The White Sox may be on a five-game winning streak, but White Sox manager Rick Renteria looked exhausted after Monday’s 6-4 victory over the Brewers in Milwaukee.
And who can blame him? It was a long, intense game, even feeling like a playoff game at times. The team is on the back end of a three-city road trip complete with intense COVID-19 restrictions, while attrition settles in across the league -- both due to the coronavirus and injuries.
Unfortunately, the White Sox have not been spared. Shortstop Tim Anderson is on the 10-day Injured List with a groin strain, but the starting rotation has been hit harder with Reynaldo López and Carlos Ródon both landing on the IL because of shoulder soreness. López only made it through two thirds of an inning, while Rodón made it through 5.2 innings in two starts. Rodón's situation is particurly concerning considering he's coming off shoulder surgery in 2018 and Tommy John surgery in 2019.
On top of that, the White Sox also lost promising prospect Jimmy Lambert (forearm stiffness) and Michael Kopech (2020 opt-out). Both pitchers were coming off Tommy John surgery and with Lambert now on the 45-day IL, there’s a good chance you won’t see him until next spring.
So where do the White Sox go from here?
“I would say that you never take anything off the table and I’ll just leave it at that,” Renteria said Monday, specifically in response to a question about Ross Detwiler returning to the starting rotation. “I don’t think the organization will limit what we can or cannot do. We’ve got to be flexible. It’s just at this particular time, it’s just the moment that we’re in.”
That’s 2020 in a nutshell. So with that in mind, here are five options to help the White Sox’s starting rotation, ranked from fairly obvious to somewhat crazy:
LHP Ross Detwiler – Detwiler has been so good early in the season that the downside of moving him into the rotation would be the negative impact it would have on the bullpen. In 8.1 innings of work, Detwiler has only allowed two hits and walked nobody while striking out seven. Monday night, he pitched over two defensive miscues, essentially getting five outs in the seventh inning.
But there’s reason to believe Detwiler can sustain his recent career resurgence, because he’s finally healthy. In 2019, he was just an innings eater on a non-competitive team, making 12 starts for the White Sox and posting a 6.59 in 18 games overall. But he was pitching hurt. Detwiler had right hip surgery (his landing hip) last October, which has allowed him to throw his sinker again.
“It’s come back since I can kind of drive the ball down in the zone,” he said.
Detwiler seems to like his new role in the bullpen, but the former first round pick has been a starter most of his career and he brings valuable experience to the mound.
“If they ask me to start, I’ll try to go out there with the same mindset I’ve been having out of the bullpen now,” Detwiler said. “I think it’s been working for me.”
RHP Dane Dunning – Already on the 40-man roster and healed from Tommy John surgery, Dunning appears to be the next man up when it comes to young pitching prospects. General manager Rick Hahn indicated that it was very close between Dunning and Lambert when the White Sox went with Lambert in the bullpen to start the season. Dunning turns 26 in December, so it might be time to see what the former first round pick (Nationals, 2016) can do.
On the other hand, the White Sox haven’t had much luck with pitchers coming off Tommy John surgery this year. It might be smart to have Dunning spend the rest of the summer working out in Schaumburg with the hope of working him into big league club next spring.
RHP Drew Anderson – Anderson only appeared in nine MLB games over the last three seasons with the Phillies, but the White Sox got a good look at him in Summer Camp before sending him to Schaumburg. He was primarily a starter in the minors though, so if things get really desperate, you can’t rule out Anderson getting a shot.
LHP Clayton Richard – If you had “Clayton Richard back on the White Sox” on your wacky 2020 Bingo card, congratulations. The team signed the 36-year-old lefty to a minor league deal Monday. We last saw Richard start 10 games for the Blue Jays last year, allowing 30 earned runs in just 45.1 innings of work before succumbing to injuries. He hasn’t pitched since July 13, 2019. Perhaps if Detwiler joins the rotation, Richard could be a middle innings eater in the bullpen, but I’m not sure the White Sox want to see him starting games regularly.
LHP José Quintana – Don’t forget, there is a trade deadline coming up on Aug. 31 and this is apparently the year of White Sox pitching reunions with Richard and Gio González, so why rule out Quintana? Given the uncertainty of this season even finishing, I’m not sure I’d want to be trading away a prospect or otherwise valuable piece for an impending free agent, but let’s see how things look in a couple weeks. If the White Sox are a serious contender and need a more dependable starting pitcher, I don’t think you can rule anything out. Quintana wouldn’t cost anywhere near what the White Sox got in return (Eloy Jiménez and Dylan Cease) when they traded him to the Cubs in 2017, so it might be worth exploring. The Cubs’ starting pitching has been plenty good without Quintana (who has been out following thumb surgery) and they need bullpen help, which is something the White Sox could potentially provide. You can call me crazy, but it wouldn’t be the first time I was called crazy for suggesting a crosstown Quintana trade. It worked out the first time.
And hey, if none of these options work out, just call up first round pick Garrett Crochet. It’s 2020. Nothing should be ruled out.