The Chicago White Sox have had success when it comes to keeping their starting pitchers healthy; unfortunately, the position they’re in with one of their young stars is one they have experienced before. This isn’t the first time the Sox have had a young left-hander with good stuff, who’s taking over for an ace … with a bum shoulder.
While this is not an enviable position for any team (just ask the New York Mets), for the White Sox and former No. 3 overall pick Carlos Rodon, it’s the reality each they find themselves in.
It was not long ago that young southpaw John Danks was in line to take over for an aging Mark Buehrle.
The Sox even chose to give Danks a five-year extension and let Buehrle leave in free agency, following then-manager Ozzie Guillen to the Miami Marlins in 2011.
Up to that point, Danks’ biggest accomplishment was his performance in the storied “Blackout Game,” he had positioned himself as one of the more talented young starters in the game, posting two consecutive 200-inning seasons and three straight sub-4.00 ERA seasons before age 26.
The White Sox trade of perennial Cy Young candidate Chris Sale in the winter of 2016 and subsequent trade of Jose Quintana the following summer left the team without a frontline starting pitcher for the first time since 2012. Although the Sale trade was a signal that the White Sox had chosen a new direction after years of mediocrity, it did, however, leave them without an ace.
While losing a perennial Cy Young candidate is a tough blow, the White Sox had to feel good about knowing they not only received a potential replacement in return, in the form of Michael Kopech, but they had also groomed their own — Rodon — who was waiting in the wings and ready to take that next step.
Now, more than a year removed from Sale’s departure, the Sox are still without an ace on their staff of young, unproven starters and old journeyman innings eaters, and the up-and-coming starter who the White Sox had hoped would take the next step hasn’t.
The 25-year-old left-hander has shown flashes of his potential but has been unable to take the “next step” due to nagging injuries, including the most recent injury, and underwent shoulder surgery at the end of the season.
Thankfully in Rodon’s case, the arthroscopic shoulder surgery he had last fall isn’t nearly as serious as the torn shoulder capsule that ultimately brought Danks’ days as an effective starter to an end. But even still, shoulder injuries to pitchers are scary, and the fact that the last 12 months have been riddled with setbacks for a pitcher as talented as Rodon has to be frustrating for the White Sox, who obviously have big plans for him.
Rodon is throwing now, and Rick Hahn has thrown out June 1 as a potential return date for him. Is there room for concern? Absolutely. Like with Danks then, Rodon’s health is an important part of the White Sox future contention plans. But pitchers are notoriously fickle, and while there’s still a long road ahead and the White Sox remain one of the more prospect-laden organizations in baseball, it’s hard not to think about Rodon going down as another first-round pick whose career was never able to fully take off.
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