GLENDALE, Ariz. — The White Sox had the first stream of air leak from their rebuilding balloon Friday when general manager Rick Hahn announced that outfield prospect Micker Adolfo suffered the latest in a string of injuries that has tainted a promising career.
Adolfo, strong-armed outfielder who only a few days ago was fantasizing around the batting cage with prized prospects Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert about playing together in the same major league outfield one day, has a sprained ulnar collateral ligament and strained flexor tendon in his throwing arm. He could be looking at Tommy John surgery, although the Sox are somewhat optimistic it can be avoided.
Adolfo, 21, the No. 17-ranked prospect among Sox prospects according to Baseball America, has battled injuries since the Sox signed him to a hefty $1.6 million international bonus in 2013.
He received a second opinion on the elbow Friday before the Sox played their first Cactus League game.
“We do not yet have a plan for him but right now there is a chance that rehab will allow the ample time to heal and put it behind him,” Hahn said. “If that does not work, surgery is an option at some point, but we’re not there yet.”
There was a time not long ago when such an injury would have been an even bigger blow to a Sox farm system that is much deeper now. Having outfield prospect depth as they do, with Jimenez, Robert, Blake Rutherford and Luis Basabe all waiting in the wings at various stages in their development, softens the blow of Adolfo’s injury and served as a reminder that depth is king in rebuilding schemes.
With Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen and Carson Fulmer, the same could be said for the Sox’ young pitching. If it’s as good as advertised, left-hander Carlos Rodon’s injury woes aren’t as worrisome as they would otherwise be, although Hahn continued to paint an optimistic picture of Rodon’s recover from September arthroscopic shoulder surgery.
Before announcing the Adolfo news, Hahn said Rodon is making good progress in his rehab but will not pitch during the Cactus League season, which has been expected all along. The 25-year-old is on a path for an eight-month recovery.
“We’re real pleased with the way things are going,’’ Hahn said. “Talking to him, he feels normal. It’s just a matter of building up arm strength.’’
Pitching coach Don Cooper has no doubts Rodon will be back, and after watching him combat an upper biceps issue last spring when he made one Cactus League start, says he likes what he sees now.
“Right now, him just playing catch and picking up a ball doesn’t only look better than last year but it looks better than the year before,’’ Cooper said.
“The surgery was a success. He’s healed,’’ Hahn said. “That’s all behind him from a clinical or biological standpoint and now it’s just a matter of building up arm strength.
“This is about putting Carlos in the best position to succeed for the next several years, not about getting an extra two or three starts in April or May of 2018.’’
Adolfo was at least a year away from wearing a Sox uniform, and with one of the best arms in the Sox system and hitting skills that advanced in the last year, Hahn was looking forward to seeing him in Cactus League games.
“It’s unfortunate for Micker, he’s worked so hard,’’ manager Rick Renteria said. “Sounds like he’ll recover quite quickly and hopefully and get back on track.’’
“Quite quickly” might be a stretch.
If quickly turns into something less, the Sox would like to say there’s more where that came from.