Following up: Three months in, White Sox rotation remains in crisis

Last month, the White Sox found themselves down two rotation spots thanks to Carlos Rodón’s elbow and Manny Bañuelos’ shoulder. With guys like Spencer Adams and Jordan Stephens injured and everybody else underwhelming, I suggested calling up Dylan Cease as a proactive measure, even if it wasn’t the perfect timing by Rick Hahn’s standards.

A month later, the situation remains largely unchanged, and whatever is different doesn’t alter the result. Rodón’s out for the year, Bañuelos reinjured his shoulder, Adams is still hurt, Stephens is technically healthy, but the Sox lost him to waivers, and Cease is still not the guy likely to be called up. The only material difference is that Cease has actually struggled as of late. He’s allowed 17 runs over 16⅓ innings over his last four starts, with just 13 strikeouts to 11 walks. If the White Sox weren’t going to promote him while he pitched well out of an abundance of caution, they’re not going to invite scrutiny by promoting him amid problems.

But with Odrisamer Despaigne blowing an early 4-0 lead and getting only two swinging strikes out of 68 pitches on Saturday, the White Sox are back to plumbing the depth of somebodies in their system.

Or at least I assume so. Rick Renteria didn’t up and say Despaigne’s days were numbered. In fact, if you only read his quote at face value, you might assume Despaigne is still penciled in:

“As far as we are concerned, Despaigne is here until he’s not,” Renteria said. “He will continue to get his opportunities until we all find either a different option, or we decide we need an option. Right now, we’ll still send him out here and try to allow him to do his job.”

But it’s a bit different when you see him say it …

… and I’ll also offer the standard reminder that White Sox managers typically let you read the writing on the wall yourself in such situations. Robin Ventura offered a similar-sounding “defense” of John Danks a few days before they cut him in 2016, and Renteria avoided dropping a bomb on Miguel Gonzalez back in April 2018 when Gonzalez’s shoulder gave him no chance.

The White Sox probably waiting to see how Dylan Covey fares throwing on Sunday before announcing any greater roster changes. That said, even if Covey is back to 100 percent and a decent bet to provide four innings, that only addresses one spot. The fifth-starter job is still wide open, and the options are even less inspiring than before.

The front-runner is likely Hector Santiago, whom the Sox re-acquired last week Friday after the Mets let him go earlier. Sure, it speaks volumes that the Mets couldn’t use him, but these straits are dire.

If it’s not Santiago — and he might need to be stretched out after spending his post-callup Mets career in relief — and if Cease remains off the table, then the starter pool looks like:

  • Justin Nicolino, who is probably Despaigne.
  • Ross Detwiler, who is probably Despaigne.
  • Kyle Kubat, who survived his Triple-A debut and plies his low-strikeout trade from the left side.

Who do you like? That’s a question that’s half-rhetorical, because I suppose strong feelings aren’t out of the question. My view is that the only correct answer is giving the opener an honest shot, which a guy like Santiago can back up if he’s anything like his Sox self.

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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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Brett R. Bobysud

Given that Herrera seems to be back in form, and with the hope that Fry can get somewhat close to his form from 2018, I would say the opener is the best way to go until they’re finally ready to call Cease up.

However, since apparently Cooper isn’t a fan of an opener, I really can’t see it happening.

Trooper Galactus

Letting Stephens get plucked away on waivers so they could keep Despaigne on the roster just strikes me as the kind of stupid move that comes back to bite you in the ass sooner rather than later. Sorry, I just don’t see any excuse for allowing that to happen.