Over the course of the last 24 hours, the possibility of Manny Banuelos making his next scheduled start against the Houston Astros on Monday night became an impossibility.
The White Sox placed the starting pitcher on the injured list ahead of Friday's game against the Toronto Blue Jays. It's Banuelos' 13th career trip to the injured list, a bummer of a note in its own right. But the more pressing issue for the White Sox is who will make that start Monday night.
The team's problem with starting-pitching depth has been well chronicled to this point, hence the mystery. The good news for the White Sox is that both Banuelos and manager Rick Renteria seemed confident that Banuelos' stay on the IL wouldn't be lengthy, Banuelos saying he might miss just one start. And so maybe it's just a bullpen day Monday night, when the White Sox play the first of four games against the best team in the American League.
"Hopefully I can come back soon," Banuelos said through team interpreter Billy Russo. "Obviously, I'll lose my next outing. But probably that's the only one. Right after the game, they performed an MRI on my shoulder, and everything came clean. That gave me the confidence that it's nothing really serious or bad. Right now, I think it's just inflammation. We're working on it."
Renteria refused to elaborate on any options Friday, sticking with his typical approach when a starting-pitching vacancy pops up: The White Sox haven't made a decision yet, but they'll have one by Monday.
The options, though, aren't many, which is why this is of more interest than finding a spot starter normally would be.
It's not going to be Dylan Cease, much to the chagrin of White Sox fans who want the organization's top-ranked healthy pitching prospect up yesterday. Despite a nice start to his season at Triple-A Charlotte, Cease's major league readiness will be determined independently of any needs at the big league level. That's the way things go in the thick of a rebuild and in a season where the major league squad isn't expected to contend for a playoff spot. Why jeopardize Cease's development and production over the course of the next five years for a few more wins this year?
Perhaps the White Sox turn to Ross Detwiler, the 33-year-old they plucked out of independent ball who struck out 10 guys in six one-run innings in his first start for Charlotte on Tuesday night. He's made just one major league appearance since 2016, but at this very second he's looking like a far more preferable choice than the rest of Charlotte's banged-up and roughed-up rotation.
But Banuelos' potentially brief stay on the IL might make a simple bullpen day the most realistic course of action. Only in the event of an elongated stint on the injured list would a more permanent replacement be necessary.
Though they might have dodged a bullet, the White Sox are hardly off the hook, as the idiom train steams down the track. Banuelos' performance has made him an easy target for complaining fans, who quickly tired of him after he put up a 9.15 ERA and allowed nine homers in his five starts. And while the White Sox are hardly ready to pull the plug on a guy they liked enough to trade for him over the offseason, under-performance could blow a hole in the starting staff just as easily, if not as quickly, as an injury could.
Should Banuelos' struggles continue, or should he or another one of the current five-man rotation require a lengthy stay on the IL, where would the White Sox turn? Detwiler seems a possibility after just one start in Triple-A, though his attractiveness could change with one outing that shoots his numbers as high as those of his new rotation-mates in Charlotte.
Carlos Rodon will be sidelined for more than a year as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. Cease will be here eventually, but not immediately. And so the starting staff's job is to hold on and bridge the gap between Rodon's injury-induced departure and Cease's arrival, because there are few to no options in the minor leagues.
Banuelos' injury came just one day into that timeframe. So, pardon the unintentional pun, but things are not off to a good start.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.