THE PATH TO SOXCESS: Carlos Rodon perseveres to his first playoff start

White Sox

CHICAGO – MAY 26: Carlos Rodon #55 of the Chicago White Sox walks onto the field prior to the game against the St. Louis Cardinals on May 26, 2021 at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Ron Vesely/Getty Images)

CHICAGO – The idea of this happening wouldn’t have seemed possible back in December, but you could say that about a number of aspects of this White Sox pitcher’s season.

How about the no-hitter in April? The win on May 7th in Kansas City that put the White Sox in first place for good? Being named to the 2021 MLB All-Star Game? Beating the team he’s facing on a Tuesday at a full Guaranteed Rate Field on a post-All-Star Sunday to send a message to the American League that this team was for real?

Not many could have imagined this for Carlos Rodon, but here it is October, and the left-hander is starting a playoff game on Tuesday to try and keep the White Sox season alive. He’ll take the mound in Game 4 against the Astros a day later than expected after rain pushed his start back about 24 hours.

It’s the first playoff start for the 2014 first round pick that has dealt with multiple injuries in his career, even in the pandemic-shortened 60-game season. This led to Rodon not being tendered a contract in December, returning on a one-year, $5 million deal in early winter, then came an incredible comeback over the spring and summer.

A 13-5 record with a 2.37 ERA earned the pitcher his first All-Star appearance and was a key part of the White Sox drive to their first division title in 13 years.

“It just adds to the confidence, I guess, you know? It’s pretty much the only way I can answer that,” said Rodon when asked how the results of 2021 added to the confidence and faith in his own abilities. “Like you said, yeah, I’ve always believed in myself even when I wasn’t on the field, but fought like hell to get back here.”

In some ways, he’s had to do that once again, as he dealt with some shoulder fatigue as the season crept into the final two months. Rodon landed on the IL on August 11th with left shoulder fatigue and would make just five starts the rest of the season as the White Sox were cautious with his usage.

That’s not a surprise, since his 132 2/3 innings pitched were the most in a season since 2016 and the first time he’d gone over 100 innings in a season since 2018.

But having to lighten up his pitching load wasn’t something that Rodon is lamenting on, because the process has led him to this moment on Astros.

“Yeah, my goal this year was to just get through the whole season and obviously perform. I think just staying on the field and getting through the whole season, the performance would just take care of itself. I wouldn’t call it injury. You know, it’s more arm fatigue and soreness, to be honest,” said Rodon of the last two months. “If we go back and look at the last two years, it was, what, seven innings last year, 40 innings the year before, and then this year it jumped to, what, 130, 130 something.

“I think it was just — you know, it’s a big workload. It’s not that I don’t want to take on the workload. It’s just — it’s kind of hard on the body, I guess. That’s not an excuse. It just is what it is. I’m still standing here now trying to get on the mound and pitch, do my job.”

While doing yet another thing towards the end of 2021 that many didn’t expect at the beginning of the year.

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