It's a good thing the White Sox had all that pitching depth, because just 10 games into the 2020 season, they've had to use an awful lot of it.
The team sent Carlos Rodón to the 10-day injured list with shoulder soreness Tuesday, a day after he was removed from his start against the Milwaukee Brewers after a significant dip in velocity in just two innings of work.
"We were looking at him from the first inning. He was kind of fidgeting quite a bit," manager Rick Renteria said after Monday's game. "He came in, went right in, didn't complain about anything. He went back out, obviously his velocities were down a little bit — well, not a little bit, enough.
"He came in and we were already talking about it, and once he came in, he just said he was feeling a little something in his neck and the ball wasn't coming out of his hand right, which is what we could see. We were already prepared to make a change at that point, because we saw what it looked like, and then we had him checked out."
It's the second member of the Opening Day rotation the White Sox have sent to the injured list with shoulder soreness just a week and a half into this shortened season. Reynaldo López recorded just two outs in his 2020 debut before exiting with shoulder soreness, and he also landed on the injured list the next day.
That's 40 percent of the rotation on the shelf — not to mention Michael Kopech, who elected not to play this season for personal reasons — and even the depth behind those five has decreased. Jimmy Lambert, who just returned from Tommy John surgery, went on the injured list with a forearm strain after making his first two career appearances as a member of the White Sox bullpen. He was moved to the 45-day injured list Monday.
Rodón, too, just returned from Tommy John surgery, and the layoff allowed him to be a full-season option for the White Sox instead of the midseason acquisition he was slated to be under normal circumstances. He made the Opening Day starting staff, and before the season started, he emotionally spoke about his road back from not only that injury but the numerous arm injuries that have cost him time over the past several years.
"Getting hurt is not a thing that anyone wants to do, any athlete. That's not our goal. That's the last thing you think about when you get drafted or you become a professional athlete," he said last month. "But sometimes, it doesn't quite go your way.
"Through my time with the White Sox, we've had a few ups and downs, and that's kind of where I've had to learn how to mature and I think I've grown a lot through them. It hasn't been easy, especially this one (the Tommy John surgery) coming off a shoulder (surgery). Honestly, having my baby girl, Willow, kind of got me through the TJ. And it's been a ride, man.
"Getting a chance to not only be able to pitch and come back, but to be able to start the season with my teammates is a blessing. I've been saying this a long time, feels like it's been three or four years, but I keep saying this: It feels like I've got something to prove, just being hurt all the time. It's not fun, that's for sure."
Meanwhile, the White Sox need a fill-in member of the starting rotation for the second time in a little more than a week. Gio González, who figured to be a part of the starting five had the season started in March, was moved from the bullpen to the rotation in place of López. After the White Sox called up Brady Lail to take Rodón's spot on the active roster, it seems the most logical outcome is Ross Detwiler, who has excelled in a relief role so far this season, taking Rodón's turn in the rotation.
But the much discussed starting-pitching depth has taken a pretty sizable hit in no time. After Detwiler, the next starting-pitching option would figure to be highly touted prospect Dane Dunning, though the White Sox signed 36-year-old veteran lefty Clayton Richard to a minor league deal Monday, providing another option at the team's alternate training site in Schaumburg.
Injuries are tearing through pitching staffs all across baseball right now, with many blaming the brief ramp up to Opening Day following the months-long layoff. The White Sox are no exception. Even with health, the starting pitching past Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel at the top of the White Sox rotation was the biggest mystery coming into the 2020 campaign. Now, the team can't even reap any positive answers to such big questions, as two-thirds of the group of Rodón, López and Dylan Cease are on the injured list.
While the White Sox offense continues to rake during the team's five-game winning streak, there is reason to be concerned about what the future holds from a starting-pitching standpoint as the South Siders are burning through their supposed depth in that department. Obviously, this is what pitching depth is for, to meet the challenges of injuries. But the White Sox surely didn't want to use this much of it this soon, and now the safety net is undoubtedly thinner.