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Ivan Nova cherished Opening Day start, says White Sox’ Rodon worthy

Ivan Nova throws during a spring training baseball game against the Texas Rangers Friday, March 1, 2019, in Surprise, Ariz. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

SURPRISE, Ariz. — The only pitcher on the White Sox’ staff to start on Opening Day is not the favorite to take the ball in their opener March 28 in Kansas City. Right-hander Ivan Nova got the honor for the Pirates last season, and it was something he’ll always cherish.

“It was a dream come true,” Nova said. “Every starting pitcher’s dream is to have at least one Opening Day. I was fortunate to have the home opener the year before. It was cool. And last year, I had the real Opening Day, and it was amazing.’’

Nova allowed one unearned run in six innings and got the victory against the Cardinals in the Pirates’ home opener in 2017. On Opening Day last season, he gave up two runs in five innings in the Pirates’ 13-10 win at Detroit.

Acquired in an offseason trade with the Pirates, Nova understands why Carlos Rodon would be a good choice by manager Rick Renteria to get the nod this year for the Sox.

“He deserves it, yeah,’’ Nova said. “He got hurt; he worked his way back. He’s throwing strikes. He’s throwing hard. He’s working.’’

Renteria has an Opening Day starter in mind, and it’s probably Rodon, but he wasn’t ready to announce it Saturday.

“If you give me another week or 10 days, maybe I’ll give you a name,” he said.

Rodon is 26 and hasn’t pitched more than 165 innings, but he looks and feels healthy this spring. From what Nova has seen, Rodon can handle the honor and the spotlight that comes with it.

“He knows a lot,’’ Nova said. “He knows how to handle himself. And if he gets it, congratulations.’’

Making most of opportunity

Infielder Danny Mendick, a 22nd-round pick in 2015, has been making the most of his first major-league camp as a non-roster invitee, batting .412 with two homers, two doubles, two walks and seven RBI after he hit .247/.340/.395 at Class AA Birmingham last season. He has played solid defense, as well.

Mendick had to pinch himself when the Sox played the Angels on Friday in Tempe.

“I was telling my parents, ‘I played against Mike Trout,’ ’’ Mendick said.

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“I’m having a blast, are you kidding me? This is an awesome opportunity. I’m so happy to be here.’’

Mendick’s wrist was OK after getting hit by a pitch Friday.

This and that

Luis Robert (jammed thumb) and Seby Zavala (quadriceps) were back on the lineup card and available to play Saturday. Robert could be in the lineup Sunday, Renteria said.

u Nicky Delmonico (concussion) was at the complex Saturday morning.

“Nicky is still recovering,” Renteria said. “Still feels a little woozy, so we sent him home . . . to settle down from all the queasiness. He is getting better.”

u Righty Dylan Cease makes his second appearance Sunday, this time in relief, even though he’s a starter. Lucas Giolito gets the start against the Athletics. Nova starts Monday against the Brewers, and Rodon starts Tuesday against the Mariners. Evan Thompson starts the other split-squad game Tuesday against the Royals.