White Sox have fared well with season tickets

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White Sox have fared well with season tickets

Just a guess, but fans who spoke with White Sox players on Thursday were probably a bit more pleasant this time around.

Players Addison Reed and Gordon Beckham, coaches Daryl Boston and Bobby Thigpen, and CSN analyst and former player Bill Melton spent the lunch hour dialing season-ticket holders and perspective buyers.

Whereas last year was a troubling time on the South Side, after ex-manager Ozzie Guillen and pitcher Mark Buehrle had left for Miami, and uncertainty surrounded new skipper Robin Ventura, the 2013 White Sox have gained a little momentum at the box office. A team, which won a surprising 85 games and saw the development of young pitchers Reed, Chris Sale and Nate Jones, has helped the White Sox retain the majority of their season-ticket holders from last season, said White Sox senior vice president of sales and marketing Brooks Boyer.

Our (season-ticket) renewal rate is well into the 90 (percent) range, Boyer said. And our new season tickets are significantly ahead of where we were last year. Last year no one knew how Robin would be. Obviously for us to be competitive all last season, we have a lot of wind in our sails. Its very encouraging.

When it comes to the gate, the White Sox could use some encouragement. The teams attendance has declined for six straight seasons and last season fell below 2 million for the first time since 2004. In an attempt to win back old fans and create new ones, the team rearranged its ticket prices this offseason, lowering the price of bleacher seats and increased seats closer to the infield. They also have begun to offer seats for 7 in the upper deck and 20 in the lower deck and lowered the cost of parking.

We needed to reverse that trend and draw more fans, Boyer said. We wanted to make a very bold move to not only bring back old fans but new fans.

Reed had an opportunity to speak with a dozen or so fans on Thursday and said the response was overwhelmingly positive.

They were excited and surprised and it was fun, Reed said. They are the whole reason why we play, its for the fans. It was kind of cool to see how surprised they were and have them laugh and being able to talk to them.

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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