The White Sox roster is set for Opening Day later this week in Kansas City.
And, yes, Eloy Jimenez is on it.
Thanks to the six-year deal that could Jimenez in a White Sox uniform through the 2026 season, there’s no longer any need to worry about service time, meaning Jimenez was free and clear to make the Opening Day group of 25. He’ll make his much anticipated major league debut in Thursday’s season-opener against the Kansas City Royals.
There were few other surprises on the Opening Day roster. Veteran outfielder Jon Jay was placed on the injured list to begin the season, meaning one of the team's offseason acquisitions won't make his White Sox debut for a while. The White Sox are delaying any tough decisions that might exist in the outfield by going with 12 pitchers and 13 position players. The schedule allows the White Sox to use just four starting pitchers until mid April, when the next roster move of consequence (barring injury) could be made to make room for Ervin Santana, who told reporters Monday in Arizona that he’ll remain at spring training to work himself up for the season.
So here’s a breakdown of the group of 25 that Rick Renteria will be taking to the Show Me State.
Starting pitchers: Carlos Rodon, Reynaldo Lopez, Ivan Nova, Lucas Giolito
These four were locks to be in the rotation when spring training began, and nothing’s changed since. Rodon will get the ball on Opening Day, the fifth different White Sox pitcher to do so in the last five seasons (Rodon, 2019; James Shields, 2018; Jose Quintana, 2017; Chris Sale, 2016; Jeff Samardzija, 2015). It’s a big season for Rodon as he looks to prove he can complete a full, healthy campaign and find some consistency after a rough finish to the 2018 season. Lopez led the team with a sub-4.00 ERA last season and could do so again if he irons out some of the consistency issues from his first full big league year. Nova was brought in to eat up innings and very much act in the same role Shields did a year ago. Giolito struggled mightily in 2018 and hopes that feeling good during spring training translates more than the results from spring training do. He finished Cactus League play with an 8.84 ERA. Santana will likely join this group in mid April.
Relief pitchers: Alex Colomé, Kelvin Herrera, Nate Jones, Jace Fry, Caleb Frare, Ryan Burr, Manny Bañuelos and Dylan Covey
Colomé might end up being the White Sox best acquisition this offseason and will be the team’s duly appointed closer after racking up 96 saves over the last three seasons (including a big league leading 47 of them in 2017). Herrera is a familiar face from the Royals’ glory days and should be a frequent eighth-inning man for the White Sox. Jones had a miserable spring but is the longest-tenured South Sider at this point. Fry will be a late-innings option, good news after not giving up a run in the seventh inning last season.
Then things get interesting.
Frare figured to get another shot after getting his first taste of the big leagues late last season. Same, too, for Ian Hamilton, but he’s not on the Opening Day roster after sustaining a shoulder injury in a car accident during spring training. Instead, the job goes to Burr, who was excellent during the Cactus League with a 2.61 ERA in 10.1 innings. The White Sox are going with not one but two long men in Banuelos and Covey. The first’s inclusion isn’t too surprising considering Banuelos was out of options and a trade acquisition this offseason. Covey was good in spring training, with a 2.45 ERA, earning a spot in the ‘pen. It won’t be at all surprising, though, to see Hamilton, Jose Ruiz and other relievers at some point during the season.
Catchers: Welington Castillo and James McCann
This catching tandem was never in doubt, but it should provide quite a different support system for the White Sox young pitching staff. Castillo missed 80 games due to suspension last season, so a full year of his veteran assistance should be of benefit. McCann comes in after five seasons with the division-rival Detroit Tigers and brings in the experience of working with future Hall of Famers Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer.
Infielders: José Abreu, Yonder Alonso, Yolmer Sanchez, Tim Anderson, Yoán Moncada, José Rondón
Another obvious group on the White Sox roster, but with some notable differences for 2019. Abreu and Alonso will split time at first base and designated hitter. While neither guy is super fond of DH’ing, the White Sox argue it will help Abreu in the long run by keeping him off his feet and keeping him in the lineup. Moncada has been moved to third base, where after the failed pursuit of Manny Machado, the White Sox hope he can stick long term. Renteria said multiple times during spring training that Moncada playing third, a position that demands more focus, could also help him offensively. We’ll see. That switch forces Sanchez to second base, where he’s spent plenty of time over the years. Anderson will remain at shortstop, where his defensive improvement was one of the brightest spots of the 2018 campaign. Rondón will be the primary backup infielder and an intriguing bat after clubbing 24 home runs between the minors and majors. He’s also added a little outfield to his repertoire and could be used out there, too.
Outfielders: Eloy Jiménez, Daniel Palka, Adam Engel, Leury García, Ryan Cordell
Jimenez is locked in as the everyday left fielder for the foreseeable future and every one of his at-bats this season will be of utmost interest as the No. 3 prospect in the game begins his career. Once Jay returns from the IL, he should be the team’s leadoff hitter on a regular basis, though Renteria mentioned he might not be an everyday player nor a player who plays just one position. He has the versatility to play all three spots. Garcia is a versatile reserve who can play most outfield and infield spots, plus he tore the cover off the ball during spring training with a .440/.455/.660 slash line in 19 Cactus League games. While there could be an eventual crunch, both Palka and Engel are on the roster now and at least one of them figures to be in the lineup every day for at least the season’s first few weeks. Palka hit 27 homers as a rookie last season and brings plenty of left-handed pop, though he’s perhaps best suited as a DH, a position that’s well spoken for heading into 2019. Engel, meanwhile, was a Gold Glove finalist last season because of his tremendous defense in center field, but his offensive struggles have been well documented over the past two seasons. Somewhat surprisingly, Cordell got the outfield spot vacated by Jay. Cordell hit just .108 in a cup of coffee last season and .243 during the spring. He'll start the season on the big league roster instead of the more established Nicky Delmonico, who was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte on Saturday. It’s always possible the White Sox could just stick with 12 pitchers and 13 position players once Jay returns and once Santana joins the team in mid April, allowing most of these outfielders to stick around.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.