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Here’s to good health: Depth is White Sox’ top concern

The White Sox aren’t expected to add significant pieces before Opening Day, so avoiding injuries might be a matter of survival.

“We know we have the talent to win the championship with this group, so the wish list would be being blessed with good health,” White Sox GM Rick Hahn said. “Can’t always promise that, unfortunately. So depth may be tested from here to there.”
“We know we have the talent to win the championship with this group, so the wish list would be being blessed with good health,” White Sox GM Rick Hahn said. “Can’t always promise that, unfortunately. So depth may be tested from here to there.”
David Banks/AP

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The White Sox’ starting lineup looks dangerous.

The rotation has three top-seven Cy Young vote-getters at the top.

The bullpen appears to be a strong suit.

So what makes general manager Rick Hahn nervous?

Depth.

“We know we have the talent to win the championship with this group, so the wish list would be being blessed with good health,” Hahn said Wednesday, the first day of spring training. “Can’t always promise that, unfortunately. So depth may be tested from here to there.”

The Sox already are looking at top prospect Andrew Vaughn, who hasn’t played a game above Class A, as their designated hitter. An injury to catcher Yasmani Grandal would leave them with minor-league free agent Jonathan Lucroy or Zack Collins, Seby Zavala and Yermin Mercedes needing to step up. Significant question marks surround all four.

And pitching is where Hahn’s greatest depth concern lies. As they say, you never have enough, and he opened his first Zoom call of camp saying left-hander Jace Fry, who had a microdiscectomy procedure on his back, will probably be out till May.

After Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel and Lance Lynn, much is left to be proved by Dylan Cease, Carlos Rodon and Reynaldo Lopez.

But don’t look for the Sox, who sit in the middle of the pack of baseball’s payrolls in the $130 million range, to add any significant pieces between now and Opening Day (April 1).

“The expectation is that any additions would be more of the non-roster-invite variety, if at all,” Hahn said.

Roles for Kopech, Crochet

Right-hander Michael Kopech and left-hander Garrett Crochet are viewed as prized prospects and long-term starters, but Crochet will be used as a reliever this season, and Hahn suggested Kopech’s 2021 role is yet to be defined.

“The goals with him are continuing him on that path to being a premium starter and at the same time, keeping him strong and fresh and contributing over the course of the entire season,” Hahn said.

Kopech pitched in four games in 2018 but hasn’t pitched since because he had Tommy John surgery after that season and opted out in 2020. He’ll likely begin the season facing minor-leaguers, and if he doesn’t crack the rotation, he could be used in a variety of ways.

“Look at the Dodgers this past year,” Hahn said. “They were without [Julio] Urias for a portion of the season. He’s had his health issues along the way, but he’s still viewed by them or was viewed by them as a premium starter. However I think he pitched the last three innings of their clinching World Series game.

‘‘I don’t view the entire situation as being that dissimilar from that. You have a long-term goal in mind, and you have short-term things you’re trying to accomplish, and you want to balance those two.”

This and that

Second baseman Nick Madrigal, who had offseason shoulder surgery, is one week from fully completing his rehab and should be playing Cactus League games by early March.

† Left-hander Aaron Bummer was with his wife for the birth of the couple’s daughter and not in camp.

† Hahn dismissed any speculation that defensively challenged left fielder Eloy Jimenez might be looked at as the designated hitter.