Pitchers can audition for spots in White Sox’ 2024 rotation in season’s final two months

After Dylan Cease and Michael Kopech, the rest of the starting rotation is a mystery.

SHARE Pitchers can audition for spots in White Sox’ 2024 rotation in season’s final two months
White Sox starting pitcher Michael Kopech, right, reacts as Guardians left fielder Steven Kwan walks to first base on Sunday.

White Sox starting pitcher Michael Kopech, right, reacts as Guardians left fielder Steven Kwan walks to first base on Sunday.

Nam Y. Huh/AP

If the White Sox have a notion to return to relevancy next year, who’ll pitch in their rotation?

“I’m sure everyone would like to know what that looks like,” pitching coach Ethan Katz said. “We’ll talk a lot about different scenarios for next year. But we’ve still got two more months this year. Guys have opportunities to really help themselves for next year, and we’ll see where it goes.”

Dylan Cease and Michael Kopech, who picked up his 10th loss Sunday as the Sox fell 5-0 to the Guardians, have shown flashes of their top-level talent but also carry ERAs over 4.00. And after those two, projecting Sox starters for 2024 really gets tricky.

Mike Clevinger is a pending free agent with a 2024 mutual option, which are rarely exercised. The other two rotation spots are being figured out on the fly for the rest of this season, let alone next.

With five scoreless innings Friday to lower his ERA to 3.50 in 36 innings, right-hander Touki Toussaint, 27, will at least get a prolonged audition. Toussaint was claimed off waivers last month and is in his fifth major-league organization, but he’s also a 2014 first-round pick and a former top-100 prospect the Sox had hoped to sign as a non-roster invite this winter.

To tackle careerlong struggles to repeat his delivery, Toussaint has embraced the core velocity belt drills that helped Cease break out and led Carlos Rodon and will lead Lucas Giolito to big paydays elsewhere.

“I pound it every day,” Toussaint said. “Built that into my routine, whether it’s in the weight room or outside or playing catch.”

Reliever Garrett Crochet also raised his hand for future consideration Saturday and made it clear he’s willing to return to the minors for further development.

“The stuff is there,” Katz said. “The ability to get guys out in the big leagues is there. But there’s still some stuff we need to do to make sure he’s able to go five, six, seven innings, whatever the case may be starting, and help develop him that way.”

But even with improved strike-throwing, Crochet moving to a starter workload in 2024 after mostly spending the last two seasons rehabbing injuries reads as overly ambitious. In a world in which Kopech’s workload is closely monitored even after throwing nearly 120 innings last season, Katz floated long relief as another possible route for Crochet.

Long relief figures to be where the Sox draw from to fill their remaining rotation slot this year, with Jesse Scholtens or Tanner Banks — or some combination — handling the series opener Tuesday against the American League West-leading Rangers. And that reality is reflective of a grisly year for starting prospects in the Sox’ upper minors.

Davis Martin and prospect Sean Burke are sidelined by injuries at Triple-A Charlotte. At 20, Cristian Mena is precocious enough to be at Double-A Birmingham, but he and 2019 second-rounder Matthew Thompson have ERAs over 5.00 with the Barons.

Katz said he has been too involved with the churn in Chicago to review video of newly acquired prospects Nick Nastrini and Ky Bush. But given Bush’s rough debut Saturday with Birmingham (31/3 innings, 12 hits, seven earned runs, no strikeouts), they might need more seasoning before getting on Katz’s radar.

“It’s a great opportunity for the guys here,” Katz said. “It’s always, from a coaching standpoint, exciting to help these guys develop, teach them at this level and make every day count and hopefully build for next year and see what we really have.”

At this point, the question of what the Sox will have in the rotation next year might be better directed toward general manager Rick Hahn.

“We’ve got work to do in terms of continuing to execute deals like the ones we have,” Hahn said Friday. “Come August, September and certainly October, that’s the time to sort of reflect on the season and direction and what’s next.’’

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