Rozner: White Sox, Rodon rewarded for patience

  • White Sox pitcher Carlos Rodon, center, celebrates his no-hitter against Cleveland Wednesday at Guaranteed Rate Field.

    White Sox pitcher Carlos Rodon, center, celebrates his no-hitter against Cleveland Wednesday at Guaranteed Rate Field. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 4/16/2021 11:41 AM

The calls were almost daily and no worse than weekly in 2018.

As I defended Lucas Giolito and preached patience while talking baseball on the radio, fans wondered how I could do that with a guy posting a 6.13 ERA and leading the league in walks and earned runs.

 

The answer is stuff and arm.

If a young pitcher has great stuff and a great arm, then you need to show some patience. Especially with someone who's had major surgery, it's a case of discovering arm slot again, the player trusting that with proper mechanics his arm won't fall off.

That takes time. Giving up on talent like that is foolish simply because you don't like the results.

The next year, Giolito was a Cy Young candidate and now the White Sox have a star, just as Nats GM Mike Rizzo always believed he would be when he drafted him in the first round in 2012 knowing Tommy John surgery was inevitable.

Similarly, Carlos Rodon has been through it all, a shoulder surgery near the end of the 2017 season and Tommy John early in the 2019 season, which means he was likely pitching in pain during the entirety of his first six seasons with the Sox.

There were many during that time that didn't understand what the Sox were seeing, what they were thinking or what they were doing, giving Rodon so many chances.

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Rodon was non-tendered after the 2019 season and then re-signed a month later, thus saving the club about $5 million. They did the same after the 2020 season, and re-signed him two months later, again saving a big pile of money.

Though Rodon didn't know where or even if he would have a job in 2021, here's where you have to believe it's what GM Rick Hahn wanted all along, a fair deal for 2021 at $3 million and the hope that Rodon would find health, arm slot and mechanics.

The result was nearly perfect Wednesday night.

What is truly impressive about it is the way Rodon is pitching now. As in, actually pitching in an era dominated by throwers. So many in the game are instructed to use max power from the first pitch through the last, saving nothing for the later innings and showing every pitch they have to the first batter of the game.

It's an absurd philosophy.

Not that Rodon wasn't throwing hard Wednesday night. In fact, he was throwing harder late in the gamer than he was early, reaching 97 mph on his 112th pitch of the evening, tossing 114 in his no-hitter.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Much more impressive was his use of four pitches all night and the way in which he used them. Cleveland hitters were tied up in knots trying to figure out what was coming next, constantly guessing wrong.

But when a guy is locating his breaking stuff that well, the release point the same for a fastball and some off-speed, combined with a great fastball -- and the occasional two-seamer -- the hitter has no chance unless he hits the lottery and barrels a ball.

Credit catcher Zack Collins, as well, for a magnificent game behind the plate, consistently following breaking stuff in the dirt with a helmet-high fastball, moving the hitters' eyes so often that they were frequently swinging at pitches out of the zone.

Rodon has followed a spectacular spring training with a brilliant start to the season, which is no guarantee of what comes next, but he's an easy guy to root for given all that he's been through and the way in which he competes.

"It's going to be hard to top this one," Rodon said Wednesday night. "Baseball's pretty humbling. It'll eat you up, spit you out, and sometimes it'll reward you. It's kind of the same mentality I have to have now.

"Obviously, I'm going to enjoy the moment, but tomorrow work starts all over, because there's quite a few more starts to go."

It's all about stuff and arm. The 28-year-old Rodon has both and if he stays healthy, he can still be the guy the Sox thought they were drafting third overall in 2014.

He's a veteran now of baseball and its ever-present agony. He needs no help with perspective and he knows now how to pitch at the big-league level. The patience of the Sox has been rewarded.

All Carlos Rodon needs more of is a little luck with health.

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