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.