MLB: New York Yankees at Chicago White Sox

South Side Morning 5: Bumps on the Rodon

1. Ryan wrote Wednesday about the need to temper expectations for Carlos Rodon as the exciting, young left-hander made his season debut against the Yankees. But as Rodon struggled with his command in what ultimately wound up a 12-3 loss, it’s important to remember that as exciting as it is to have another supposed piece of the White Sox future core back on the 25-man roster, he’s far from a finished product.

Whether you want to chalk it up to nerves, rust, or the fact that he’s simply not yet the caliber of pitcher the White Sox hope he will become, regardless of injury, Rodon couldn’t find the strike zone Wednesday.

First, the positive: The fastball velocity was fine. He was routinely pumping 93-95 mph gas with the four-seamer, and when he found the zone, Yankees hitters had trouble doing much with it. His wipeout slider still had the same bite, such as when he struck out Tyler Wade with it to end a prolonged first inning. Despite the struggled, he gutted through five innings and saw his pitch count climb to 94 pitches, which is about what he was at in his last few rehab outings.

The downside, of course, is that while his stuff looked just as we remembered, it rarely found the plate. The fastball command was particularly out of whack — he walked three in the first inning and six total in his five innings of work — and that aforementioned slider, so dangerous when it looks like it’s headed for the strike zone, was often far enough off the plate that good hitters could spit on it.

For a pitcher with both his skills and flaws, it’s not an unsurprising outcome for his first start back from a prolonged layoff, but while the injury was an unfortunate setback in a season we expected him to take “the leap” from promise to stardom, seeing his stuff in good shape, as fleeting as it may have been, is a baby step in the right direction.

2. Avisail Garcia’s hot start to the season was so impressive and unlikely that we waited and waited and waited and waited and waited for the other shoe to drop. Surely, this was not the hitter he’d become. He’s been good but it’s totally, definitely not going to continue. OK, fine, it’s time to talk about how good he is.


Just as we started to let our collective guard down and maybe kind of believe in Garcia’s ascension from disappointment to above-average contributor, he’s suddenly found himself in a teensy, tiny, itty, bitty, sky-is-falling, major, terrible, sound-the-alarms 0-for-19 and 1-for-23 funk.

He also left Wednesday’s loss with a sore left knee that he described as “OK” but he’ll have an MRI on Thursday and is supposedly day-to-day.

Joking aside, Garcia’s hot first half of the season has been a pleasant sight for a team that’s now 11 games under .500. Whether you’ll be in the “told you so” crowd if this is the start of a hellacious descent, or you’ll just be a little bummed (I’m the latter), well … that’s up to you.

3. Rick Renteria is developing a bit of a reputation.

The White Sox manager was ejected for the third time in the last six games Wednesday after a bit of a disagreement about the strike zone with home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt during the Yankees’ five-run eighth inning. Jake Petricka, who happened to allow all five of those runs, including a two-run bomb to Aaron Judge, was also, not-so-coincidentally ejected.

The White Sox have experienced both ends of the managerial craziness scale in recent years, from stark-raving lunatic madman Ozzie Guillen to “Is he awake?” Robin Ventura. I don’t know if I’d go so far as to put Renteria in the Guillen category yet, but he’s been on a bit of a roll of late.

4. Adam Engel went 2-for-3 with his second career home run in Wednesday’s loss, and has quietly hit .319/.360/.511 in limited time during two separate stints with the White Sox this season.

The hot start has been nice to see, particularly given the struggles of equally flawed prospect Jacob May to start the season. But he’s always had shortcomings at the plate that will need to be overcome for him to stick around long term. Despite those small sample size numbers thus far, he’s also striking out in 33 percent of his plate appearances and that’s unlikely to change.

Still, Engel is athletic and can run like a damn gazelle. He’s likely the best defensive center fielder the White Sox have anywhere near the majors right now, and if he can continue to provide any semblance of production with the bat going forward, the White Sox may have found a nice fourth outfielder/defensive substitute/pinch runner type. That ain’t much, but it’s not nothin.

5. The White Sox played 44 of their first 71 games on the road, and Dan Hayes wrote a nice piece on how Renteria has tried to help the team combat travel fatigue. Intangible stuff like this is impossible to quantify when it comes to how it affects the team’s performance and mentality, but it’s nice to see Renteria thinking outside-the-box and having regard for the little things, which is something that can easily be overlooked when you’re so used to the status quo.

Lead Photo Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

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