Chris Sale (broken foot) will not be ready to pitch on Opening Day. This will only fuel speculation that top prospect Carlos Rodon has a chance to make the team's 25-man roster coming out of spring training.
The Sox should resist that urge. They should instead send Rodon to Triple-A Charlotte to begin the season.
And I'm not just saying that because Rodon allowed three runs on five hits in 2.1 innings in Wednesday's 4-4 tie with the Texas Rangers. Even if the left-hander had struck out all 12 batters he faced Wednesday, it wouldn't change my opinion.
There are a couple good reasons not to rush Rodon. First and foremost, there's the business side of the game. Michael Bauman at Grantland (no relation) did a great job of explaining the service time factor in this article about Cubs prospect Kris Bryant. The same principle with Bryant applies to the situation with the White Sox and Rodon:
"There are about 183 calendar days in a major league season; anyone who
spends 172 or more of those days on the active roster or major league
disabled list is credited with a full year of service time, while
players who spend less than that are credited with the fraction of the
season they spent in the big leagues," Bauman wrote. "Service time progresses players
toward three primary milestones: arbitration eligibility (which takes a
little less than three years, depending on moving goalposts that aren’t worth explaining here), free agency (six years), and a pension (10
In simplest terms, this means Rodon needs to spend a few weeks in Charlotte this year. If he starts the season with the Sox and stays in the majors the whole year, he'll hit free agency after the 2020 season. But if the Sox keep him in Charlotte for just a little while longer, they'll have him under team control for one extra year -- the 2021 season.
A no-brainer, right? Seems like it to me.
Then, there's the baseball side of things. Rodon has great promise, but he is not a finished product. Most guys need three major league quality pitches to be in a team's starting rotation. Rodon slider is great; there's no doubting that. He's got a good fastball, although his command could use a little polish. The changeup, while improving, is not there yet. Why not let him continue to work on that third pitch in the minors? It's the right thing to do, regardless of Sale's status.
Senior Vice President Ken Williams made it sound like Sale is on track to make his season debut April 12 -- the fifth game of the season. If Sale stays on that timetable, the Sox won't need to take an extra starter with them when they break camp. Sale would simply pitch fifth in the rotation instead of first.
And even if Sale falls a little behind that schedule, and the Sox need to reach into their depth for a starting pitcher, I don't see the harm in giving a veteran like Scott Carroll or Brad Penny one or two starts in April.
I know watching Carroll or Penny pitch doesn't excite anyone, but if it's the right thing for Rodon's development and his future with the organization -- and it is -- then that's what you do.