White Sox

Sox have good rotation, but can they afford to lose a starter?

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Sox have good rotation, but can they afford to lose a starter?

Kenny Williams gets why there's some pessimism among the fanbase regarding the White Sox. The sting of 2011's "All In" season still lingers with Opening Day just days away.

But the White Sox GM is confident his starting rotation is going to be better than some people think. That's completely fair -- John Danks, Jake Peavy, Gavin Floyd, Chris Sale and Philip Humber comprise a pretty solid staff. While the Sox may not have the star power of Justin Verlander or the 1-2 punch of Ubaldo Jimenez and Justin Masterson, those five pitchers are good enough to compete for a division title.

That's if they can stay healthy. Few teams would be better off with a replacement to an injured starter without a little luck. For the White Sox, though, the prospect of losing one of Danks, Peavy, Floyd, Sale or Humber is worrying.

Gracious WSCR-670 AM host Wayne Randazzo asked me about the outlook for the 2012 starting rotation on his program Sunday, which brought this issue to the forefront: The White Sox don't have much pitching depth beyond their five starters.

Dylan Axelrod could be good for a few spot starts here and there, and most likely he'd ride the Carlos TorresLucas Harrell express from Charlotte to Chicago if necessary. He looked hittable this spring, allowing 29 hits and walking 13 in 19 23 Cactus League innings -- and while that's a small sample size, it came in one more innings than his small-sample success in the majors last year.

That's not to totally discount Axelrod, because he has had success with every level at which he's started since joining the White Sox. Whether he could sustain that success over an extended stay in the majors -- say, more than eight or so starts -- remains to be seen.

Beyond Axelrod, there aren't a ton of options. Zach Stewart may not be one for a long-term spot in the rotation, as he likely wouldn't be stretched out working as the team's long reliever. The same goes for Hector Santiago, but to a more extreme level in terms of being stretched out.

Nestor Molina has thrown a grand total of 22 innings above the Single-A level and will begin 2012 with Double-A Birmingham. It's probably best to see if he can get Triple-A hitters out before bringing him to the majors, so he may not be an option until late in the year.

Scott Olsen could be in the mix, but he's coming off shoulder issues and hasn't appeared in spring training -- probably not a good sign for the former Marlins and Nationals starter. Terry Doyle and Charlie Leesman aren't realistic options yet, either.

If the worst happens and a starter does go down with a long-term injury, the Sox best bet may be to plug Axelrod into the rotation and then work to acquire a replacement -- unless Axelrod looks extremely impressive.

The Sox can sustain a short-term injury to a starter, but a long-term one looks tricky as we draw closer to Opening Day.

Of course, if the rotation can stay generally healthy, it'll be a strength of the team. So the news isn't all doom and gloom here.

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

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USA TODAY

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

PHOENIX, Ariz. — One of the White Sox prized prospects will be on the shelf for a little while.

Outfielder Micker Adolfo has a sprained UCL in his right elbow and a strained flexor tendon that could require surgery. He could avoid surgery, though he could be sidelined for at least six weeks.

Though he hasn’t received the same high rankings and media attention as fellow outfield prospects Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert, Adolfo is considered a part of the White Sox promising future. He’s said to have the best outfield arm in the White Sox system.

Adolfo had a breakout season in 2017, slashing .264/.331/.453 with 16 homers and 68 RBIs in 112 games with Class A Kannapolis.

Adolfo, along with Jimenez and Robert, has been generating buzz at White Sox camp in Glendale, with a crowd forming whenever the trio takes batting practice. Earlier this week, the three described their conversation dreaming about playing together in the same outfield for a contending White Sox team in the future.

As Cactus League play begins, how many spots are actually up for grabs on the White Sox roster?

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AP

As Cactus League play begins, how many spots are actually up for grabs on the White Sox roster?

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Some teams have it easy, with their 25-man rosters seemingly locked into place before spring training games even start.

The White Sox actually have a lot more locked-down spots than you might think for a rebuilding team, but this spring remains pretty important for a few guys.

The starting rotation figures to be set, with James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Miguel Gonzalez and Carson Fulmer the starting five. Carlos Rodon, of course, owns one of those spots once he returns from injury. But the date of that return remains a mystery.

From this observer’s viewpoint, eight of the everyday nine position players seem to be figured out, too: Welington Castillo behind the plate, Jose Abreu at first base, Yoan Moncada at second base, Tim Anderson at shortstop, Yolmer Sanchez at third base, Nicky Delmonico in left field, Avisail Garcia in right field and Matt Davidson as the designated hitter. More on the omission of a starting center fielder in a bit.

Omar Narvaez would be a logical pick to back up Castillo at catcher, and Tyler Saladino is really the lone reserve infielder with big league experience, not to mention he’s a versatile player that can play anywhere on the infield.

Leury Garcia also figures to be a lock for this 25-man roster. But will he be the everyday center fielder, as he was for a spell last season? He played 51 games in center in 2017 but battled injuries throughout the year. I think Leury Garcia will end up the starting center fielder when the season begins because of his bat. His .270/.316/.423 slash line isn’t going to make anyone do cartwheels, but it’s better than the offensive struggles of Adam Engel, who started 91 games in center in 2017 and slashed .166/.235/.282. Engel would still be a solid inclusion on the bench because of his superb defense, but to create that big a hole in the everyday lineup is tough.

How could that position-player group change? Keep your eyes in center field, where there are a couple other guys who could force their way into a roster spot this spring: Charlie Tilson and Ryan Cordell. Tilson has had a tremendous amount of trouble staying on the field since coming over to the White Sox in a 2016 deadline deal, but that hasn’t dampened the White Sox hopes for him. And Cordell got name-dropped by general manager Rick Hahn during SoxFest, when the GM said he’s received multiple calls about Cordell since acquiring him last summer. Cordell put up good numbers at the Triple-A level prior to a significant injury last year.

But the main battles figure to be in the bullpen. At times this winter, as the White Sox kept adding players to that relief corps mix, that the whole thing seemed wide open. But when you think about it, maybe there are only one or two open spots.

You’d have to think these guys are pretty safe bets to make the team: Juan Minaya, Gregory Infante, Nate Jones, Joakim Soria and Luis Avilan. Though Hector Santiago was just recently acquired on a minor league deal, he’s really the only long man of the group, and he could sub in if there’s an injury to a starting pitcher. That leaves two spots between the group of Aaron Bummer, Danny Farquhar, Jace Fry, Jose Ruiz and Thyago Vieira — not to mention guys signed to minor league deals like Xavier Cedeno, Jeanmar Gomez and Bruce Rondon.

Bummer had a 4.50 ERA in 30 big league games last year. Farquhar had a 4.40 ERA in 15 games. Vieira has gotten attention as a flame-thrower, but he’s got just one big league game under his belt, something that might or might not matter to the rebuilding White Sox. Guys like Gomez, who has 40 career saves including 37 just two years ago, and Rondon, who had multiple shots at the Detroit Tigers’ closing job in the past, could vault themselves into the mix as potential midseason trade candidates.

Then there's the question of which of those guys will be Rick Renteria's closer. Minaya had closing duties after most of the bullpen was traded away last summer. He picked up nine saves and posted a 4.11 ERA in his final 17 appearances of the campaign. Look to Soria, though, a veteran with plenty of closing experience from his days with the Kansas City Royals. If he's given the opportunity to close and succeeds, he could fetch an intriguing return package in a potential deadline deal.

But now it's game time in Arizona.

“The fun part of playing the game of baseball is playing the game of baseball," Renteria said earlier this week. "We prepare. I think they all enjoy what they’re doing in terms of their preparation. They take it seriously, they focus. But ultimately like everything that we do in life, I guess it’s a test. And the games are a test for us on a daily basis. And how we are able to evaluate them and take advantage of the opportunities that we have to see them in a real game situation is certainly helpful for us.”