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Carlos Rodon finishes strong; White Sox take series at Yankees Stadium

White Sox starting pitcher Carlos Rodon throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium, Sunday, April 14, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

NEW YORK — Can Carlos Rodon be elite?

Pitching coach Don Cooper just wants the left-hander to be good.

“I don’t wake up in the morning thinking we have to get him elite,” Cooper said Sunday. “I just want to get him good. Good and solid. Other people can use the adjectives. I never said that with Chris Sale [who became elite]. Just make him as good as he can be.’’

Rodon wasn’t very good in his first three innings in the White Sox’ 5-2 victory against the Yankees, but he was as good as it gets for the last 11 batters he faced in his six innings, retiring them all, including three of the last six on strikeouts.

Before Rodon’s start, Cooper talked about the keys for the Sox’ Opening Day starter with the premium slider, usable changeup and fastball that’s as good as Rodon commands it.

“Get ahead early in the count, get the hammer in your hand and then I can throw that slider that nobody in the league has hit for three years,” Cooper said.

Cooper made a mound visit in the third inning after Rodon walked No. 9 hitter Mike Tauchman to lead off, threw a pitch in the dirt allowing Tauchman to advance and gave up one-out singles to Aaron Judge and Gleyber Torres.

“It was something quick mechanically that gets me back in the zone, and it worked,” Rodon said. “If he ever is [heavy-handed], it’s to get me going and light a fire under my butt.

“I found a groove there, the tempo picked up and strikes started coming. It was a fight.’’

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After the visit, Rodon, who was less reliant on his slider, retired every batter he faced. He allowed two runs and three hits and threw 112 pitches, 74 for strikes.

Tim Anderson’s opposite-field grand slam against right-hander Masahiro Tanaka in the fourth and Jose Abreu’s deep sacrifice fly in the fifth made Rodon (2-2, 3.27 ERA) the second Sox pitcher in as many days after Ivan Nova to provide a quality start. The Sox (5-9) have only five quality starts and have a 6.20 team ERA.

“The bottom line is, we haven’t been nearly as good as I would have hoped,” Cooper said. “We’re going to continue to make strides, work on things we’ve designated with each guy to get them where we want them to be.”

Command has been an issue for Cooper’s staff in general.

“We can’t walk guys,” Cooper said. “That’s on [Lucas] Giolito’s, Carlos’ and [Reynaldo] Lopez’s to-do list,” Cooper said. “We have to eliminate walks.’’

The series finale was better in that regard. Rodon struck out five and walked two, and relievers Jace Fry, Nate Jones, Kelvin Herrera and Alex Colome (third save) did not walk a batter.

“We know exactly what we want to do with pitches, locations, mechanics, and that’s what we’re working on,” Cooper said. “I’ve been doing this for a while. We’ve had difficult times more than once. All you have as a coach and a player is to go out there, work on stuff and get to where you need to be. This is a process, and we’re [14] games into it.’’

The Sox’ victory gave them back-to-back series wins in New York (dating to last season) for the first time since 2002-03 at old Yankee Stadium. Rodon, 26, surpassed 500 career strikeouts and improved to 3-0 with a 2.84 ERA at Yankee Stadium.

“He’s had moments when we’ve said, ‘Wow, that is pretty special,’ ’’ manager Rick Renteria said. “Consistency is what you look at when you determine what he’s going to be. Time tells us. Does he have a chance? Absolutely. Will he do that? That’s still evolving.”