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Aside from Dylan Cease starting one of Tuesday’s doubleheader games, the White Sox left their pitching plans for the upcoming five-game, four-day series in Kansas City to be announced.
The White Sox came through on their promise, at least for tonight. They announced that Johnny Cueto is on the 26-man roster and scheduled to start at Kauffman Stadium at 7:10 p.m. CT. He’ll be facing a Royals team that just fired its hitting coach.
In order to make room, they optioned Danny Mendick to Charlotte.
Cueto signed a minor-league deal that gave him a $4.2 million salary prorated on days spent in the big leagues, with the ability to opt out by Sunday if the Sox weren’t keen on giving him an opportunity on the 26-man roster. That puts him on track for a $3.4 million or so the rest of the way.
Cueto last pitched in the majors for the Giants in 2021, for whom he went 7-7 with a 4.08 ERA over 114⅔ innings. He missed time in April due to a lat strain, and most of the last month with an elbow strain. He did return for a brief outing at the end of the season, but he was left off the Giants’ postseason roster. That’s all why he was available for a minor-league in the run-up before Opening Day.
Cueto tuned up with four starts for Charlotte. He allowed nine runs on 15 hits and four walks over 15⅔ innings, striking out 17 batters. I saw him make his organizational debut for the Knights in Nashville, and I’d hoped that he had more to show than 89-91 with misses over the middle of the plate. In the three starts since, he’s sat 91-92 with better location on his secondary pitches, and all with the pitch clock bearing down on him. The idea is that without 14- and 18-second constraints, he’ll have his full array of delays to throw off the timing of the hitters.
He’ll probably need a few starts for everybody to better understand what he has left, but the recent improvements of Dallas Keuchel and Vince Velasquez (Yankees start notwithstanding) make a back-of-the-rotation fixture a little less pressing than it was at the time the Sox signed Cueto. Right now, they just need somebody to pick up a start and allow everybody else to throw on normal rest, and then the return of Lucas Giolito from the COVID-19 list will further inform later plans.