Dallas Keuchel is on the injured list, and the White Sox will be, at least temporarily, without one of their two elite top-of-the-rotation arms.
The team announced the move Thursday, the veteran left-hander placed on the 10-day IL with back spasms. Reynaldo López, who was sent to the team's alternate training site in Schaumburg after another ineffective start last week, is back.
The move is retroactive to Sept. 7, however, the day after Keuchel left his most recent start against the Kansas City Royals with the same back issue that's been bothering him throughout the season. Manager Rick Renteria said Wednesday that Keuchel was feeling better and that the team would skip his next turn in the rotation out of "an abundance of caution" and get ready for him to make his next start during next week's four-game series against the Minnesota Twins.
Thursday's move doesn't necessarily change any of that. The earliest Keuchel can return from the IL would be Sept. 17, when the White Sox and Twins will play the final game of that four-game set on the South Side.
As for how the White Sox will line up their rotation, it's anyone's guess. Lucas Giolito will pitch Friday's series-opener against the Detroit Tigers, and that's all that's set in stone at the moment. Dylan Cease, who pitched Tuesday night in Pittsburgh, would be on regular rest for Sunday's game against the Tigers. But the games with Twins are far more important as the White Sox compete for the AL Central crown, and the South Siders might want to be able to throw their four best starting pitchers in that four-game series.
That could mean López getting the nod either Saturday or Sunday against the Tigers, with the White Sox employing a bullpen day in the other weekend game. That would give Cease and Dane Dunning extra rest ahead of the Twins series and could potentially, depending on Keuchel's health and plenty of other things, set up the rotation like this against the Twins: Cease in Game 1, Dunning in Game 2, Giolito in Game 3 and Keuchel in Game 4.
Of course, the White Sox would still be faced with a hole in their rotation. Will Carlos Rodón return from the injured list in time to make a start or two down the stretch? Will the White Sox stick with López, who after an extended injured-list stay was ineffective in three starts? Will they roll the dice with bullpen days whenever that fifth spot comes up?
There are a whole lot of questions right now at the most important time of the season for the White Sox. Eleven of their final 14 games, beginning with the series against the Twins, come against contenders. This is the most meaningful baseball the White Sox have played in years, and they've got to figure out who they're going to throw.