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White Sox prospect Dylan Cease set for first spring start

Dylan Cease throws a baseball at Camelback Ranch, the Spring Training home of the Chicago White Sox, in Glendale, AZ. 02-13-2019. John Antonoff/For the Sun-Times

MESA, Ariz. — Right-handers Michael Kopech and Dylan Cease are the White Sox’ top pitching prospects.

But Kopech is out this season after having Tommy John surgery in September, and Cease, who had the same surgery in high school, is being brought along at a slower pace than most because the Sox hope to keep him strong all season. Cease’s 124 innings last season were a career high.

‘‘We are going to expand his innings usage this year,’’ manager Rick Renteria said.

Cease is scheduled to make his first spring appearance in a split-squad start Tuesday against the Indians and will start again five days later, Renteria said.

‘‘Hopefully we are doing it the right way, so we get as much mound time for him [as we can] this coming season,’’ Renteria said.

‘Magic’ man

Renteria referred to 36-year-old right-hander Ervin Santana as ‘‘Magic,’’ a nickname Santana adopted because he is a fan of Lakers great Earvin Johnson.

Of more significance, Renteria said he likes what he has seen of Santana, who signed a minor-league deal at the beginning of spring training. And Renteria thinks Santana, who missed most of last season with an injury to the middle finger on his pitching hand, can be ready by Opening Day.

‘‘This kid is very good,’’ said Renteria, who likes what he has seen of Santana’s slider. ‘‘He’s a professional. He really understands what he is doing, but we want to make sure everything is solid.’’

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Santana was an American League All-Star in 2017, when he went 16-8 with a 3.28 ERA for the Twins.

He threw his second simulated game Sunday, will throw on the Sox’ day off Wednesday and should be penciled in for a game before too long.

Palka still a few days away

Outfielder Daniel Palka (hamstring) isn’t expected to play until at least Thursday, a much longer absence than expected. Palka left the Sox’ game Feb. 24 against the Padres with what he described at the time as a cramp caused by dehydration.

Palka has been running on a treadmill, jogging and hitting, ‘‘but we don’t want explosive mode until we’re really sure he’s good,’’ Renteria said. ‘‘We’re going to take it slow, gradually build him up.’’

Palka led the Sox with 27 home runs last season, tying him for the major-league lead among rookies.

So far, so good

Yoan Moncada hasn’t had much action at third base, his new position after playing second last season, but he has handled everything hit his way.

Yolmer Sanchez, who is switching positions with Moncada, said he has no doubt Moncada will adapt.

‘‘You don’t have to cover too much ground at third, but you have to be ready,’’ Sanchez said. ‘‘I’ve seen this guy play a lot at second, and I think he’s going to be good. He has a lot of natural talent.’’

This and that

Right-hander Ian Hamilton is scheduled to pitch Thursday against the Brewers. His start to the spring has been slowed by illness and an auto accident that left him feeling stiff.

• Renteria said he’ll give utility infielder Jose Rondon a few innings in the outfield, where he played some in winter ball to make himself even more versatile.