White Sox flexible with rotation as Rodon deals with fatigue
The White Sox possessed the American League's most dominant rotation for the first four months while providing extra rest to their starters when it was available or necessary.
And thanks to a collective effort by their bullpen Sunday night, left-hander Carlos Rodon will get an opportunity to rekindle his effectiveness.
Rodon, who hasn't pitched since Sept. 29, will start Monday's Game 4 of this best-of-five American League Division Series after relievers Ryan Tepera, Aaron Bummer, Craig Kimbrel and Liam Hendricks combined for five scoreless innings that enabled the White Sox to secure an 12-6 victory Sunday night over the Houston Astros and hold off elimination.
Rodon, who has coped with a tender left shoulder, will try to provide quality and enough quantity after Game 3 starter Dylan Cease lasted only 1 2/3 innings in Game 3.
White Sox starters Lance Lynn, Lucas Giolito and Cease have combined to pitch only 9 2/3 innings while allowing 12 earned runs in the first three games of this best-of-five series.
Manager Tony La Russa has been accustomed to adjustments during his Hall of Fame career, and he recognized the sense of urgency prior to Sunday night's Game 3.
"Comfortable means you sit back, and confidence is one thing," La Russa said. "Comfortable is not good."
Rodon, who was 13-5 with a 2.37 ERA during the regular season, said he could have pitched Game 3 but understood La Russa's decision to start Cease.
"If (Rodon) has his good stuff, then we take an inning," La Russa said. "Take a zero in the first or two zeros. Just watch closely, but the last time he pitched against Cincinnati, that was considerably less than his best."
Rodon's fastball topped out at 93 mph -- about three mph slower than his average -- but pitched five innings of one-hit ball.
Michael Kopech, who threw 47 pitches Sunday, likely won't be available. But the rest of the bullpen should be available to assist Rodon.
Through the first four months of the season, Rodon would have been an ideal candidate to start Game 1 of the ALDS and Game 5, if necessary.
Rodon was 1-0 in two starts against the Astros while limiting them to four hits in 45 at-bats (.089) with 18 strikeouts in 14 innings. That included seven innings of one-hit ball in a 4-0 win on July 18 at Guaranteed Rate Field.
But a tender left shoulder relegated Rodon to two starts after Sept. 10.
"I wouldn't call it an injury," said Rodon, who underwent Tommy John surgery in May of 2019 and pitched with at least five days' rest in 18 of his 24 starts in 2021. "It's more fatigue and soreness, to be honest."
Rodon pointed out that he pitched 7 2/3 innings in 2020 and 34 2/3 innings in 2019 before suffering his season-ending elbow injury.
Despite the extra rest in 2021, Rodon still pitched 132 2/3 innings -- his most since 2016.
"I'm still standing here now, trying to get on the mound to pitch and do my job," Rodon said.