PEORIA, Ariz. — Carlos Rodon is grabbing hold of the fifth spot in the White Sox starting rotation with a very firm grip.
Making his first Cactus League start against the Padres on Tuesday, Rodon faced one batter over the minimum in three innings of work, striking out four and walking none while allowing one single. He got swings and misses with his riding four-seam fastball, and he commanded his changeup and slider.
That came on the heels of a scoreless two-inning relief stint against the Reds in his spring debut.
“Yeah, it was some good stuff,” said Rodon, who came back from Tommy John and shoulder surgeries to work in the newness of the bullpen last season, though he was signed for $3 million to return as a starter.
First-year pitching coach Ethan Katz is tweaking Rodon’s delivery, primarily with his lower half, and utilizing a core velocity belt, which Rodon said has improved the spin rate on his fastball. His sessions on the back fields and in the two games have built confidence.
“With the velo belt, it’s easier to hone in the command of the four-seamer,” Rodon said. “And it seems like the spin’s getting better, getting a little more carry, having that cleaner delivery.”
Rodon’s strikeout victims were Manny Machado, Wil Myers, Jurickson Profar and pitcher Joe Musgrove.
“I was excited about that punchout of Machado,” Rodon said. “Seems like I’ve still got that four-seamer, so it builds confidence.”
Rodon’s main competition for the rotation spot, Reynaldo Lopez, endured his second dicey outing in a row, allowing two runs on four hits and a walk over three innings. Lopez (7.88 spring ERA) needed 58 pitches to get through it.
Hamilton signed to minor-league deal
Fleet outfielder Billy Hamilton signed a minor-league deal with an invitation to major-league camp on Tuesday.
Hamilton’s signing comes a day after center fielder Luis Robert was scratched from the lineup with a lower abdominal strain for “precautionary reasons.” Robert has some discomfort, manager Tony La Russa said, and is expected to miss at least another day, although an exam with trainers showed everything was normal.
But Hamilton, 30, who was let go by the Indians in spring training after playing part of the 2020 season with the Cubs and Mets (he batted .125 with six stolen bases between the two teams). Hamilton has stolen 305 bases during his eight-year career.
“I’m eager to put him through the paces and see how he looks,” La Russa said.
“There’s no doubt there will be some games where if you can manufacture a run it’s the difference, and Billy’s made a career of that.”
The Sox made 13 roster moves: optioned right-handers Zack Burdi, Tyler Johnson, Jimmy Lambert and Jonathan Stiever, left-hander Bernardo Flores Jr., outfielder Blake Rutherford, infielder Gavin Sheets and catcher Seby Zavala to Class AAA Charlotte; optioned outfielder Micker Adolfo and infielder Jake Burger to AA Birmingham; and reassigned right-handers Felix Paulino and Mike Wright and lefty Kodi Medeiros to the club’s minicamp.
Forty-two players remain in camp: 20 pitchers, four catchers, 11 infielders and seven outfielders.
SOX 4, PADRES 3
Second baseman Nick Madrigal didn’t play his first game until March 8, slow-rolling his return following left shoulder surgery after the season. Then he had to take another eight days because of a sore right thumb. He returned Wednesday.
“Nothing serious, just took a couple days to let it die down,” he said.
Madrigal got into the flow early, ranging in front of second to make a nice play on a ground ball and making two other plays. At the plate, he was 0-for-3 including a lineout to second base.
With two weeks of games left, Madrigal said he expects to be ready “health-wise and timing-wise” by Opening Day.
“The next couple of days I’ll be in there a lot more,” Madrigal said.
Streaking (sort of)
The Sox (4-8-4) are unbeaten in their last four games, thanks to a Luis Gonzalez RBI single in the ninth and Ryan Burr’s perfect save with two strikeouts. Catcher Zack Collins (.421) was 2-for-3 with a walk and a run scored, first baseman Andrew Vaughn (.273) was 0-for-5 with two strikeouts.
Jake Burger, among 13 roster cuts after the game, homered against the Dodgers in a B game — in which catcher Yasmani Grandal got at-bats as the DH.
Carlos Rodon’s three scoreless innings Tuesday was the highlight. It followed three scoreless innings by Dylan Cease, the likely No. 4 starter, against the Cubs Monday.
“He had a good assortment going and great composure, which is very important,” manager Tony La Russa said of Cease. “Plus-plus performance.”
Dodgers vs. Sox, 3:05 p.m. Wednesday, Glendale, NBCSCH, 1000-AM, Walker Buehler vs. Lucas Giolito. The Sox are in their starting rotation sequence, with Dallas Keuchel starting Thursday vs. the Royals, Lance Lynn Friday vs. the Mariners and Cease Saturday vs. the Indians.