It wasn’t long ago that it seemed quite reasonable to ask the question: Does Dylan Covey have a place in the White Sox rebuild?
But it didn’t take long for Covey to make that question seem not so reasonable.
The notion that rebuilds are chock full of surprises and that guys can emerge as key pieces who you never thought would emerge remains a real one. And for a bit, it looked like Covey could be a candidate for that kind of player.
He seemed to have solved the woes that plagued him during his rough 2017 campaign. He had a 1.53 ERA over the course of five starts. He was generally pitching better than the rest of the White Sox starting rotation, including Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, two guys expected to have big roles to play as the future creeps closer for this rebuilding franchise.
But what’s happened since has made Covey disappear from that long-term picture a little bit, not unlike Marty McFly fading away in “Back to the Future.”
In his past five starts — including Tuesday night’s outing that, after he left, ballooned into a 14-2 beating — Covey’s got an 11.70 ERA. He’s allowed at least four runs in each one of those starts. In the two starts prior to Tuesday’s, he combined to allowed 14 earned runs in only six innings of work.
Tuesday’s wasn’t that kind of disaster, and both Covey and manager Rick Renteria said they thought he looked better than he’s been looking. But the results weren’t dramatically different.
“Felt good early on,” Covey said. “I think my ball started creeping up in the zone a little bit as I went. Those ground balls turned into base hits, and they strung a few together. Struggled to get it back down. Did feel good, though.
“Just need to be a little bit better with my off-speed for strikes early so they aren’t just sitting on the fastball early, which is something that I think a lot of teams are trying to do on me, especially second time through the lineup. Just need to be able to get some pitches over for strikes that are not a fastball early and go from there.
“I think I figured some things out in the ‘pen this week. I saw the results of that really quick in the first couple of innings. And then, runner got on, thinking ground ball, (they) string together some hits and just try to grind through it from there.”
It’s probably more than a little unfair to put so much weight on a small handful of starts, to suggest Covey was a piece worthy of future planning after five good starts or to suggest that Covey has no place in this rebuild after the same number of bad ones.
And it’s worth noting that pitching on a team like this one, 31 games under .500 after Tuesday, has its pitfalls. He wasn’t the one who mustered just five hits Tuesday night. He wasn’t the one who gave up the bulk of the visiting St. Louis Cardinals’ eye-popping offensive output.
But just as Covey’s string of quality outings sparked speculation about where he could wind up in the White Sox long-term plans, this string of poor performances sparks the same speculation. That’s what this rebuilding season is about for every player: figuring out where they fit in this team’s long-term future.
Covey doesn’t carry the same kinds of high hopes or high expectations as guys like Giolito, Lopez, Michael Kopech, Carlos Rodon, Alec Hansen, Dane Dunning, Dylan Cease or anyone else in the crowded rotation of the future. But even crowded rotations have room for surprises — if a spot is earned.
Right now, we don’t know what Covey’s future is with this team, but it’s safe to assume that his performance this season will determine what it is. Half the performances have been good, half of them bad. Covey will need to figure things out and return to way things were if he wants to stay in the picture.