Shoulder and Tommy John surgeries have sidetracked Carlos Rodon. Not receiving a contract offer from the team that drafted and developed him and made him its Opening Day starter two years ago shook him up.
You didn’t think an upset stomach was going to knock the White Sox left-hander off course, did you?
On a chilly Wednesday night at Guaranteed Rate Field, Rodon took his 2021 bounce-back to near flawless heights, pitching a no-hitter in the Sox’ 8-0 victory against the Indians.
It was the Sox’ first no-hitter since Lucas Giolito blanked the Pirates last season. Rodon’s bid to throw the first perfect game by a Sox pitcher and 24th in history since Philip Humber against the Mariners on April 21, 2012, was thwarted when he hit Roberto Perez on the foot with an 0-2 slider with one out in the ninth inning.
In the ninth, Rodon retired Josh Naylor on a groundout to first baseman Jose Abreu, Abreu’s foot barely beating Naylor’s hand on a headfirst slide. The Indians challenged the call, which held up. After Perez took first base, Rodon struck out Yu Chang and got Jordan Luplow on a ground ball to third baseman Yoan Moncada to complete the no-hitter.
“I can’t believe this is happening” was the first thought that went through Rodon’s mind when it was over, he said.
“After the third time through the order and you get [Jose] Ramirez out,’’ Rodon said, ‘‘that’s where you say this is where it’s getting real. It’s a special moment. To say I dominated today, it feels good.”
Rodon, who owns an ERA of 0.00 over two starts, struck out seven.
This start follows his first one, in which the 2014 No. 3 overall draft pick stymied the Mariners with five scoreless innings and nine strikeouts. And that came on the heels of an impressive spring that oozed optimism.
The only buzzkill on a near-perfect night was losing the perfecto.
“All you can do is laugh about it; it wasn’t meant to be,” Rodon said.
As Perez was walking to first, Rodon asked him, “Did it get you?”
“I’d have let it hit me, too,” Rodon said.
A six-run first inning, keyed by Yermin Mercedes’ three-run, 431-foot homer, provided a comfy cushion for Rodon to work against the Indians. Andrew Vaughn doubled and scored, and Leury Garcia and Nick Madrigal had RBI singles as the Sox knocked out Indians starter Zach Plesac in the first.
Mixing his changeup and slider with a four-seam fastball that touched 98.8 mph when he needed it, Rodon fed off a crowd of 7,148 that was into it and aware early on of what Rodon was pursuing. They watched him throw 114 pitches, 75 for strikes, to catcher Zack Collins, seemingly getting stronger as the game went on.
‘‘I’ve never caught a no-hitter before,” Collins said. “That was the most incredible thing that I’ve ever been a part of behind the plate.”
After the Sox non-tendered Rodon this offseason, he committed to a healthier diet and went to work on altering some mechanical issues, making fixes in his delivery that have helped him command pitches better and would seem to bode well for a healthier future.
The Sox came back with a one-year contract at $3 million, which he accepted.
‘‘A lot of work, a lot of people, a lot of help went into this to come back,” Rodon said. “I’m happy I’m here again. I’m blessed.”
“He was very determined; he never got tight,” manager Tony La Russa said. “He proved to me he’s a finisher. That’s a very good thing for his future and ours.”