Pitcher injuries aside, White Sox’s first week a normal one

The first week of the White Sox 2020 campaign included slow starts from free-agent acquisitions, questionable Rick Renteria lineups exacerbated by service-time manipulation and an Eloy Jiménez outfield mishap, and short outings from starters, all culminating in a 2-4 start against the Twins and Indians.

If it weren’t for the lack of fans, one would hard-pressed to tell a pandemic-altered season from 2019, or many others from the last decade.

The only thing that’s markedly different is the shrinking pile of available pitchers. Granted, it’s not like arm injuries are a foreign concept around these parts, but the rate of them jumps out. The White Sox came into training camp at Guaranteed Rate Field with nine guys who could’ve been members of the rotation by the second half of August. After one week, the White Sox need all the starters they have.

Michael Kopech of course opted out early after training resumed, and while the latest development (his filing for divorce) paints a fuller picture for the vague personal matters the Sox cited for his absence, the original rationale would’ve held up just fine. His camp said he wasn’t confident about returning from Tommy John surgery with such an abbreviated ramp-up period and role situation, and subsequent pitcher injuries have validated that concern.

The Sox could originally withstand Kopech’s departure, but suddenly they’re stretched thin. Reynaldo López went on the injured list with a sore shoulder, and Jimmy Lambert followed him to the shelf on Wednesday with a right forearm strain. Those are three words no pitcher wants to hear, and especially no pitcher who has undergone Tommy John surgery once before. Lambert’s velocity dipped from 93.8 mph in his first outing to 91.1 mph in his second.

The rotation picture has severely shifted for the worse:

Lucas GiolitoLucas Giolito
Dallas KeuchelDallas Keuchel
Reynaldo LópezDylan Cease
Dylan CeaseCarlos Rodón
Carlos RodónGio González
Gio GonzálezRoss Detwiler
Michael KopechDane Dunning
Jimmy Lambert
Dane Dunning

I slipped Detwiler ahead of Dunning because 1) Old Hoss Detwiler has retired all 15 batters he’s faced so far this season, and 2) the recurrence of arm issues for Lambert might give the White Sox pause about shoving Dunning into a situation simply because he’s the most promising pitcher remaining. I don’t think Lambert was rushed in terms of the calendar — 13 months is usually fine for a return to competitive pitching, and MLB games are the only competitive pitching available — but the pitcher injuries around the league suggest that caution should be exercised whenever it can. There probably isn’t an appreciable difference between Detwiler and Dunning on the standings at this point, so let him ramp up in peace.

Speaking of pitching, Nate Pearson threw five shutout innings in his highly anticipated debut for the Blue Jays on Wednesday. That’s news on its own, but it’s more relevant since his promotion marked the end of the time required to steal a year of service time from a top prospect. The White Sox should consider themselves free to call up Nick Madrigal at any time now, and a fresh series in Kansas City after an off day makes a lot of sense, unless the White Sox would rather wait another week for a homestand, which would spare him unnecessary travel.

Madrigal might not be ready to frustrate pitchers with his concentration on contact, but he could do what Leury García’s doing at the plate (hitting choppers and weak flies against right-handed pitching), while actually stopping grounders that require a dive at second base.

* * * * * * * * *

The White Sox’s reintroduction to a regular-season schedule is going far smoother than those of other teams, especially those in the East. The Marlins’ season is on pause right now after reporting more than a dozen COVID-19 cases, and their choice to play while contaminated put a more complicated strain on the Philadelphia Phillies.

As Phillies beat writer Matt Gelb captured it:

Regarding the last item about games possibly being seven innings, The Athletic’s Britt Ghiroli said the Major League Baseball Players Association is requesting shortened doubleheaders — either nine innings and seven innings, or two seven-inning games. The latter is a regular feature on minor-league schedules, and I’m surprised it didn’t make the jump to the majors this season along with the extra-innings rule placing a runner on second, given that both are safeguards against an excessive amount of innings.

Lambert’s second appearance came in the Tuesday doubleheader in Cleveland as one of 11 pitchers used by the White Sox that day. It’s too far to call it the reason Lambert got hurt, but it’s still probably a good idea to limit how hard pitchers have to work this season. Changing rules on the fly doesn’t do much for competitive integrity, but prioritizing player health makes it easier to return to previous standards whenever a normal-looking season is possible to execute.

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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Thru 6 games and 21 plate appearances, Leury is hitting a robust .105/.190/.263 against righties with questionable 2nd base defense. They need Madrigal up now.


Two members of the Phillies tested positive for Covid now. They needed Madrigal up now so he gets reps just in case the season gets shutdown. If we are supposed to contend next year we Madrigal to be ready to go.

Patrick Nolan


You conveniently leave off the free agent signing who had 2400.00% of his OPS+ in the year after joining the White Sox. Good enough for a coffee mug, but not for your chart, huh? Seriously though, since this doesn’t show all free agents, is James McCann the only significant position player signing who had a positive gain?

Patrick Nolan

It may appear convenient, but I simply forgot him. I looked at a ranking of the top free agent contracts and a combination of his dollar value being too small and my memory being too weak caused him to be left out.


Sorry, I combined two things here. The 2400.00% gain was Dan Johnson (from 11 OPS+ in 2011 with TB to 264 OPS+ in 2012 with White Sox). He certainly shouldn’t be on the chart, though it would look really fun if included. That chart is still plenty useful and damning without McCann, so thank you for putting it together. McCann is the definition of an outlier.


That is absolutely bananas.


Silly. Yasmani and EE on the list after six games? Plot the OPS+ of Harper and Machado from last year, too.


Plotting this after 6 games is pretty silly.

Currently Adam Engel leads the Sox with a robust 1.227 Ops. I don’t see anyone anointing him as the next batting champion.


would be interesting to see the large free-agent signings-next year graph for all teams, perhaps adjusted for the teams’ previous year’s records. Pressure to live up to huge contract and/or be the new team’s savior might be a thing.


I really want to see what Dunning can do as a spot starter. The command might not be back to where it was pre-TJS but from what he showed in the intra-squad games, it’s a heck of a lot better than most of the guys the Sox are trotting out there.