White Sox southpaw Carlos Rodon is “on schedule” in his rehab from last May’s Tommy John surgery, the lefty himself tells Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times. Rodon is throwing three times per week, including two bullpen sessions, and could be ready to face live hitters within a matter of weeks. Rodon believes it’s “realistic” that he’d be ready to pitch in a game setting by June, although we of course don’t yet know when (or if) games will be resuming.
A healthy Rodon would be a boost to an already improved White Sox rotation, and if he does indeed prove ready to pitch in a game setting from the get-go or shortly into a delayed season, that’d be of particular benefit to the Sox given what’s likely to be a condensed schedule featuring frequent doubleheaders. Currently, the White Sox are set to rely on Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel, Dylan Cease, Gio Gonzalez and Reynaldo Lopez, but the delayed start to the year could drop Rodon into the mix before long and could also allow prized prospect Michael Kopech to join the fray earlier than anticipated. Kopech, who is returning from Tommy John surgery of his own (Sept. 2018), did make it into a spring game and pitched one inning before play was halted.
It’s a group that’s teeming with ability but lacking in terms of certainty. Giolito, the former first-round pick and uber-prospect broke out with a huge showing in 2019 and looks like the leader of the staff after tossing 176 2/3 innings of 3.41 ERA ball with 11.6 K/9 against 2.9 BB/9. Even he only has one successful season under his belt, though.
Keuchel is, of course, a steady presence in the rotation but looks more like an innings eater now than the ground-ball savant who captured a Cy Young Award back in 2015. Gonzalez was sharp for Milwaukee last year but averaged barely 4 2/3 innings per start. Some of that is due to the atypical way in which the Brewers deploy their pitchers, but he’s never been known as an efficient starter.
Beyond that trio, each of Cease, Lopez and Kopech have been considered among the game’s premier overall prospects at times. Lopez hasn’t really delivered on that hype outside of a 2018 season that saw him post a 3.91 ERA with concerning peripherals that pointed to regression — which is indeed what happened in 2019. Cease’s impressive fastball and swing-and-miss ability was on display in his 2019 debut, but so were his difficulties in locating the ball. Kopech has the pedigree and potential of a front-of-the-rotation arm but has yet to harness his own control and didn’t pitch at all in 2019 while rehabbing.
In terms of raw talent, it’s hard to find a better collection of young starters who are all on the same big league radar, but much of that potential remains untapped. As such, the return of a veteran arm like Rodon would be particularly welcome. He may not have quite reached the heights that some fans had hoped when he was drafted third overall in 2014, but he’s compiled 529 career innings with a 4.08 ERA and nearly a strikeout per frame. Getting back into games will be of particular importance for him on a personal level as well, given that Rodon is controlled only through the 2021 season and could use all the opportunities he can get to reestablish himself prior to free agency in the 2021-22 offseason.