Soxtober? We’ll get there soon enough.
First comes Soxtember — OK, so it doesn’t have quite the same ring to it — a last-regular-season-lap sprint during which the White Sox will try to build momentum heading into the playoffs and avoid looking like posers in the company of more serious World Series contenders.
And posers was what they were Tuesday at Guaranteed Rate Field before an August-ending game against the Pirates. It was, after all, team-picture day.
September starts Wednesday with lefty Carlos Rodon on the mound.
“Let’s get hot,” he said. “Let’s come out here looking to win every game.”
Rodon has a plan for how he wants to treat each of his remaining starts.
“Like it’s the last one of my career,” he said.
It could be his last handful in a Sox uniform. Rodon will be a free agent — again — at season’s end.
His Sox career began with a rapid ascent; he was in the big leagues less than a year after being drafted No. 3 overall in 2014. It would mark a sad, sudden descent if the playoffs went poorly and the team elected not to reinvest in a pitcher who has been through so much and come through in 2021 with the best season of his career.
“I look back on all of it and all the time I’ve spent here, and it would be hard to leave the Chicago White Sox,” he said.
At only 28, Rodon could be attractive to a lot of teams. The Sox might be one of them. But they’ve had front-row seats not only to his breakout 2015 and his lights-out 2021, but also to the full season’s worth of starts he missed due to injury in 2017 and 2018 — and that was before Tommy John surgery sidelined him for 15 months.
Rodon finally got back on the mound for four appearances last season and came out of the bullpen amid the strangeness of a series-ending loss to the A’s in the playoffs. At that time, there was no way to envision his no-hitter in his second start of 2021 or the All-Star selection that followed. Rodon is 10-5 with a 2.43 ERA in 114 2/3 innings.
“Polar opposites,” he called the two campaigns.
Still, September is prove-it time for Rodon, who hasn’t gone more than five innings in a game since July 18 in his first start of the second half. That was a seven-inning, zero-run, 10-strikeout, zero-walk masterpiece. Since then, shoulder fatigue led to a stretch of 19 days in between starts.
Rodon — who was on a pitch count and threw only 67 of them in his last start on Aug. 26 — has a lot to lose. But injury concerns and thoughts of free agency aren’t where his head is at.
“The guys that have been great in this game, they have a certain mindset,” he said. “They’re fearless competitors.”
From here on out, he’s going to give that his best shot.
Speaking of that team photo, guess who was the last Sox player to make it onto the infield so everyone could say cheese?
“We’re still waiting for one more,” a lone voice yelled. “We’re waiting for [Craig] Kimbrel.”
Truer words …
o Did you hear Maroon 5 played Monday at Wrigley Field?
Not to be confused with the Cubs’ Marooned 2: Willson Contreras and Kyle Hendricks.
o A couple of pre-Saturday Big Ten football winners for you, free of charge:
Ohio State 30, Minnesota 24 on Thursday in Minneapolis. Buckeyes shouldn’t be two-touchdown favorites in their first game post-Justin Fields.
Northwestern 16, Michigan State 14 on Friday in Evanston. Do the Wildcats have a quarterback or don’t they?
o Condolences to the family of Jim Cotter, a longtime beat writer covering University of Illinois sports who died suddenly and unexpectedly Monday at 55.
Cotter, who went by @illiniguy1063 on Twitter, was in the press box for Saturday’s Illini football win against Nebraska. A day later, he covered a youth football game — his third game of the weekend — in nearby St. Joseph, where he lived, and ended what would be his final tweet with, “I love football!”
Illini basketball coach Brad Underwood tweeted that Cotter was “a great reporter and an even better person. All who knew him were better for it.” Veteran writers shared about his passion for local and youth sports, and newer ones about his welcoming nature. Cotter is survived by his wife and three children.