Ross Detwiler

Shoring up 2019 rotation won't be Rick Hahn's deadline goal, so maybe Ross Detwiler can help

Shoring up 2019 rotation won't be Rick Hahn's deadline goal, so maybe Ross Detwiler can help

Don’t go penciling Ross Detwiler into your projected White Sox rotation of the future. But if he can replicate what he did Friday night against the first-place Minnesota Twins, maybe he’ll help solve the South Siders’ starting-pitching problems here in 2019.

Outside of Lucas Giolito, who’s a near lock to make the American League All-Star team when the full roster is announced Sunday, the White Sox starting rotation has been a bit of a mess this season. Underperformance and injuries have stripped it beyond where anyone thought it would go before the season started.

Carlos Rodon had Tommy John surgery and is out for the year, Dylan Covey and Manny Banuelos have far more minor injuries and are currently on the injured list, Ervin Santana and Odrisamer Despaigne posted identical 9.45 ERAs in three starts apiece, and Detwiler pitched in independent ball earlier this year. And two guys that aren’t going anywhere, Reynaldo Lopez and Ivan Nova, have the two highest ERAs among baseball’s qualified starters.

The depth hasn’t just been tested. It’s long since surpassed.

And so Detwiler’s very fine outing Friday night was a relief. Well, it was a start, his first in the big leagues since the 2016 season. Detwiler’s no newbie, a 33-year-old with parts of 10 major league seasons under his belt. But if he can do what the veterans before him, Santana and Despaigne, couldn’t, simply eat up some innings and not give up a boatload of runs, that would be decently stabilizing for this starting staff.

Yes, the White Sox will get Covey back from injury. Yes, they will bring up top pitching prospect Dylan Cease. But it sure doesn’t sound like they’ll be making any outside additions with the sole goal of stabilizing the 2019 rotation. Maybe they’ll pull off a trade at the deadline that lands them a long-term piece that also happens to stabilize the 2019 rotation. But the former would have to precede the latter to make it worth it for Rick Hahn’s front office.

“I wouldn't count on that,” Hahn said before Friday’s game, asked if he would make a move to better the 2019 rotation. “We would like to. We're probably not alone in saying that, meaning that all 30 clubs would be looking for controllable starting pitching that they would like.

“I do know we're very firmly of the belief that we're not going to look for any short-term fixes, that anything we were to do or are going to do at the trade deadline is going to have a long-term focus on it. We're going to want guys who are controllable and obviously that can help us for the long term as well as now, not just now.

“So I wouldn't say that you can count on additions at the deadline that are going to be short-term fixes because our focus is going to remain long term.”

And that admission from the general manager makes anything Detwiler can contribute all the more important for this year’s team. Giolito will keep his status as this year’s ace as long as he keeps pitching like a Cy Young candidate. Cease will be the shiny new toy fans will flock to see once he arrives for his first taste of the major leagues. Nova might have an ERA scraping 6.00, but he’s a healthy veteran who’s been through the slog of a baseball season many times before. And Lopez will be given every opportunity to figure things out, drag his ERA under 6.00 and stay in the conversation about this franchise’s bright future.

That leaves Covey and Detwiler as the options in the No. 5 spot. Covey’s been better this year than he was as a sporadic starter the previous two seasons, with a 4.50 ERA in his seven starts since the beginning of May. Detwiler has one five-inning, two-run effort to his name, but it was encouraging enough, considering the competition, to warrant another outing.

“If I'm here and they give me the ball, everything's going to be an opportunity for me,” Detwiler said. “Got to go out there and perform to stay. That's my mindset.”

Santana couldn’t. Despaigne couldn’t. Banuelos hasn’t in his opportunities. If Detwiler can, perhaps he can do what they couldn’t: stick around for a while.

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White Sox officially designate Yonder Alonso for assignment among other roster moves

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USA TODAY

White Sox officially designate Yonder Alonso for assignment among other roster moves

The White Sox officially moved on from Yonder Alonso on Friday, designating the veteran hitter for assignment a day after it was reported they would do just that.

Alonso was acquired in a December trade with the division-rival Cleveland Indians, and while fans focused on the fact he was the brother-in-law of mega free agent Manny Machado, who the White Sox pursued all winter, general manager Rick Hahn touted the 2017 All Star's offensive ability and mentorship potential inside the clubhouse.

On the field, none of that panned out, with Alonso posting a woeful .178/.275/.301 slash line with seven homers and 27 RBIs in his 67 games. Fans directed much of their frustrations at him, and the White Sox clearly started looking elsewhere for production both with Alonso's limited use during the month of June and the promotion of Zack Collins, who looked primed to further eat into at-bats that before the season started were allotted for Alonso.

Alonso's departure will dominate the conversation Friday, but it was one of four roster moves the White Sox made at the outset of a weekend series against the first-place Minnesota Twins.

Tim Anderson expectedly landed on the 10-day injured list after suffering a high ankle sprain Tuesday night at Fenway Park. The severity of the sprain is still unknown, but Anderson will miss at least 10 days and likely won't see any further action before the All-Star break, which comes in little more than a week. The team will certainly address what will happen at shortstop while Anderson is on the shelf, but it looks like Leury Garcia and Jose Rondon sharing duties there is a safe bet.

The White Sox also brought Daniel Palka back from Triple-A Charlotte, where the lefty slugger had been since being sent down on April 17. Palka notably began the 2019 season with the major league team but went hitless in his first 32 at-bats before picking up a pinch-hit single in that April 17 game against the Kansas City Royals. His 1-for-35 start prompted his being sent down to Charlotte, where he was able to turn things around, with a .271/.374/.548 slash line and 16 home runs in 59 games. Palka's power bat figures to replace the one the White Sox thought they were getting in Alonso, and a three-position timeshare of sorts between Jose Abreu, James McCann, Collins and Palka could be in the works at catcher, first base and DH, though Palka is capable of playing right field, as well, and will likely see time there, too.

Finally, the White Sox called up starting pitcher Ross Detwiler, who they signed as a minor league free agent earlier this season. The team's shredded starting-pitching situation adds another name at the big league level, and it'll be Detwiler getting the start Friday night against the high-powered Twins. It will be Detwiler's first big league start since the 2016 season. At Charlotte, the left-hander posted a 3.98 ERA in eight starts, striking out 35 batters in 43 innings.

Who knows how long Detwiler might be around. But Tommy John surgeries for Michael Kopech and Carlos Rodon, far more minor injuries that Dylan Covey and Manny Banuelos are still recovering from and the failed experiments of Ervin Santana and Odrisamer Despaigne have pushed the depth to its limits. The White Sox did recently sign Hector Santiago for his third go-round with the organization, and top pitching prospect Dylan Cease figures to make his major league debut before long. But right now, it's Detwiler.

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White Sox still mum about Monday's starter as another option enters the picture

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USA TODAY

White Sox still mum about Monday's starter as another option enters the picture

Who’s going to start for the White Sox on Monday? They’re not saying just yet.

We know it won’t be Manny Banuelos, who’s on the injured list for what the team hopes is a brief stay. But someone has to take his turn in the rotation. Who?

“We're still talking about that as we speak right now,” was all manager Rick Renteria would offer up prior to Sunday’s series-finale against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Requiring a spot starter isn’t generally of so much interest, but given the fragile state of the White Sox starting staff and the dearth of major league ready starting-pitching depth in the organization, the pure mystery of this has become one worth following.

And considering how Banuelos has performed to this point — he’s got a 9.15 ERA in five starts — fans are looking for any other option that might be able to take his place on a more permanent basis. Given the White Sox liked Banuelos enough to trade for him over the offseason, they’re likely not ready to give up on him quite yet. But Banuelos has been through a ton of injuries prior to his current shoulder strain, and the ongoing negative results aren’t combining to make for a promising mix at the moment.

So what are the most likely options for Monday?

A simple bullpen day could be the most realistic option, especially if Banuelos is only going to miss one start, as he communicated was a possibility earlier in the week. That’s not the ideal way to kick off a four-game series against the Houston Astros, the best team in the American League. And of course it depends on how Renteria needs to deploy his bullpen Sunday. If Reynaldo Lopez can eat up a good chunk of innings after Lucas Giolito pitched all five innings in Saturday’s rain-shortened affair, then the bullpen — which is carrying an extra man with Banuelos on the IL — will be well rested and ready to soak up nine innings Monday night.

Then there are the two new faces down in Charlotte. Ross Detwiler pitched well Tuesday night (10 strikeouts in six one-run innings) and might find his way into the big league rotation at some point. Detwiler, who the White Sox recently plucked out of independent ball, hasn’t made a major league start since 2016. But he was on the hill for Charlotte on Sunday, so scratch him off the list of possibilities for Monday's game in Houston.

The White Sox added Odrisamer Despaigne to the organization Sunday. He’s a five-year major league veteran who was pitching for the Cincinnati Reds’ Triple-A affiliate until a little while ago. He made eight starts there this season and had a 3.92 ERA, with his most recent outing coming May 10.

Those two options seem less of the permanent variety, so maybe a spot start could be in the cards.

What’s pretty certain is that White Sox fans won’t get their wish to see Dylan Cease promoted to make his major league debut Monday night in Houston. Cease is pitching well at Charlotte, but as general manager Rick Hahn has said numerous times, when Cease makes his debut will have nothing to do with a need at the big league level and everything to do with when the White Sox feel he’s ready. The emphasis is on having Cease log innings at Triple-A and get experience pitching at that level. Described as being on a track similar to the one Michael Kopech was on last season, Cease is more likely to debut in July or August than May or June.

This isn’t a list of fantastic options, obviously, and that’s the point. The rest of the Charlotte rotation has been roughed up for huge ERAs or is currently injured, too. The guys at Double-A have a little more future promise and might be allowed to develop further, just like the White Sox are doing with Cease.

It might just be one spot start, but it’s another step in the ongoing saga involving the team’s starting-pitching depth, or lack thereof.

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