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Dylan Covey was supposed to enter tonight with a 6-29 record and 6.54 ERA over his three-year MLB career. Instead, that’s the line he’ll carry into his entire offseason. The White Sox scratched him from his start tonight due to a shoulder issue, and he’s likely out for the rest of the year.
A couple days ago, James Fegan tried to dig into how and why Covey has been allowed to be that amount of bad. Consecutive paragraphs tackle the nobility of the pursuit of process over results …
It’s not as if the Sox are blind to Covey’s struggles, or making long-term plans to keep shoving a square peg into a round rotation slot. It’s just their alternatives are Detwiler and Santiago, who are headed back to free agency at the end of the month. Bañuelos has fared similarly to Covey, but with more lingering shoulder trouble. Out of all them, Covey is most likely to help the 2020 club. Just in a different role.
… and why the Sox are never going to get results (Rick Renteria Honest Alert emphasis mine):
“We’re still in that journey in which we’re trying to figure out, to be quite honest, what role he’s going to fit in, in terms of whether he’s going to be a starter or a reliever,” manager Rick Renteria said pregame. “There’s a lot of guys that end up ultimately relieving and are starting for an extended period of time to see if we can develop the repertoire of pitches that they need in able to be more effective out of the ‘pen.”
If Renteria uses “to be honest” before attempting to explain something he’d rather avoid, then I’m guessing that’s an attempt to talk around the White Sox front office failing to provide him anybody measurably better. And that’s my attempt to understand why Renteria presents himself as somebody who isn’t sure Covey can’t start.
Three years into his MLB career — or two years, if you’re willing to grant everybody a pass for typical success and management of a Rule 5 pick — the Covey experience only has two modes:
- Starting when he shouldn’t.
- Getting injured.
Often times the second part is the only thing that stops the first part, which is the case now. The Sox have already their spare starters in other roles recently — Ross Detwiler for the scratched Lucas Giolito on Monday, Hector Santiago for 90 pitches in relief of an ineffective Iván Nova on Sunday — so Renteria is going to use Nova for an inning on his bullpen day.
This is the second time during the rebuild where the Sox have plum run out of starters in September. Two years ago, they had to call Chris Volstad away from his brewery to start in September because Carlos Rodon had shoulder issues after they cut Derek Holland. Maybe the Sox could call up Kyle Kubat, but if Kubat were worthy of a look at this time, he’d be getting the starts over Covey (he struggled with Charlotte 30 innings past his previous career-high workload).
The Sox can’t even make lemonade out of Nova’s one-inning appearance, because with Detwiler and Santiago used up, they won’t be able to fashion a staff emergency into an excuse to deploy an opener for the first time.
The Covey Problem is really a White Sox Problem, but Covey just happens to be the face of it. In a healthier organization, everybody would already have an idea whether Covey is better as a middle reliever, an opener, a second pitcher, or not an MLB pitcher at all. The Sox, meanwhile, not only keep asking the same single question Covey answered years ago, but are thrown into a short-term crisis when he can’t answer the bell.
Covey’s staggering lack of success is one of the byproducts of an organization that hasn’t pursued solutions at any level with any kind of urgency. I’ve said before that the Sox need to cut Covey loose if only to avoid the temptation of putting him in a position to fail. Now, I’m thinking that Covey’s presence in the organization can help us tell whether the White Sox are any better at solving problems. If Covey’s around and the Sox haven’t used him, things are going well. If he’s around and the Sox are relying on him, something’s gone wrong. If he’s not around, it’s likely that somebody else will step into the role as Problem Pitcher, and we won’t be able to recognize the emergency as quickly.