Searching for answers from White Sox’ pitching staff
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GLENDALE, Ariz. — There are many more question marks than absolutes about the White Sox’ pitching staff after the team’s 62-100 season.
Will left-hander Carlos Rodon, a second offseason removed from surgery, sustain his dominant stuff from start to finish and perform like the pitcher the Sox thought he’d be when they drafted him No. 3 overall in 2014?
Will right-hander Reynaldo Lopez put down stakes as a No. 3-caliber starter or fall back after a promising first full season?
Will right-hander Lucas Giolito, a former first-round draft pick who had a 6.13 ERA and an American League-leading 90 walks and 118 earned runs allowed last season, figure out how to throw strikes consistently?
Who among the cadre of young bullpen arms — behind the proven trio of Alex Colome, Kelvin Herrera and Nate Jones — will carve a niche as important components for 2020?
Pitchers and catchers have their first official workout Wednesday at Camelback Ranch.
It shapes up as Rodon, followed by Lopez, right-hander Ivan Nova, Giolito and left-hander Manny Banuelos. Nova replaces 2018 Opening Day starter James Shields, who led the team in starts (33) and innings pitched (204).
Nova, 32, was 9-9 with a 4.19 ERA in 161 innings last season with the Pirates and will cost $9.1 million for one year. Banuelos, 27, spent all of last season with the Dodgers’ Class AAA affiliate. If Banuelos doesn’t cut it, there’s always right-hander Dylan Covey. And prospect Dylan Cease isn’t terribly far away.
Rodon and Lopez were excellent for extended stretches last season, but Rodon faded in September.
Colome and Herrera have experience as closers, but the Sox are talking more about Colome, who cost them a good-hitting catcher in Omar Narvaez in a trade with the Mariners. Colome had 37 and 46 saves for the Rays in 2016 and 2017. He has a combined 2.78 ERA and has averaged 9.5 strikeouts and 2.8 walks per nine innings in his last three seasons.
Herrera, who was signed as a free agent for two years at $18 million, might not be ready Opening Day as he recovers from a torn Lisfranc ligament in his left foot suffered in late August. But he is a proven commodity who figures to work as a late-inning setup man.
‘‘We acquired two quality, real good-looking pitchers,’’ pitching coach Don Cooper said. ‘‘If they’re throwing the same way they were when we saw them, we’ve taken care of two innings and making the game shorter.’’
The additions of Colome and Herrera gave manager Rick Renteria cause to claim an 80-victory season is within reach.
The young ones
What is sorted out among right-handers Ian Hamilton, Ryan Burr and Juan Minaya and left-handers Jace Fry, Caleb Frare and Aaron Bummer as the season unfolds will say much about the Sox’ competitiveness in 2019 and beyond. Fry looks like a keeper — he should be the top lefty in the pen — and the others have shown enough to have something to build on.
Waiting in the wings
Cease, the minor-league pitcher of the year, won’t make the team out of spring training but appears to be a sure bet to join it this season, perhaps in August. Cease and right-hander Michael Kopech (out for 2019 after Tommy John surgery) bring high hopes for 2020 as top-of-the-rotation talents.
Right-hander Dane Dunning, who was acquired with Lopez and Giolito from the Nationals in the Adam Eaton trade, is another future rotation piece who likely will get a call-up. And right-hander Zack Burdi, a first-round pick in 2016, is due back from Tommy John surgery and will be watched closely.