Nothing's official. That would be tempting the baseball gods, so says the White Sox general manager.
But Rick Hahn made a strong indication Monday that highly touted pitching prospect Dane Dunning will make his major league debut Wednesday against the Detroit Tigers.
That game is also scheduled to see the first big league start from Casey Mize, one of the highest rated prospects in the game and the guy the Tigers took with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft two summers ago.
Not bad for a Wednesday night in the AL Central.
Folks have wondered when the White Sox would opt to plug the hole in the starting rotation vacated by the injured Carlos Rodón with another starting pitcher. The first couple turns through the rotation without Rodón, the White Sox went with bullpen days, starting Matt Foster both times as the first in a parade of relievers.
Speaking shortly after Rodón went on the injured list with shoulder soreness, Hahn said Dunning, who like Rodón is making his return from Tommy John surgery, was not yet stretched out to a desired degree. But after a couple more weeks working at the team's alternate training site in Schaumburg, he appears to be ready.
"I don't like to announce roster moves in advance of when they happen, certainly not days in advance. I think that tempts the baseball gods too much to derail things, and they've been kind of cruel to us already this year," Hahn said Monday. "But I think we'll probably have a pretty good pitching matchup going on here Wednesday night between some young guys. I know Detroit's throwing Casey Mize, which will be fun to see. And we are certainly having conversations about one of our good young arms like Dane Dunning coming to make that start."
So why now? Why not for the pair of bullpen days the White Sox lost? Well, the White Sox are continuing to adhere to the methodology they've employed throughout their rebuilding process. It frustrated fans that Michael Kopech and Eloy Jiménez and Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal didn't come up sooner than they did. But the White Sox stuck to their guns of making sure they believed a prospect ready for primetime, not making promotions due to needs at the major league level.
"When Dane arrives, it’s going to be because he has accomplished a few things we needed him to accomplish in Schaumburg. Not because of an immediate need in Chicago. Had it been that way, we probably would have brought him for a few innings a couple of turns ago.
"We want guys to be fully ready to succeed when they come to Chicago, not just able to survive. There were a few things we wanted Dane to continue to build upon in Schaumburg. He’s done a really nice job, forced himself into consideration now because of that. But that’s because of what Dane has done, not because of anything in terms of openings in the rotation."
If not for the injury that sidelined him for so long, Dunning might have been pitching at the major league level much sooner. He made 15 starts between Class A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham in 2018, posting a 2.71 ERA with 100 strikeouts in 86.1 innings. Hahn said that if not for the injury, first suffered during that 2018 season, Dunning could have been a candidate to be part of the White Sox rotation as soon as Opening Day 2019.
Dunning's arrival, at the very least, should provide some sort of reinforcement for a White Sox pitching staff that's seen its much discussed preseason depth soaked up in a hurry thanks to numerous injuries. Rodón and Reynaldo López remain on the injured list, and another youngster coming off Tommy John, Jimmy Lambert, is experiencing a longer term absence, currently on the 45-day IL. And Gio González has already been called upon to start, though he's struggled to provide much length in any of his outings. Ross Detwiler, who swung between the rotation and the bullpen in 2019, has been limited to relief duty so far.
Dunning was a part of the that preseason depth, as well, and now he'll be the latest pitcher called in to provide some backup.