Chicago White Sox manager Tony La Russa was “anxious” to see what would unfold for Carlos Rodón before Wednesday’s start against the Cincinnati Reds.
The All-Star left-hander didn’t feel like he had his best stuff.
But Rodón produced a promising line score in his final start of the season, allowing one hit in five shutout innings in a 6-1 victory in front of 23,018 at Guaranteed Rate Field.
“Sometimes you have to go out there and pitch,” Rodón said. “Didn’t have that overpowering fastball but had some secondary stuff and got weak contact. Defense made good plays and (catcher Yasmani Grandal) mixed it up well.
“I just wanted to go out there and compete and get outs. That’s honestly what my goal was … and it bode well. I didn’t have my best stuff but I went out there and pitched and had these different pieces of my arsenal. Relied on the defense and that was that.”
Rodón struck out four and walked two in his first start since Sept. 20 in Detroit.
“He has ways to get hitters out, one hit in five innings,” La Russa said. “The big key will be how he feels (Thursday). It’s an off day, but we’ll be checking in on him. And for sure Friday.
“I thought he moved the ball around, he had command of his slider and he reached back a couple times for a little extra. It really depends on how he feels, and we’ll reserve judgment. But he pitched. He moved the ball around and he made pitches.”
Rodón, who was on the injured list from Aug. 11-26 with left shoulder fatigue, exited his previous start against the Tigers after three innings with what he called “normal soreness.” He threw 69 pitches in that game and 69 in his return Wednesday.
“We’ve seen all year long what he can do if he’s himself,” La Russa said. “The key is: Is he himself? He sat down and went back out there five times. That’s a big box checked. That’s important. But you reserve judgment till you see how he feels.”
Rodón’s fastball, which can reach the high 90s, was in the low 90s through most of Wednesday’s outing.
“I mean, I’m not too concerned,” Rodón said. “I went out there and got 15 outs. Gave up one hit. Some days I’m not going to have it all. To put it in perspective, I threw (7⅔) innings last year (in the regular season). This year I’ve thrown 132(⅔).
“That’s a lot on a body. But I’m not going to use that as an excuse. As you see, I still go out and go do my job. So I have to go win for a team, and that’s what I’m going to do.”
Rodón improved to 13-5 while lowering his ERA to 2.37. Gavin Sheets led the way offensively, going 2-for-3 with a two-run home run and three RBIs. Tim Anderson hit a solo home run in the seventh.
The only hit Rodón allowed came in the fourth, a double by Tyler Stephenson after Luis Robert nearly made a tremendous sliding catch near the center-field wall.
“You’re watching, and that’s one reason why you kept sending him out there for the next one and the next one and the next one through five, because it looked like he was delivering the ball,” La Russa said. “We didn’t ask him, ‘Show us you can get in the upper 90s.’ That wasn’t the way it was.
“I thought he made pitches. He knew when he went out there in the fifth, he’s got to get three outs to get a ‘W’ potentially, and he got them. All that’s good. The key is how does he feel physically so he can get closer to what he is velocity-wise.”
Now the wait is on to see what’s next.
“Right now it’s take it day by day and see how I feel,” he said. “Go out there and take the ball and that’s it. We are at that point in the season where you have to show up for work. It’s what I do.
“I go out there and go five innings and hand it off to the bullpen (Wednesday). It gives me confidence in our team. We can do a lot of damage in the postseason.”