In a week that’s seen the Sox lose Luis Robert and more questions emerge about Tony La Russa, Rodon’s first May start felt like his sterling April.
This has been some kind of week for the White Sox. It’s been some kind of season for Carlos Rodon.
They learned on Monday that star center fielder Luis Robert would miss 3-4 months after suffering a torn hip flexor the day before, taxing a lineup that’s already missing the powerful Eloy Jimenez. Two days later, Tony La Russa didn’t know that he wasn’t forced to use closer Liam Hendriks as a runner to start the 10th inning, adding to the mounting criticism of the manager.
Then on Friday night in Kansas City against the Royals, Carlos Rodon made his first May start after a sterling April when he emerged as one of the best surprises in baseball with an 0.72 ERA and a no-hitter while surrendering just seven hits. Rodon’s opening start of the month felt like April, throwing six scoreless innings and striking out eight while walking none in the Sox’ 3-0 win over Kansas City, contributing to the team’s sixth shutout of the year.
Rodon was supported by a Zack Collins home run, an Adam Eaton RBI single and Jose Abreu’s run-scoring double, moving his record to 5-0 and continuing his emergence after an injury-plagued career.
“It’s rewarding now,” Rodon said. “I just want to keep going throughout this whole season. What’s important is the next start. It’s been fun.”
Another strong outing for their surprise ace was the latest event for the Sox, who pulled into first place a half-game ahead of Cleveland in a bunched-up American League Central. But they were in that position thanks somewhat to Robert.
Before the injury, Robert was hitting .316/.359/.463 with an .822 OPS. Now the Sox are a few days into life without Robert, and they announced Friday he wouldn’t need surgery and would provide another update in eight weeks.
Though the news apparently won’t affect Robert’s timeline, the Sox embraced the development.
“My understanding in being around different injuries over the years, if you can avoid surgery, that’s a plus,” La Russa said. “So I think it is a real healthy sign for Luis. And what’s good for Luis is good for us, but I do believe that that’s good news.”
Surgery or not, the Sox will have to cope with Robert’s absence. It’s unlikely anybody they bring in will replace his contributions, and the Sox as a whole will have to stay in the race without two-thirds of their projected 2021 outfield for the foreseeable future.
They’ll have to get used to playing without Robert quickly, because Friday was the first of a 13-game stretch against division-rivals Kansas City and Minnesota. And the Sox started the two-week period well, getting a scoreless inning each from relievers Codi Heuer, Aaron Bummer and Hendriks.
“It has the makings of the kind of bullpen that Kenny (Williams) and Rick (Hahn) talked about,” La Russa said. “A lot of depth.”
For one night, it also meant less drama surrounding La Russa.
La Russa was scrutinized for having Leury Garcia attempt to steal during the 10th inning of Wednesday’s 1-0 loss at Cincinnati. But the viral moment was Hendriks running when he didn’t have to.
On Friday, La Russa said he was glad he didn’t try to “BS” his way through it Wednesday. He said he told Hendriks not to do anything crazy on the bases, and also praised the league for making the change.
“It’s a good rule and I’ve had a few people contact me in the game that were not aware either,” La Russa said. “I’m sure a lot were but I admit I didn’t know and it’s a good rule. A very good rule.”