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White Sox’ postseason pitching picture full of question marks

With Carlos Rodon’s status in doubt and Dylan Cease nursing a bruise on his pitching arm, Michael Kopech could provide a needed lift in a variety of roles.

Michael Kopech of the White Sox throws in the fifth inning against the Royals at Kauffman Stadium on September 04, 2021 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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At 127‰ innings, it’s apparent Carlos Rodon’s workload has almost reached its limit.

The White Sox are hoping the All-Star left-hander has a few more innings left in his 2021 tank.

Rodon pitched 7‰ innings in 2020 (plus one short outing in the postseason) after logging only 37⅓ innings in 2019. He would take a sparkling 12-5 record and 2.37 ERA into his planned last regular-season start Wednesday, but he lasted only three innings in his last outing, and the last four-seam fastball he threw was a fraction under 90 mph.

Manager Tony La Russa said Rodon would throw a bullpen session Sunday as a precursor to Wednesday.

“Tomorrow is an important day . . . so hope it goes well; we’ll see,” La Russa said Saturday.

With right-handers Lance Lynn and Lucas Giolito and a healthy Rodon, the Sox have envisioned an All-Star-quality starting trio for the first three games of their American League Division Series. But now the postseason rotation picture is a bit blurry.

When Lynn showed discomfort somewhere in his lower half warming up for the fifth inning, a visit from trainer James Kruk only added to the anxiety surrounding the Sox’ rotation. Lynn stayed in the game and threw 105 pitches but allowed six runs in six innings.

Dylan Cease (13-7, 3.95 ERA, 221 strikeouts) could take one of those starts, as long as he recovers from the bruised right triceps suffered when he was hit by a batted ball Friday. Cease hopes to make one more regular-season start.

“We’ll have to wait till [Sunday] to see how much of that soreness we can get out of there,” La Russa said. “It’s just a bruise right now.”

Kopech’s role

The Sox see Michael Kopech filling multiple roles in the postseason, including short late-inning stints or as a multi-inning weapon earlier in the game. The plan is to stretch him out in the last week of the season to enable him to pitch as many as three innings in the postseason.

“Hopefully, we have a pitcher for every day,” La Russa said when asked if Kopech could be used as a starter in the postseason.

“Sometimes circumstances change, and if you have a bullpen game, you try to come up with an order that gives you the best chance to win. Kopech fits any spot.”

Should Rodon be limited to a short start of, say, three innings, Kopech could be used as a bridge to the late innings, general manager Rick Hahn said.

Goodwin, Engel ailing

Brian Goodwin is getting treated for back tightness, and Adam Engel (right leg) missed a second straight game. A three-man bench complicates La Russa’s plan to spread out off days for his other outfielders. Righty Evan Marshall might come off the injured list next week to test his elbow.

Kenny and Rick

Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf on the working dynamic between vice president Ken Williams and Hahn, who have worked side by side since Hahn was named assistant GM in 2002:

“They each have different skills,” Reinsdorf said Thursday. “Kenny is the ultimate talent evaluator. Great idea guy. Rick is a great implementer. He’s also a good judge of talent. He handles the media. He handles the agents, and that enables Kenny to focus on what he does best, which is talent evaluation and watching ballgames.”

When Williams was promoted from general manager in 2012, Hahn was promoted to the GM chair.

Scoring change

A scoring change from Thursday gave Jose Abreu a hit and third baseman Jose Ramirez an error. Ramirez fielded Abreu’s sharply hit ground ball and did not drop it but could not locate the ball and didn’t get a throw off.