On a baseball level, the coronavirus pandemic that turned the world upside down hasn’t affected White Sox left-hander Carlos Rodon one bit. And the same might be said for right-hander Michael Kopech.
The Sox’ prized left-righty tandem in waiting wasn’t going to start the season on time anyway as both continue to rehab from Tommy John surgery. Kopech likely won’t return until late May and Rodon a month or two later.
Talk about reinforcements. If the season gets underway after this delay, Kopech and Rodon could force their way into a starting rotation that now consists of Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel, Reynaldo Lopez, Dylan Cease and Gio Gonzalez.
“It will be good to have that many arms and have decisions to make,” Rodon said.
In a best case scenario of the season starting in June, “I’d love to be one of the starters there ready to take the ball,” Rodon said Tuesday via phone from Arizona. “That would be awesome.”
Based on how he’s feeling now, being ready to pitch in a Sox uniform as soon as June “is realistic,” Rodon said. That is if management and medical staff give an OK that Rodon admits is a significant “if.”
While Kopech looked to be in midseason form, topping 100 mph multiple times and commanding his offspeed pitches in a perfect inning in his Cactus League appearance in Arizona, Rodon is probably weeks away from facing live hitters, he said. The Sox’ 2019 Opening Day starter who had Tommy John surgery last May is throwing three days per week at the team’s spring-training complex in Glendale, Arizona, including bullpen sessions on Mondays and Fridays. And that’s what he would have been doing had the season started on time.
“I’m still on schedule,” he said. “I’m pretty close to 100 percent, but that said I haven’t thrown to a hitter yet and that will be a different feeling. I feel good.”
Like everyone else during the pandemic, Rodon has plenty of free time, and he’s doing his part to make that time entertaining for fans. After enjoying time with his wife and nine-month old daughter at their place in Arizona, Rodon is spending many of his evenings on Twitch, a video game live-streaming service, interacting in chat rooms with fans. It’s done with a webcam to provide an up-close and personal experience.
“It’s fun just to interact with fans,” Rodon said. “I stream from 8-12 [p.m.] and people talk to me. It can be therapeutic for people. I play video games with my friends, with Keuchel and Giolito. I played ‘‘MLB: The Show’’ with Cease the other night.”
It doesn’t beat the real thing — real baseball — but that is beginning to feel like a possibility, Rodon said.
“That’s what it sounds like,” Rodon said. “It sounds like everyone wants to play. I want to, all my teammates want to. It’s hard to live life without playing baseball.”
While having some reservations about the so-called Arizona plan, in which all teams would be sequestered with the season starting and perhaps being played out in Arizona, Rodon said “the owners and players want [baseball].”
“The problem is going about it the right way, dotting all the I’s and crossing the T’s and getting everything buttoned up. That’s something that’s over my head, that’s what the [players] union is there for. Hopefully in the next couple of weeks we get more information. Everyone is champing at the bit and ready to play.
“For me, I see the light at the end of the tunnel, barring the situation the world is in of course. Coming off one [shoulder] injury and going to another has been a tough road, but I feel like I’m over the hump now.”