It sure is a lot more fun when the White Sox are playing well. They are, at the moment, with the latest evidence coming in the form of two wins in three games in Boston, including a mostly successful season debut by Carlos Rodon and a 1-0 win against old friend Chris Sale.
The White Sox are 6-4 since the calendar flipped to June, taking 2 of 3 from both the Red Sox and Brewers, two teams who are a combined 83-47, with a four-game split against the Twins sandwiched between those two series. Aesthetically, the last week and a half has been much more enjoyable than the first two months, to say the least.
The source of the positive results this weekend was mostly the starting pitching, as Dylan Covey, Rodon, and Reynaldo Lopez combined to allowed just three earned runs in 17 1/3 innings. Covey, in particular, continued his surprising ascent by going toe-to-toe with Sale. He struck out seven and allowed just three hits and one walk in six innings of work, and has been the most impressive member of the rotation since re-joining the team May 23. In four starts (excluding the brief doubleheader promotion he had in April), he’s struck out 25 and walked eight in 22 1/3 innings and hasn’t allowed more than two earned runs in any individual start.
It’s been a helluva turnaround for the 26-year-old who was thrown to the wolves and promptly devoured last year as a Rule 5 pick after only throwing 29 1/3 innings above A-ball up to that point. A former first round pick whose career path and life completely changed when he was diagnosed with diabetes during a post-draft physical, Covey’s development has been anything but linear. It’s only been four starts, but the heavy sinking fastball that’s sat 93-95 has given hitters fits. Six of his eight swinging strikes on Friday came off the sinker, and against one of the best teams in baseball and opposed by one of the best pitchers in baseball, he put together the best start of his still young career, befuddling Red Sox hitters all night before a conservative Rick Renteria lifted him at just 83 pitches.
What Covey is going to be is still unclear. It’s only been four starts after all. But at the very least, he’s proven himself worthy of getting an extended look and further opportunities in a rotation that’s beginning to steady overall.
Rodon’s debut was mostly successful, even if it came during the White Sox one weekend defeat. After missing the first two months because of offseason shoulder surgery, the 25-year-old flashed the type of front-end stuff he’s always had while occasionally battling control that limited him to just five innings of work.
The rust was to be expected for a pitcher who has only thrown 69 1/3 mostly nice innings since the start of the 2017 season. Rodon is at his best when he’s working ahead and able to unleash his hellacious slider as a put-away pitch. But he often found himself behind in the count and relied on his change-up a bit more than you’d probably prefer considering it’s his third best pitch. Still, while his velocity was understandably not yet at full strength, he showed the ability to ramp it up when necessary to get out of trouble.
It wasn’t peak Rodon, but he showed no ill effects of the injury, and having a full-strength Rodon for the duration of 2018 will be a good thing for both this year’s team and the prospects of future contention.
Finally, there was Lopez, who again got positive results even if they may have been better than his peripherals. Six strikeouts and just one earned run in 6 1/3 innings works just fine, of course, but he also walked three and hit a batter, battling the usual bouts of wildness he’s displayed despite 13 generally successful starts.
Even if Lopez appears to be playing with fire from start to start and even hitter to hitter at certain points, he shows enough promise to instill hope even if we wait for what sometimes seems like an inevitable crash toward mediocrity.
While we often get impatient waiting for prospects to become what we want or think they’re going to become, it’s important to remember that you rarely get a finished product from someone Lopez’s age. That may seem overly optimistic, but Lopez is getting good results while simultaneously working through command issues and a developing breaking pitch. It’s entirely possible he does come crashing back to earth in the way the advanced stats predict, but he’s still shown enough promise to make you feel better about his future than you might have before the season began.
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