SEATTLE – A moment like this didn’t seem that likely on December 2nd.
It was on that day that Carlos Rodon, the White Sox No. 1 pick from the 2014 MLB Draft, was not tendered a new contract for the 2021 season. While showing off some of his abilities at times since his debut in 2015, injuries hampered the left-handed pitcher from getting any momentum going.
In late January, however, Rodon go another shot to take the mound for the franchise, this time signed to a one-year, $3 million major league deal. Nothing much was guaranteed for the pitcher, who would have to carve out his role in Tony La Russa’s pitching staff.
But Rodon did just that in spring training, earning the fifth spot in the starting rotation, which led to Monday’s start that seemed so unlikely a few months ago.
It’s safe to say that the lefty made the most of the opportunity.
In his first start of the 2021 season against the Mariners at T-Mobile Park, Rodon pitched five shutout innings, allowing just two hits while striking out nine batters compared to three walks. It’s the most strikeouts in a game for Rodon since April 8, 2019, when he also had nine in a 5-1 loss to the Rays.
This time the result was different, as the bullpen held the shoutout for four more innings and the offense was strong in a 6-0 victory in Seattle. It gives Rodon his first victory since April 19, 2019, when he six innings in a 7-3 win over the Tigers in Detroit.
It’s encouraging to see since Tommy John surgery cost him a majority of the 2019 season and his 2020 season was cut short as well due to shoulder soreness. Rodon’s nine strikeouts on Monday were more than he had in 7 2/3 innings of work during last season.
His catcher, Yasmani Grandal, led the way for the White Sox offensively, getting them on the board with a home run in the first then completing the scoring with a two-run single in the fifth. American League Player of the Week Yermin Mercedes came home to score a run on that last hit as he went 3-for-4 to keep his strong hitting up.
Michael Kopech continues to impress in the early part of the season, striking out five compared to just one walk in two shutout innings. Jose Ruiz would finish the shutout effort with two scoreless innings, making sure that Rodon’s return to the White Sox rotation would be a successful one.