It’s been a long time since Carlos Rodón was drafted to be a part of the White Sox rebuild. A long time since he debuted, and a long road full of promise and trips to the injured list.
Just last year he looked like he was on his way out from the White Sox organization and maybe from baseball altogether. Too many injuries and not enough consistently good pitching looked like they had spelled the end.
But on Wednesday night against the Indians, Rodón was closer to perfect than anyone has been since Armando Galarraga was in 2010 without technically getting there. With two outs left to get of the 27 needed, Rodón hit Roberto Pérez on the foot. Rodón of course went on to finish his no-hitter, the first since Lucas Giolito last August, and he looked brilliant doing it: About two-thirds of his 114 pitches were strikes, and Rodón was still flirting with triple-digits in the ninth inning.
Together, Rodón and Giolito represent the only White Sox no-hitters of about the last decade. If Rodón can stay healthy, he and Giolito might together represent the future of the White Sox starting rotation.
One of the things that will likely make the difference between the White Sox being a good team again this year and a great one is whether or not they can get consistently good pitching from the back end of the rotation. Front-end starters Giolito and Lance Lynn have held things up their end this season, and if Rodón can be the kind of pitcher the White Sox thought they were getting when they drafted him third overall in 2014, Chicago might prove to be the team to beat in the American League.
Through his first two starts this season, Rodón has certainly looked like he can deepen the White Sox rotation significantly. In his first start this season, the one before Wednesday’s no-hitter, Rodón kept the Mariners scoreless in five innings while striking out nine and walking only three. Rodón will most likely make his next start in Boston next week against the 9-3 Red Sox.
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The question for Rodón has never really been whether or not he can pitch well. When healthy, he has been at worst a good third or fourth starter. The question for Rodón has been for years whether or not he can stay off of the injured list. He has really only pitched one full major league season — all the way back in 2016 — and Rodón needed Tommy John surgery early in the 2019 season. He returned for a handful of appearances in 2020 but didn’t look much like himself. So much so that last winter he looked on his way out. On February 1, the White Sox signed him on a flyer: one year for $3 million. A low-risk, maybe high-reward deal for a guy who wasn’t guaranteed a rotation spot going into spring training.
Rodón knows, even after Wednesday night’s no-hitter, that there is a long road to fully proving himself the way that he wants to.
“Obviously, right now, I’m going to enjoy the moment,” Rodón told reporters Wednesday night. “But tomorrow, work starts all over, because there’s quite a few more starts to go.”
If Rodón can put together a full season this year, and if he can pitch at all like he seems capable of, the White Sox will have arguably the deepest rotation in baseball. After turning a corner in 2019, Giolito has proven that he is a legit ace, and behind him the White Sox have veterans Lynn and Dallas Keuchel. In his most recent start, Lynn threw a complete-game shutout. Last fall, when the White Sox made it to the AL wild-card series against the Athletics, their lack of a reliable third starter behind Giolito and Keuchel proved to be a part of their downfall. With arms like Lynn and maybe now Rodón, they should be better equipped for a playoff series and a deeper postseason run this year.
It was in that wild-card elimination game last October that Rodón looked like he might have pitched his last for the White Sox. He couldn’t record an out when handed the ball in the 4th inning and allowed three baserunners and two earned runs. The White Sox went on to lose that game by two runs.
A healthy Rodón gives the White Sox a better chance at winning the division; last year they faded down the stretch and lost a chance at taking the AL Central and avoiding the wild-card series. A healthy Rodón also gives manager Tony La Russa more options in a playoff series.
There is a lot of baseball to be played this year, but Rodón’s no-hitter on Wednesday night gave White Sox fans, and other teams in the American League, a look at what’s possible for Chicago when he is at his best.