Carlos Rodon, motivated by non-tender, wins job as White Sox’ fifth starter

Carlos Rodon has not allowed a run or walk in three Cactus League appearances.

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Carlos Rodon works on the backfields at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona.

Carlos Rodon works on the backfields at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona.

John Antonoff/For the Sun-Times

MESA, Ariz. — Carlos Rodon, officially the White Sox’ No. 5 starter as of Reynaldo Lopez’s demotion Monday, had been down before. A shoulder surgery and then Tommy John surgery will do that.

Then the Sox non-tendered him after last season.


The feeling of not being wanted kicked Rodon in the rear end.

“There’s definitely motivation there,” he said Tuesday. “I was a little surprised at first, but it was more of a business decision. . . . I understand that from the club’s perspective. But that doubt,

when people doubt you, that’s fine. And maybe that’s not what they were thinking. But for me, I thought that. That was the motivation I had.”

A tweaked delivery — less crossfire and more straightforward — and the use of a core velocity belt helped.

The results in three spring outings, including two starts: nine innings, no walks, no runs and life on his fastball. All of which makes the Sox coming back to Rodon with a one-year, $3 million offer seem like a good move, at least for now.

“I think they know my ability, though the track record of durability has not been great,” Rodon said. “But they know what I can do when I am healthy. So for them, I guess it was kind of like a low-risk signing — take a shot. And I get that.”

Observed manager Tony La Russa: “The stuff’s good. I’ve just been really impressed with his ability to repeat his delivery. Location of his pitches. Looking forward to sending him out there.”

Lopez still pegged as starter

It was thought the “loser” in the Rodon/Lopez tussle for the fifth spot in the rotation would be the long man in the bullpen, but Lopez will open the season at the team’s alternate training site, where he’ll be stretched out as a starter. The Sox also have prospects Jimmy Lambert and Jonathan Stiever for rotation depth, but La Russa said it was better to have Lopez in the standby spot.

“We considered [the bullpen role], but we just think there’s going to be a priority for protection starters, and it’s much better that Reynaldo is stretching out, and if we need him, he can come up and throw 100-something pitches,” La Russa said. “Better use for his talents and our needs.”

The move could open a bullpen job for Jose Ruiz, Ryan Burr or waiver-claim lefty Nik Turley.

‘A pretty cool guy’

Shortstop Tim Anderson got in front of concerns there would be tension between himself — a star in an era when players are expressing themselves with bat flips and the like — and 76-year-old La Russa. He said getting to know La Russa, and vice versa, has eased the transition from former manager Rick Renteria.

“You’re going to figure out somebody when you don’t know them, and it’s different when you meet them,” Anderson said. “There’s a lot of people who don’t like me, but they don’t know me. And once you get to know me, I think I’m a pretty cool guy.”

Sox 3, Cubs 1

Keuchel nearly flawless

Left-hander Dallas Keuchel followed a very bumpy first outing with four almost perfect innings, allowing an infield single and no walks while striking out Javier Baez, Ian Happ and Wilson Contreras. Facing perhaps the Cubs’ best lineup, Keuchel allowed one ball hit out of the infield.

“It was a little bit better command early in the count and that’s really the most important thing right now,” Keuchel said.

“Changeup was really nice today, it was just a nice addition to the two-seam [fastball] and played nicely off the cutter inside. I’ll take that all day and hope to build off some of those breaking balls.”

Keuchel threw only 41 pitches, and with one spring start before he faces the Angels in the second game of the season April 2, he likely won’t go more than five or six innings in that one in Anaheim.

Keuchel allowed five runs on five hits against the Royals in his first start.

An endorsement for Lucroy

Jonathan Lucroy caught Keuchel, then received a strong vote of confidence.

“He has transitioned into one of the best receivers I’ve had the last four or five years so that is a testament to his work ethic,” Keuchel said, “and I feel really, really confident with him behind the plate.”

What a relief

Protecting a 2-1 lead, Codi Heuer allowed a leadoff triple to Nico Hoerner in the eighth, then recorded three consecutive strikeouts. Heuer (0.00 ERA) has 13 strikeouts and no walks in eight innings. Matt Foster and Aaron Bummer also pitched a scoreless inning, and Jose Ruiz pitched a scoreless ninth for a save.


Yoan Moncada poked his sixth double down the left field line, extending his on-base streak to 14 games, Luis Robert broke a 1-all tie with an RBI single and stole his fifth base, and infielder Danny Mendick, batting .162, launched a long homer to left in the top of the ninth. Tim Anderson was 1-for-2 with a double.

On deck

Athletics at Sox, 3:05 p.m. Wednesday, Glendale, Sean Manaea vs. Lance Lynn.

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