This has been some kind of week for the White Sox. It has been some kind of season for Carlos Rodon.
The Sox learned Monday that star center fielder Luis Robert would miss three to four months after suffering a torn hip flexor the day before, taxing a lineup that’s already missing the powerful Eloy Jimenez. Two days later, Tony La Russa didn’t know that he wasn’t forced to use closer Liam Hendriks as a runner to start the 10th inning, adding to the mounting criticism of the manager.
Then on Friday night in Kansas City, Missouri, against the Royals, Carlos Rodon made his first start in May after a sterling April, during which he emerged as one of the best surprises in baseball with an 0.72 ERA and a no-hitter while surrendering just seven hits. Rodon’s opening start of the month felt like April. He threw six scoreless innings, struck out eight and walked none in the Sox’ 3-0 victory, the team’s sixth shutout.
Rodon was supported by Zack Collins’ home run, Adam Eaton’s RBI single and Jose Abreu’s run-scoring double. His record improved to 5-0, and Rodon continued his resurgence after a rash of injuries.
“It’s rewarding now,” Rodon said. “I just want to keep going throughout this whole season. What’s important is the next start. It’s been fun.”
Another strong outing for their surprise ace was the latest event for the Sox, who pulled into first place, a half-game ahead of the Indians in a bunched-up American League Central. But they were in that position thanks somewhat to Robert.
Before his injury, Robert hit .316/.359/.463 with an .822 OPS. The Sox are a few days into life without Robert, and they announced Friday that he wouldn’t need surgery and that the team would provide another update in eight weeks.
Though the news apparently won’t affect Robert’s timeline, the Sox embraced the development.
“My understanding in being around different injuries over the years is if you can avoid surgery, that’s a plus,” La Russa said. “So it is a real healthy sign for Luis. And what’s good for Luis is good for us, but I do believe that that’s good news.”
Surgery or not, the Sox will have to cope with Robert’s absence. It’s unlikely anybody they bring in will replace his contributions, and the Sox as a whole will have to stay in the race without two-thirds of their starting outfield for the foreseeable future.
They’ll have to get used to playing without Robert quickly because Friday was the first of a 13-game stretch against division rivals, the Royals and Twins. The Sox started the two-week period well, getting a scoreless inning each from relievers Codi Heuer, Aaron Bummer and Hendriks to nail it down.
“It has the makings of the kind of bullpen that Kenny [Williams] and Rick [Hahn] talked about,” La Russa said. “A lot of depth.”
For one night, it also meant less drama surrounding La Russa.
La Russa was scrutinized for having Leury Garcia attempt to steal in the 10th inning of Wednesday’s 1-0 loss at Cincinnati. But the viral moment was Hendriks’ running when he didn’t have to.
On Friday, La Russa said he was glad he didn’t try to “b.s.” his way through it. He said he told Hendriks not to do anything crazy on the bases and praised the league for making the change.
“It’s a good rule, and I’ve had a few people contact me in the game that were not aware, either,” La Russa said. “I’m sure a lot were, but I admit I didn’t know and it’s a good rule. A very good rule.”