see him get out there and start seeing some good hitters. That kid has been swinging it good."
Ask Rodon about "that kid." Sano went deep against the fellow White Sox rookie in the second inning. Rodon missed on a backdoor slider with his first pitch, and actually threw him a pretty good fastball down and in where Sano connected.
"He just has a lot of power. He's a great hitter. The guy has been hot," said Rodon of Sano. "It was a good pitch, kind of down in the zone I thought."
Although he fell to 6-6 overall with Wednesday's setback, Rodon extended his streak of quality starts to five straight. He has a 1.85 ERA, just 14 walks and 33 strikeouts over his last 34 innings under the guidance of catcher Tyler Flowers. In Sano's next two at-bats against Rodon, he pitched around him for a sixth inning walk and got a 3-6-1 double play with two on and nobody out in the fourth.
Those in-game adjustments are important for the growth of Rodon, who could be a top-of-the-rotation starter with Chris Sale. But the simple fact of throwing strikes, which Montas realized with his first appearance Wednesday, might be more important to Rodon than anything else.
"Now he's actually pitching. There's a game plan we're able to execute," said Flowers of Rodon. "There are situations where we can throw secondary pitches in there for strikes. It's even turned into where we're getting guys to strike out on changeups, which is a pitch we couldn't even throw in the vicinity in spring."
Said Rodon: "[I'm] just getting more comfortable pitching -- just consistency, trying to throw strikes and get ahead of guys."