Carlos Rodon 'getting closer' but still without time frame for return

Carlos Rodon 'getting closer' but still without time frame for return

PHOENIX — Carlos Rodon was pretty excited to face hitters at a major league venue on Monday afternoon, another step in his return from the disabled list.

Just when the White Sox left-hander will return is still to be determined. But it’s another telling sign of progress that Rodon threw 60 pitches and got up and down four times against White Sox minor leaguers at Chase Field on Monday. The exercise was the fourth simulated game that Rodon — on the 60-day disabled list with bursitis in his left shoulder — has participated in since he returned to the mound earlier this month. He said he currently views himself on an every-fifth-day schedule. Jake Petricka, who like Rodon was ecstatic to be back around White Sox teammates, also threw in the sim game as did Nate Jones.

“I’ve been itching for two months,” Rodon said. “Like I said, frustrating. Hopefully soon they’ll lift the leash off and let me pitch in a game and get back up here for my boys.

“Jake and I, we just play it by ear, listen to what they got for us and we do it.”

“We’re getting closer.”

While nobody is putting a timeline on when Rodon would return, he’s clearly advancing to a promising phase. General manager Rick Hahn watched Rodon’s outing and called it positive. Hahn said it’s encouraging that Rodon has begun to think of himself on a five-day schedule and the next step includes building up arm strength and endurance.

“He’s been out there now three or four times throwing to hitters,” Hahn said. “Each time has been a little more crisp from what I understand from the previous ones to today. Hopefully here in the coming weeks we are able to announce he’s starting a rehab assignment and we’ll have a better sense of his time frame at that point.”

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The entire ordeal has been somewhat of a frustrating odyssey for Rodon. He initially believed he would be ready to return to the White Sox at the start of the month.

“Now it’s May 22nd and we’re still here,” he said. “It’s taken a lot longer than I imagined. It’s hard to be patient when your team is out here battling. I’m sitting on the backfield throwing and fielding PFP’s and waiting back here. It’s been frustrating.

“That’s all I can say, frustration.”

Rodon said he threw at 100 percent in the game. He described his command as pretty close to normal and said his stuff has begun to return.

The process has taken longer than all parties expected because it’s based on feel and “throwing with discomfort is never a good thing,” Rodon said. However, that time appears to be in the past as Rodon feels like he’s made good progress and is itching to get back on the mound.

Rodon would love to ignore his body and try to pitch through this. But after experiencing discomfort, Rodon appreciates the methodical approach.

“The competitor in me tells me to go out there, screw it, I can pitch,” Rodon said. “I’ll do it. I don’t care. But then you have to step back and know this is your career. It’s something that could affect you over a long period of time, I have to be healthy. I can’t be on the DL every other month. You know? That’s not going to work. You have to be a reliable starter, a guy who goes seven innings. We’re looking into the future. Not just this year but into the future. Obviously, hopefully I’m a part of that. Have to be healthy to help out so. It’s hard to take the reins back on myself. As you get older you know your body better, what feels right and what feels wrong. I’m understanding that in the whole process. They’re helping me pull the reins back.”

Fired-up Anthony Swarzak relishes pressure of first career save

Fired-up Anthony Swarzak relishes pressure of first career save

Willson Contreras wasn’t too thrilled with Anthony Swarzak’s final two pitches being called strikes, but for the White Sox reliever, that pair of perfectly-placed fastballs were the culmination of years of work. 

Swarzak earned his first career save in the White Sox 3-1 win over the Cubs in Monday’s Crosstown opener at Wrigley Field, retiring Javier Baez in the eighth and then pitching past Kris Bryant’s two-out infield single and Anthony Rizzo’s ensuing walk in the ninth. After home plate umpire Angel Hernandez rung up Contreras to end the game, Swarzak unleashed a yell that encapsulated the energy of the day — even though the White Sox, in snapping their nine-game losing streak, remain at the bottom of the American League. 

“I’ve been waiting for that opportunity for a long time,” Swarzak said. “It’s nice that I went in there and got it done. You think about that moment for years and then it finally happens. You just are trying to take a step back and reflect on what just happened, and I’ll be able to come in tomorrow and be ready to go.”

While both teams paid lip service to the “it’s just another game” approach to Crosstown matchups, the crowd of 40,849 was electric. Third baseman Matt Davidson — who slammed a 476-foot home run in the eighth inning — remarked that Monday afternoon was the closest atmosphere he’s felt to a playoff game. Swarzak felt that same energy, too. 

“When you work really hard on executing and in the biggest situation, runners on against the Cubs, Wrigley Field, to be able to execute, that means that you’re working on the right stuff and you’re headed in the right direction,” Swarzak said. 

With David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle shipped to the New York Yankees last week, and Nate Jones and Zach Putnam out for the rest of the season, Swarzak should get more high-leverage opportunities going forward — that is, unless he’s traded within the next week. The 31-year-old Swarzak, who lowered his ERA Monday to 2.23 with a tidy 2.34 FIP, is one of the White Sox few remaining trade chips, but his success this year makes him an attractive target for a team vying for a playoff spot. 

If Swarzak is traded to a contender, he’ll pitch in plenty more high-leverage spots in front of charged-up crowds. Playoff baseball may be in his future, and Monday afternoon could prove to be a preview of what he’ll be up against over the final few months of the season if he indeed is traded. 

“Pitching the ninth inning is different,” Swarzak said. “Guys are more patient, they know what you’re going to throw, they’re locked in a little more. And that was just one. There’s a long list of career saves and I’m on the bottom of it. Hopefully I can get a few more opportunities and we can win some more games.” 

Where does Yoan Moncada fit in the White Sox lineup of the future?

Where does Yoan Moncada fit in the White Sox lineup of the future?

It may be fun to project what the White Sox lineup could look like in 2020, after waves of prospects land in Chicago and, potentially, the organization has splurged on a big-ticket free agent or two. But until those players make it to 35th and Shields, it's just a projection -- and even for the first hyped prospect to come to the White Sox, there's still plenty to figure out. 

Yoan Moncada is expected to be the centerpiece of that lineup of the future. But first, the White Sox need to figure out where in that batting order he’ll fit. 

After hitting sixth in each of his first four games since being promoted from Triple-A, Moncada hit second in Monday’s Crosstown opener against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. It’s a tantalizing possibility to hit Moncada ahead of Jose Abreu or whatever middle-of-the-order hitters the White Sox have down the road, given the 22-year-old’s ability to put together quality at-bats and drive in runs. 

“I know he handles the bat very well,” manager Rick Renteria said. “I think he’s showing he has some plate discipline. These are some of the things that were worked on and talked about with him. We’ll have to see how he continues to develop and where he’s at.”

Moncada’s speed and on-base skills could make him an intriguing leadoff. If his power continues to develop, he could hit third, fourth of fifth -- and if not, he still should be able to be a run producer hitting ahead of middle-of-the-order mashers. Or maybe the White Sox lineup in 2020 is so deep that he could hit sixth. 

It’s far too early to make any sweeping declarations about where Moncada could hit, of course. But the White Sox will have plenty of options, and have plenty of time to figure out which one of those will be the best. 

“He probably could be anything,” Renteria said. “Do I see him anywhere from the first to sixth spot in the lineup? Yeah, possibly. It would be very difficult for me to give you that assessment yet. 

“… Lineups the way they’re set up day, the way they’re configured, there are a lot of different variables people use, but certainly a guy with speed like that and if he can handle the bat, you can see him pretty much anywhere throughout the lineup.”