Healthy Morel could be White Sox solution at third

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Healthy Morel could be White Sox solution at third

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Several thresholds must be crossed but Brent Morel appears to have another chance with the White Sox in his future -- if hes healthy.

Morel was limited to 76 games last season --- 35 in the majors --- because of a troublesome back. His injury not only limited Morels appearances but also wiped out what the White Sox hoped would be a breakout season for the Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo product.

After a September 2011 surge, Morel was limited to a .177.225.195 slash line and no home runs in 113 at-bats last season. But Morel is on the mend and the White Sox consider him among their best internal options at the hot corner next season should they not sign a free agent or acquire a replacement for Kevin Youkilis.

Thats the No. 1 thing for us, to get him in there and see him again, White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. Hes not out of the equation for me at all. Him being healthy and getting back in, hes a good third baseman when hes healthy.

The White Sox believed they had a star in the making in Morel. Not only did he post a .224.340.553 slash line with eight homers and 19 RBIs in 103 appearances in the final month of the 2011 regular season, but he also is considered a solid defender.

We thought he was an everyday guy, general manager Rick Hahn said.

He might once again be, but only if he gets his back on track, Hahn said.

Thus far, reports on Morels health have been good, though Hahn knows how tricky the situation can be. Last season, Morel thought he made progress in rehabbing the injury over summer only to have a setback.

They feel with his diligence on the program that this thing is hopefully behind him, Hahn said. Its tough with backs. Its tricky. Well have to see through his ramping up, training regimen, baseball activity and spring training games and regular season games and react accordingly to how he feels.

With few viable internal options -- the White Sox prefer to keep Gordon Beckham at second base, Dayan Viciedo in left field and Carlos Sanchez at Triple-A -- Morel could be the answer should the White Sox not sign Youkilis or another free agent or make a deal.

But Hahn wants proof of health before he makes a commitment.

Its conceivable, but with Brent, lets see him healthy, Hahn said. Lets get him 100 percent. He feels good now, lets have him go through the offseason do the work to prepare, then get to Glendale and get through spring healthy. Then well set our expectations for him going forward.

White Sox willing to overlook 'rough' patches as healthy Carlos Rodon returns

White Sox willing to overlook 'rough' patches as healthy Carlos Rodon returns

The two fastballs that soared to the backstop on Wednesday night should give you a strong indication that Carlos Rodon was far from perfect.

But in making his first start of the 2017 season, the White Sox pitcher also offered his team plenty of signals that his health isn’t going to be an issue.

Rodon returned to the mound for the first time since last September and brought the goods that made him one of baseball’s top pitching prospects several years ago. Given he’d missed three months with bursitis in the left shoulder and the potential value he offers to a franchise only half a season into its first rebuild in 20 years, that was plenty for the White Sox to overlook the rust Rodon showed in a 12-3 White Sox loss to the New York Yankees at Guaranteed Rate Field.

“He started a little rough early obviously, got some high pitch counts,” manager Rick Renteria said. “And then he kind of settled down.

“Having him back in the rotation and getting him back out there on the big league field, coming out of there feeling good, healthy. I'm sure he will continue to get better as he continues to get out there and move forward.”

Renteria said he wasn’t surprised that Rodon struggled with his command as much as he did against the Yankees. The issues the pitcher displayed in uncorking a pair of wild pitches, walking six batters and throwing strikes on only 41 of 94 pitches were also present during Rodon’s four rehab starts in the minors.

But as long as the stuff was there, the White Sox would be OK with any issues that accompanied the performance. Rodon began to alleviate those concerns immediately when he earned a called strike on the game’s first pitch with a 93-mph fastball to Brett Gardner. Featuring a four-seamer with an absurd amount of movement and a nasty slider he struggled to control, Rodon checked all the boxes the White Sox hoped for from a pitcher they believe will be a frontline starter for years to come. Rodon also was pleased by how he felt before, during and after the contest.

“I was pretty excited,” Rodon said. “I was going a little fast in the first. But it was good to be out there. Next time out, it’ll hopefully be a little better. Arm feels good, body feels good, all you can ask for.”

Well, it’s not ALL you can ask for, but it’s pretty damn good out of the gate given how slow Rodon’s return took. His four-seam fastball averaged 94.9 mph according to BrooksBaseball.Net and touched 97 mph. His two-seamer averaged 94.4 mph and touched 95. And his slider, though he couldn’t control it, nor locate it for a strike, averaged 86 mph.

“You could see (Omar Narvaez) going over to try to catch some balls that were having tremendous run,” Renteria said. “That's (Rodon). He's got some tremendous life, he's just trying to harness it the best that he can and being able to execute where he wants to get as many strikes as possible.”

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The strikes were about the only thing Rodon didn’t bring with him. He walked Gardner to start the game and issued two more free passes after a Tim Anderson error allowed a run to score and extended the first inning. Rodon threw 37 pitches in the first, only 15 for strikes.

He also reached a full count to each of the batters he faced in the second inning. Rodon walked two more with two outs in the third inning after he’d retired six batters in a row.

And there were those pesky first-inning wild pitches that resembled something out of ‘Bull Durham.’

But all in all, Rodon and the White Sox ultimately saw enough in the first outing to be pleased.

“Great stuff, great life, but the goal is to put it in the zone and let them swing it to get guys out early,” Rodon said. “That’s not what happened. I’ll get back to that.”

“It’s a tough loss, but it’s better to be with the guys out on the field grinding than sitting on the couch and watching, for sure.”

Preview: White Sox host Yankees tonight on CSN

Preview: White Sox host Yankees tonight on CSN

The White Sox take on the New York Yankees tonight, and you can catch all the action on CSN and live streaming on CSNChicago.com and the NBC Sports App.

First pitch is at 7:10 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: James Shields (1-1, 4.26 ERA) vs. Luis Cessa (0-2, 6.57 ERA)

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