White Sox-Marlins preview
MIAMI — Chicago White Sox left-hander Carlos Rodon reached 100 mph with his fastball in his most recent start, Saturday against the Baltimore Orioles.
Now Rodon, a native of Miami who is of Cuban ancestry, is headed straight toward his hometown team like, well, one of his breathtaking fastballs.
Rodon (2-8, 4.49 ERA) will take on Miami right-hander Andrew Cashner (4-8, 4.96 ERA) in the series opener at Marlins Park on Friday.
The Marlins (60-54) own a better record than the White Sox (54-60), who lost 2-1 to the Royals in Kansas City on Thursday night.
Rodon, though, can be an equalizer if he is on his game.
He moved to North Carolina in time for high school. Rodon threw a no-hitter as a junior, won a state title as a senior and signed with North Carolina State, turning down an offer from the Milwaukee Brewers, who drafted him in the 16th round.
College proved to be a wise choice for Rodon, who became the first Atlantic Coast Conference player to win that league's Pitcher of the Year award as a freshman, going 9-0 with a 1.57 ERA. He finished third nationally in strikeouts.
He followed that in 2013 by leading N.C. State to its first College World Series since 1968, setting the Wolfpack's single-season record as a sophomore with 184 strikeouts.
As a junior, he broke the school's record for career strikeouts, and the White Sox were convinced, drafting him third overall in 2014 — and that is where the tie-in with Miami continues.
The Marlins, who picked second in 2014, had a chance to draft the hometown hero, the college-ready pitcher.
Instead, the Marlins opted for a high school pitcher, hard-throwing right-hander Tyler Kolek, who has yet to move past low Class A ball and is out for the year due to elbow surgery.
Rodon, meanwhile, made his major league debut last year, going an impressive 9-6 with a 3.75 ERA.
This season, Rodon went on the disabled list on July 9 due to a sprained left wrist. That injury has put a damper on his year. The 23-year-old returned to action July 31, but he has not won a road game since April 13.
Last Saturday, in just his second start back from the DL, Rodon seemed to recapture his standout form, allowing just five hits and one run in six innings while striking out seven.
“Even in that first inning, he reared back and had some velocity,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said after the game. “That was very impressive. His slider was great — it had a lot of break.
“This was one of his better games, being able to go deep in a game and keep a lineup like that off balance. He has great stuff.”
Ventura was asked about Rodon's enthusiasm and “fire” on the mound.
“He has that fire, although sometimes it's directed at the water cooler,” Ventura said. “You just hope he can direct it toward home plate.”
If Rodon can do that on Friday, he could be a load for the Marlins, who are suddenly struggling at the plate. Miami, shut down by the San Francisco Giants this week, has not scored in 17 consecutive innings.
The Marlins also have scored just two runs in their past 25 innings, and that is a big reason why they dropped two out of three games against the Giants.
Miami's offense — which has been shut out five times since the All-Star break — should see the return of right fielder Giancarlo Stanton on Friday. He did not start on Wednesday, largely due to a sore hip. He did serve as a pinch hitter, flying out to center.
The Marlins could use help from power-hitting first baseman Justin Bour, who has been on the disabled list since July 5. Originally, the diagnosis called for a quick return, likely two weeks, but Bour has had setbacks.
“At this point, (Bour's injury) has gone from his ankle to different areas,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “His Achilles has been bothering him, and he has had trouble moving.”
Without Bour, the Marlins are using a platoon of Chris Johnson against left-handers and Derek Dietrich against right-handers. Johnson is likely to start Friday.
Cashner, acquired from the San Diego Padres at the trade deadline, will be making his fourth appearance for the Marlins, although he has yet to win a game for Miami.
He was solid in his first start (six innings, one run), got rocked in his second start (five innings, seven runs) and gave up the winning hit when used in an emergency relief role in the 14th inning on Monday against San Francisco.
Now he aims to match Rodon, the prodigal son of Miami, pitch for pitch when they square off Friday night.
In other story lines:
–Ventura said he is not changing closers despite the fact that David Robertson blew two save chances earlier this week.
–White Sox right-hander Miguel Gonzalez, who started on Thursday night against the Royals, departed after just 21 pitches due to a strained groin. As a result, the Chicago bullpen enters the Friday game depleted after picking up eight innings Thursday.