TCS Morning 10: Rookies can occasionally be good

1. Carlos Rodon came into Tuesday having put together two sharp outings since the beginning of June, and was stacking up a performance record that would justify getting yanked from the rotation if the Sox were still deep in the race. For what it's worth, Rodon had been using the hot-hitting Geovany Soto as his personal catcher. Tuesday he switched to the revered platework of Tyler Flowers and the correlation with an incredibly sharp demolition of the Angels lineup is hard to miss. Blessed with a slider that is completely overwhelming when he's ahead of the count, Rodon was just far enough on the right side of the border between just enough command to dominate with pure stuff, and being a complete mess.

41 of 67 fastballs for strikes, and first-pitch strikes on 11 of 26 hitters is really, really not very impressive stuff at all, but that's all he needs to cut up to the tune 11 strikeouts to one walk over seven shutout innings. 95+ mph with an easy 70-grade slider misses that many bats.

I don't really see an existence where Rodon is not a frustrating guy for much of the Sox fanbase. He's not a Jose Quintana-type who makes chicken salad for a living, he'll live between disaster or dominance depending on his command for the day, and will no matter what probably deliver a baffling amount of the former for someone as talented as he is. The key will be keeping Rodon in rhythm enough to get enough brilliance to cancel out the duds, and after two months in the wilderness, this showing with Flowers as his partner should stoke enough interest to keep them together for the duration of the year.

I pine openly to get a look at Erik Johnson, but getting Rodon in working order to contribute like a No. 3 is of tremendous importance for next year.

2. The White Sox got a happy ending from a fairly stingy outing from old friend Hector Santiago, mostly on the strength of clustering together good fortune (Tyler Saladino infield single, Jose Abreu hit by pitch) in front of a two-run Melky Cabrera double. Cabrera (.285/.324/.405) is a league-average hitter for the year after having a .521 OPS two months ago. Those troubles were built on similar contact rates, but the ball wasn't going anywhere when the season started, even when he barreled it. 

Cabrera turned 31 Tuesday night, and odds are the slump were the first hints of physical decline of a guy without elite ability. There's no guarantee how long the fix will last, but it's a relief he's not dreadful anymore, since this is obviously my favorite player on the team at this moment.

3. Trayce Thompson continues to do surprisingly well for himself in playing time Adam LaRoche is bending over backwards to offer to him. Melky Cabrera DH'd and yielded left field to Trayce, who probably should be playing against left-handed starters even if LaRoche was the dude they thought they signed in the offseason. 

Thompson showed off his natural power by taking a 91 mph Santiago fastball that split the plate out deep to left-center for his first career home run, and followed it up by working a 0-2 count into a walk in his last PA of the night. 

Thompson, like Saladino, is probably a backup long-term who is simply more interesting to give playing time to than the dreary veteran alternatives, but is in a different situation where the 2016 commitment to LaRoche probably gives the Sox reason to try to get him back on track before next Spring. Robin Ventura seems committed to getting Trayce time vs. lefties, but the path to more regular play is bit muddled.

4. But playing youngsters does allow you to be privy to moments like the reaction to Thompson's first home run in the dugout.

Given Abreu's history, and the fact that he got plunked in the chest Tuesday night, Thompson likely smacked him where he had a welt. Thompson's more famous and successful older brother took notice.

Hopefully Trayce will all of sudden snap into an All-Star level player at age 24 like his brother as well. K.C. Johnson of the Tribune caught up with Klay enough to ask him about watching Trayce's debut.

5. Tyler Flowers cannot hit. At all. His abilities coming out of the minors were taking walks and huge raw power, and every year his ISO and walk rate dip, leaving him with...nothing he does well at the plate. Instead, he's a whiz behind the plate who is going to challenge our faith in framing numbers, game-calling and their relative worth compared to actual offensive production, like the kind that Soto is consistently generating. I'm tempted to just yield to the Sox interpretation of the situation, which seems to be favoring Flowers' operation stability over extra runs from Soto.

Oh, and Flowers helped turn that awesome 1-2-3 double play that cleaned up Zach Duke's mess in the eighth. Speaking of which...

6. Zach Duke is bad. The passable 3.48 ERA undersells bad control and a career-worst 1.43 HR/9 IP rate, that outpaces even his previous life as a bad starter. He was billed as 'Not just a LOOGY' and is regularly used as a straight-up eighth inning setup man, but righties are above-average hitters against him, and his 5.18 FIP against lefties suggest his success there might even be a bit superficial.

I suspect other teams have gotten too good of a look at his dead fastball and looping slider, neither of which he can locate, and that's why he's still around, but it would be real nice to get out from under two more years of this. Some would say him putting two runners on in the eighth to bring up Mike Trout as the tying run was the drama that Tuesday's game needed, but most would not.

7. It should come as no surprise that the Sox quickly acted on the opportunity to honor a longtime franchise great.

The White Sox emphasis on loyalty over anything is grating at times, but this isn't one of them.

8. Fringy Double-A outfield prospect Jacob May hit for cycle Tuesday night. Despite having 31 stolen bases, the feat included May's first triple of the season, as well as his second home run in 71 games. May's a 23-year-old scrapping out a league-average line in Birmingham, without much power and likely lacking the ability to be above-average in center, so he's not exciting, but it's nice to see him back from a harrowing collision with Tim Anderson that placed him on the disabled list for well over a month.

9. Staff ace John Danks starts Wednesday night against Andrew Heaney in a battle of lefties. Heaney doesn't throw that hard or rack up strikeouts, but has excellent control, and is a promising prospect. They aren't a good comp for one another, but hopefully he gets spooked enough by Danks being a glimpse of his own future to have a bad outing. Danks has a 3.60 ERA over his last seven starts, in which time he's only been torched twice. Just twice!

10. With the Blue Jays killing everything in sight, the Angels are now the second Wild Card team. After taking the last two games off them, the Sox are only 5.5 games back with six teams in the w--WHAT AM I DOING? WHAT AM I DOING?!?!