Successful rebuilds will see top prospects pan out as advertised, they’ll endure ones who don’t and they’ll be blessed by the occasionally unexpected.
The White Sox’ current roster is filled with players trying to carve out careers who are or were considered long shots to be integral parts of the Sox if and when they get good.
Potential surprises? General manager Rick Hahn will roll out a welcome mat to any and all.
“Absolutely,” Hahn said. “The baseball gods can be cruel. Not everyone’s going to hit their potential. Some guys are going to get hurt; unexpected things are going to happen. There actually is a positive corollary to that in that some people are going to surprise us.”
While top outfield prospects Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert and Micker Adolfo are being groomed in the minor leagues, Adam Engel and Daniel Palka are playing every day, struggling with some elements of their games yet flashing enough ability to keep them there until better options push them aside.
While right-hander Michael Kopech works on his command at Class AAA Charlotte, a pitcher such as Dylan Covey, a 2016 Rule 5 draft pick who took his lumps (0-7, 7.71 ERA) in the majors last season, is more than holding down his spot on the roster.
This is their time to shine.
“We’re a team obviously in transition that is providing opportunities for a lot of young players,” Hahn said. “Regardless of their pedigree or how we acquired the player, whether it’s off waivers or through the Rule 5 or a major trade involving a former star, we have no biases as far as who winds up being the 25 guys that help us win a championship. So if one of these guys is seizing this opportunity and wants to etch his name in stone going forward, that’s fantastic.”
After yet another strong start Wednesday — Covey pitched seven-plus innings of two-run ball in the White Sox’ 3-2 victory against the Indians — he seems much further away from going back to Charlotte than struggling right-hander Lucas Giolito, the top name prospect among the three acquired from the Nationals in the Adam Eaton trade.
Covey (3-1, 2.29 ERA in six starts) gave up 10 hits, all singles, but he took a 3-0 lead into the eighth inning, when his streak of 18 innings without an earned run was snapped. Two runs were charged after Francisco Lindor and Michael Brantley started it with singles and scored with lefty Jace Fry pitching. With runners on second and third and one out, though, Fry struck out Melky Cabrera and Jason Kipnis to keep the Sox in front at 3-2.
Joakim Soria pitched the ninth for his 10th save, getting Brantley to hit into a game-ending double play with the tying and go-ahead runs on base.
Covey was coming off six scoreless innings in a 1-0 victory over the Red Sox and Chris Sale in his last start Friday at Fenway Park. The difference between this season and last is remarkable.
“I’m just super-comfortable,’’ said Covey, who threw 87 pitches, 60 for strikes. “With my mechanics, with my pitches. I’m throwing off-speeds for strikes, I’m throwing my curveball for strikes. It’s just all about comfort for me right now.”
Righty Trevor Bauer struck out 12 Sox in 7 2/3 innings, joining Corey Kluber and Bob Feller as the only Indians to strike out 10 or more in four consecutive games. He allowed an RBI triple by Charlie Tilson, who would score on Trayce Thompson’s suicide-squeeze bunt to make it 2-0 in the fifth. Jose Abreu doubled and scored on Kevan Smith’s single in the sixth.
Covey’s secondary pitches weren’t as sharp as they were against Boston, but he continued to work with a 95 mph sinking, running fastball that’s a couple mph faster than last year. He struck out five, walked none and watched Abreu finish two double plays with throws to second and third base.
“He’s throwing strikes, and his action, his natural action on his pitches, is allowing him to have the success he’s having,’’ manager Rick Renteria said.