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The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, which is why the long and winding road of Carlos Rodón ended Wednesday night with so much reward, relief and redemption.
Rodón, the Chicago White Sox’ No. 5 starting pitcher, who barely made the team this year after the team had all but given up on him, threw a no-hitter against Cleveland at White Sox Park. The Sox won 8-0.
It is history enough to throw a no-hitter, and it could’ve been even more incredible — a perfect game — but for a pitch in the ninth inning that hit the shoelace of Cleveland batter Roberto Perez. Baseball code would say that Perez should’ve gotten out of the way and not let that pitch simply hit him on the foot. You’re not supposed to let something cheap spoil something special. But let’s save that argument for a little bit.
Rodón’s no-hitter was perfect enough.
“Any interview with you guys, it’s like, `Oh, there’s been some ups and downs,’’’ Rodón told reporters afterward. “It just feels good to finally sit here and tell you, `I dominated today, and it felt good.’
“I’ve never really done that. I’ve never done it on this level at least. It feels good to say, `I did it.’ ‘’
The White Sox picked him No. 3 in the first round of the 2014 draft. He was supposed to be a superstar, and in the years since, his body has not cooperated. His mind and spirit always have.
We need a story like Rodón’s right now, a celebration of perseverance. A human story. Sports has become about social justice, protesting flags and protesting the protesters. Our fun and games have become far too heavy, about Black Lives Matter and Georgia voting rights and police shootings and moving All-Star Games and paying college players and kneeling for the flag.
Rodón reminds us of why we fell in love with sports in the first place, a celebration of human spirit.
His career has been entirely about disappointment and rehabilitation. He had shoulder surgery in 2017, was on the 60-day disabled list, had major Tommy John surgery on his arm in 2019. The White Sox designated him for assignment after last year, meaning they were letting him go. They were giving up.
At the last minute, they gave him another chance to try out for the last spot in the rotation. He made it, of course. He pitched one game this season and did well. His second start was supposed to be earlier this week, but he wasn’t feeling well. And Sox fans could feel it happening: Here we go again with Rodón.
There are few things sadder than an athlete who cannot rely on his body. An athlete’s body can do special things, which is why Rodón was such an amazing prospect in the first place. After constant rehab, he admitted that he had his doubts, of course. But not only did he recover, he also made himself better.
Rodón finally got his second start Wednesday, and the lefty power-pitcher was clearly dominant throughout. Cleveland could not catch up to his fastball all night.
In the 9th inning, Cleveland’s Josh Naylor nearly beat out an infield hit, but first baseman Jose Abreu slid feet-first to the base to beat Naylor. Rodón then hit Perez in the foot with a slider.
Perez didn’t move his foot. Rodón later said that it’s not Perez’ job to let him get a perfect game.
Through all the shoulder surgeries and rehab, Rodón not only survived, but also made himself better. On his 110th pitch of the night, when he should have been tiring, his fastball hit 98.8 mph. Before this season, he hadn’t thrown a pitch that fast since 2017.
And Rodón wasn’t the only example of human spirit for the Sox Wednesday. Yermin Mercedes, who hit a homer, is basically getting his first shot at the majors in 11 years. He’s hitting over .500.
“Baseball is pretty humbling,’’ he said. “It’s that quick. It’ll eat you up, spit you out. And sometimes it’ll reward you.’’
Sox manager Tony La Russa said there’s an old saying that there’s no justice in baseball. Rodón found some.