Carlos Rodon

White Sox not exactly sure what’s up with Carlos Rodon, but he’s confident he’ll be back for 2018

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USA TODAY

White Sox not exactly sure what’s up with Carlos Rodon, but he’s confident he’ll be back for 2018

It’s been more than two weeks since Carlos Rodon was shut down for the season, one day after he was scratched from a start with shoulder inflammation.

And while we know Rodon won’t pitch again in 2017 — a season with just a little more than a week remaining for the rebuilding White Sox — the team still doesn’t know, or still isn’t ready to say, exactly what’s wrong with the former first-round draft pick.

“We’re just trying to get it right,” Rodon said before Saturday night’s game against the visiting Kansas City Royals. “Still trying to figure everything out and take everything we can and put it all together to get the most information and do what’s best for me and for this team.”

That kind of non-update might raise some red flags in the minds of White Sox fans, curious as to what is the latest ailment for a pitcher who missed three months this season while recovering from biceps bursitis.

Rodon was slated to get reevaluated shortly after that early September injury. He was, but no news came of it, at least not yet.

“Pretty similar to what our doc said,” Rodon said of that follow-up evaluation. “Like I said, we’re trying to still gather all the information and figure out what we’re going to do from there.”

Rodon ended his third season in the bigs with a 4.15 ERA in 69.1 innings of work. And while the White Sox still believe he’ll be a huge part of their starting staff moving forward, it’s plenty acceptable to wonder what kind of effects this season of injuries will have on Rodon as the franchise’s rebuild chugs along.

“He continues to be a big part of what we believe is the future of the organization,” manager Rick Renteria said after explaining several times that the team is still trying to figure out what’s wrong with Rodon. “Unfortunately, this year he's been down quite a bit. So assuming he comes back in a good situation and is healthy and is capable of going out and performing, he fits into one of the five guys that are going to be out there for us next season.”

For his part, Rodon is 100-percent confident he’ll be good to go for next year’s campaign.

“I just know that I’ll be ready for next season,” Rodon said. “The goal is to be ready for next year and be healthy through all of next season.”

That, though, will be the million-dollar question as the White Sox starting rotation of the future begins to take shape. Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez are already penciled in for 2018, and Michael Kopech’s 2017 campaign in the minors was so sensational, he could potentially pitch himself into that starting five, too. With younger names like Alec Hansen and Dane Dunning also doing work in the minors, someone’s going to be the odd man out.

Rodon still has the confidence of his organization. But will he have the health to make that confidence pay off?

Carlos Rodon's latest injury spawns many questions — and few answers — about his future and future of White Sox rebuild

Carlos Rodon's latest injury spawns many questions — and few answers — about his future and future of White Sox rebuild

Carlos Rodon’s 2017 season will end the same way it began: with the White Sox potential ace of the future on the disabled list.

While there are minor league arms currently staking their own claim to that title — Michael Kopech is the top-ranked pitching prospect in baseball — Rodon entered the picture before the rebuild was announced. So when the franchise’s direction was made known this past offseason — and most definitely after Chris Sale and Jose Quintana were traded away from the South Side — it made sense that the 2014 draft’s third overall selection would be the piece of which the rotation of the future would be centered around.

Then came the 2017 season, with Rodon missing the first three months of the campaign with left biceps bursitis and then going on the disabled list again Friday, shut down for the season after an MRI revealed left shoulder inflammation.

“For the future of the team and my future, I think it’s the best thing, the best way to go about it,” Rodon said after Friday’s loss to the visiting San Francisco Giants. “I mean it’s tough news to take, but there’s not much I can do about it.”

While the mystery of Rodon getting scratched shortly before Thursday’s scheduled start was finally solved right after Friday’s game began, there’s still plenty of unknowns out there about this latest injury. Will it be similar to the issue that knocked him out for months earlier this year? Or is this a more minor thing that only results in a season-ending DL stint because the White Sox are already well into the final month of a last-place season? No one seems to know yet, and Rodon is scheduled to undergo further evaluation next week.

But certainly the sobriety with which Rodon discussed his injury — and granted it wasn’t too remarkable a departure from his usual quiet demeanor — at least had to bring to mind the idea that this could potentially be another roadblock in his development. Rodon hit the big leagues less than a year after he was drafted, and while that’s worked for some pitchers in the past (Sale), it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Rodon.

Injuries have proven the biggest obstacles of late, and it’s a logical jump to question whether Rodon needs to make some changes to avoid this kind of thing in the future.

“I’m sure that the staff, the medical staff and the doctors and everybody can kind of put their heads together and see what it is that needs to be done to see if we can clear up whatever it is that’s causing the inflammation,” manager Rick Renteria said. “Right now, I’m not a doctor so I couldn’t tell you what’s causing it. But we do know that something is wrong. Right now it’s inflammation that he has, so they’ll deal with it and again there’s no rush for us to get him back at this point.”

The harsh question has to be asked: If the injuries keep piling up, is Rodon’s status as a part of the future rotation in jeopardy? Any answer besides yes would be a difficult one to swallow, considering how high a draft pick was used to bring him to the South Side. But at the same time, that fantasy starting staff is getting crowded with names. Aside from Kopech, there’s Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez already at the big league level and Dane Dunning and Alec Hansen racking up big strikeout numbers in the minors. That’s five names right there.

But while Rodon's 2017 campaign was far from where he or the White Sox wanted it to be — because he’ll end up missing almost four months of a six-month season — there was plenty to salvage from when he was on the mound. After a bit of a bumpy start, Rodon settled in nicely and posted a 3.00 ERA over his final seven outings of the year. Take out a five-run clunker against the Detroit Tigers on Aug. 26, and Rodon’s ERA was a dazzling 2.25 in those other six starts.

“Had some good starts, had a good run. Would’ve been nice to keep going,” Rodon said. “But these things happen and just got to get better.”

“Obviously for us we would have liked to have had him out there on the mound gaining more experience and continuing to hone his craft. But there are only certain things we can do. There’s only certain things that we can control.” Renteria said. “At this point, it is what it is. I think as he starts to continue to recover and get back on track, hopefully for the coming season, we’ll just have to make up whatever we lost and try to gain ground at that point and take advantage of the skill set that he has.”

So there’s still a bit of a waiting game to see exactly what this injury is — and exactly how impactful it will be to Rodon’s future and the future of the White Sox rotation. It’s a long time until spring training, meaning this issue could be well forgotten by the time camp begins in Arizona.

But if indeed Rodon’s latest problem has a similar effect to the one that knocked him out for months this season, then the White Sox rotation could look considerably different next season. Giolito, Lopez and the under-contract James Shields figure to be penciled in as three of the five starters. But what about Kopech? Did his dazzling minor league campaign earn him an opportunity to compete for a spot on the starting staff? And how different might that opportunity be if Rodon is still battling this issue come February and March?

The White Sox seem to have a lot more questions than answers right this second, and perhaps more will be known by Monday, when Rodon is slated for his further evaluation. It’s in times like this, rightly or wrongly, that speculation runs rampant. And with a team so prone to speculation about its future already — almost exclusively in a positive manner, considering the minor league assets Rick Hahn has stockpiled — it’s near impossible not to try to play this out in your head.

Unfortunately for Rodon, the White Sox, observers and fans, there seem to be plenty of blanks that still need to be filled in.

Carlos Rodon's 2017 season is over as he heads to the disabled list with shoulder inflammation

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USA TODAY

Carlos Rodon's 2017 season is over as he heads to the disabled list with shoulder inflammation

Carlos Rodon has thrown his last pitch in 2017.

The White Sox announced after the start of Friday night’s game that their young starting pitcher will go on the disabled list with left shoulder inflammation and that he won’t play again this season. This a night after Rodon was scratched from his scheduled start against the Cleveland Indians. He had an MRI on Friday.

It’s Rodon’s second trip to the DL this season. He missed the first three months of the regular season with bursitis in his left biceps.

While Rodon figures to factor heavily into the team’s future plans in the midst of this rebuild, it’s a tough sign to see him battle another injury. With the injury coming in the final month of a last-place season, shutting him down makes tons of sense regardless of how significant the injury actually is. Though there will also be some mystery as to how long it might have put him on the shelf had it come earlier in the season.

Though he didn’t know what was wrong with Rodon before Friday’s game, manager Rick Renteria said the team will be cautious with the 23-year-old regardless of the severity of the injury.

“Absolutely. I think we will, with Carlos, just like any of our guys when we’re concerned about or have any questions about any of them, we will always deal with them with an abundance of caution,” Renteria said. “He’s no different. We’ll see how it unfolds, and we’ll proceed accordingly.”

Rodon, who the White Sox took with the No. 3 pick in the 2014 draft, pitched well after his first handful of starts back from his season-opening stay on the disabled list. After posting a 6.29 ERA in his first five starts, he’s turned in a 3.00 ERA in his last seven outings, with 45 strikeouts in 45 innings.

What impact this injury will have, if any, on Rodon’s readiness for the 2018 season is unknown at this point. Rodon is expected to be a significant part of the team's future rotation, one that already includes prospects Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez. Michael Kopech is the top pitching prospect in baseball and could be a factor in next year's rotation, as well.