White Sox’ Tony La Russa plots plan for Carlos Rodón into playoffs

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Resting Rodón: Sox plot pitching plan into playoffs originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

White Sox manager Tony La Russa avoids talking about October baseball, even with his team’s magic number to clinch a playoff spot rapidly shrinking. “I know who’s listening,” he’ll say, glancing skyward toward the baseball gods.

But September baseball for a contending team?

“This time of year is as much fun as you can have,” La Russa said this week.

This time of year is also a balancing act for the White Sox, a concept no better illustrated than with their handling of southpaw Carlos Rodón.

The team will continue scheduling extended rest between starts for Rodón, with his next start penciled in for next week at Detroit. Rodón (12-5, 2.38 ERA) will likely make just two more regular season starts, La Russa announced Thursday.

“To me, every game is pretty important from here on out,” Rodón said. “We still haven't clinched a playoff spot. We still have some games to win. It's something we have to balance, and it's something where I want to pitch in the postseason when the time comes, but I also want to be able to pitch and keep that pitch count up through the rest of these couple weeks that are left."

The team has been careful with Rodón all season, working in extended rest between most starts. The southpaw has only thrown on regular rest (four days between starts) six times, and not since late July. He spent a few weeks on the injured list last month with left shoulder fatigue.

“We’ve gone this much into the season thinking (extra rest), and the results have been outstanding,” La Russa said of Rodón, a first-time All-Star this year.

The shortened 2020 season has raised concerns about pitcher workload this year across the league, but Rodón’s injury history makes him a special case. The lefty last pitched more than 100 innings in 2018, and he only made four appearances last season.

"It's been a little while since I've thrown this much,” Rodón said Thursday, with 22 starts under his belt. “It's nice to be able to make it to the last month and still be standing. I've just got to be ready for what comes next."

Even though La Russa prefaces postseason talk with, “if we get in,” the White Sox are taking Rodón’s playoff schedule into account as they map out his last two regular season starts.

“If you think that he’ll pitch the first of the week this week and somewhere around the first of the week next week,” La Russa said, “by the time you get to Oct. 7, it’s about the same time (between starts). He has the adequate rest. So, that’s the way we’re reconciling being consistent, especially with the results, and what’s ahead.

Maybe it’s too early to tell what kind of shape Rodón’s shoulder will be in after that. Maybe the White Sox are reticent to reveal their early postseason rotation thoughts. Maybe both are true. In any case, the team didn’t have an answer on whether Rodón would continue to need extra rest between starts in October.

"I have no idea,” Rodón said Thursday. “It's something I guess we'll play by ear. I just want to be available whenever they need me."

White Sox pitching coach Ethan Katz also pointed to the day-to-day nature of gaging Rodón’s health and readiness this late in the season.

“October it's going to be a little bit different with everything,” Katz told NBC Sports Chicago. “But we also don't want to put him out there if he's not where he needs to be. So, it just really depends on how he's bouncing back.”

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