How White Sox lefty Carlos Rodón went from non-tendered to a rotation spot

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Vinnie Duber
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How Rodón went from non-tendered to Sox rotation return originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The White Sox seemingly brought an end to the Carlos Rodón experiment when they non-tendered their 2014 first-round draft pick in early December.

With little more than a week until Opening Day, Rodón has won himself a spot in the White Sox starting rotation.

"It definitely gave me a lot more motivation," Rodón said Tuesday. "That doubt, when people doubt you, that's fine. And maybe that's not what they were thinking, but for me, I thought that."

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In an offseason where teams were trying to save money at every turn, the White Sox saved a projected $1 million by non-tendering Rodón and bringing him back on a one-year, $3 million deal. That guaranteed money made Rodón the leading candidate to earn the team's final rotation spot before a pitch was thrown this spring. But then Rodón threw a pitch. A lot of them, actually. And he earned every bit of the No. 5 starter's job with his spring performance.

That was all made official Monday night, when the White Sox announced Reynaldo López as one of the latest cuts to major league camp. With Jimmy Lambert and Jonathan Stiever tabbed as minor league pitching depth, López joined those two youngsters in that category, and in doing so crowned Rodón the team's fifth starter. Of course, that could have been predicted, given Rodón's scoreless spring to date and López's sky-high 9.00 ERA in Cactus League play.

But Rodón was no sure thing before camp started. Though perhaps the most logical pick to win the job, his horrendous injury luck in recent seasons kept him from instilling any sense of dependability, exactly the thing the White Sox need out of their back-end starters in 2021, a season they enter with World Series expectations. Those two ideas didn't exactly mesh.

Enter Ethan Katz.

Actually, to hear Rodón tell it, Katz entered earlier, before the non-tendering, the White Sox new pitching coach getting to work in a hurry with someone who the team hoped — but couldn't exactly guarantee — would be part of its pitching plans.

"Off the bat, we spoke. And I was sending him videos before I was non-tendered," Rodón said of working with Katz. "I think we jumped on a FaceTime pretty quickly. He was like, 'I want to show you this so you can see it, so you can visualize it when you're playing catch and stuff.' The relationship blossomed pretty quickly. ... And then when I signed back, it was right back to it like we never left off.

"(Working with Katz) helped a lot. ... I always say this: nothing against Don Cooper. He was great. It was a pleasure to work with him. But it’s just sometimes nice to get a fresh set of eyes and just a different outlook.

"Granted, right now, it’s a small sample size, but we are hoping it translates into the regular season."

So far, so good for Rodón. But as the southpaw mentioned, he'll be judged on what happens once the games start counting April 1. The biggest question is the same one that's existed for years now: Can he stay healthy?

If he can stay off the injured list and stay in games, then he'll do a lot to help stabilize a White Sox rotation that still has some pretty big question marks after its top three arms. And if he can do that, Rodón will get what he wants, too.

"I was in the beginning and the middle of that rebuild, sometimes pitching, sometimes not," he said last month. "I know what it's like to lose, and it's not fun at all. That's kind of the reason why I wanted to come back here, man. I wanted to come back and win and be a part of it and actually contribute.

"Because I contributed to the losing side, I want to contribute to the winning side now. ... I think this team can come together and have a very, very good chance at winning a championship."

The non-tendering. The injuries. The losing. He doesn't need any more motivation. He just needs to pitch.

Now he's got his shot.

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