White Sox

White Sox still mum about Monday's starter as another option enters the picture

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USA TODAY

White Sox still mum about Monday's starter as another option enters the picture

Who’s going to start for the White Sox on Monday? They’re not saying just yet.

We know it won’t be Manny Banuelos, who’s on the injured list for what the team hopes is a brief stay. But someone has to take his turn in the rotation. Who?

“We're still talking about that as we speak right now,” was all manager Rick Renteria would offer up prior to Sunday’s series-finale against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Requiring a spot starter isn’t generally of so much interest, but given the fragile state of the White Sox starting staff and the dearth of major league ready starting-pitching depth in the organization, the pure mystery of this has become one worth following.

And considering how Banuelos has performed to this point — he’s got a 9.15 ERA in five starts — fans are looking for any other option that might be able to take his place on a more permanent basis. Given the White Sox liked Banuelos enough to trade for him over the offseason, they’re likely not ready to give up on him quite yet. But Banuelos has been through a ton of injuries prior to his current shoulder strain, and the ongoing negative results aren’t combining to make for a promising mix at the moment.

So what are the most likely options for Monday?

A simple bullpen day could be the most realistic option, especially if Banuelos is only going to miss one start, as he communicated was a possibility earlier in the week. That’s not the ideal way to kick off a four-game series against the Houston Astros, the best team in the American League. And of course it depends on how Renteria needs to deploy his bullpen Sunday. If Reynaldo Lopez can eat up a good chunk of innings after Lucas Giolito pitched all five innings in Saturday’s rain-shortened affair, then the bullpen — which is carrying an extra man with Banuelos on the IL — will be well rested and ready to soak up nine innings Monday night.

Then there are the two new faces down in Charlotte. Ross Detwiler pitched well Tuesday night (10 strikeouts in six one-run innings) and might find his way into the big league rotation at some point. Detwiler, who the White Sox recently plucked out of independent ball, hasn’t made a major league start since 2016. But he was on the hill for Charlotte on Sunday, so scratch him off the list of possibilities for Monday's game in Houston.

The White Sox added Odrisamer Despaigne to the organization Sunday. He’s a five-year major league veteran who was pitching for the Cincinnati Reds’ Triple-A affiliate until a little while ago. He made eight starts there this season and had a 3.92 ERA, with his most recent outing coming May 10.

Those two options seem less of the permanent variety, so maybe a spot start could be in the cards.

What’s pretty certain is that White Sox fans won’t get their wish to see Dylan Cease promoted to make his major league debut Monday night in Houston. Cease is pitching well at Charlotte, but as general manager Rick Hahn has said numerous times, when Cease makes his debut will have nothing to do with a need at the big league level and everything to do with when the White Sox feel he’s ready. The emphasis is on having Cease log innings at Triple-A and get experience pitching at that level. Described as being on a track similar to the one Michael Kopech was on last season, Cease is more likely to debut in July or August than May or June.

This isn’t a list of fantastic options, obviously, and that’s the point. The rest of the Charlotte rotation has been roughed up for huge ERAs or is currently injured, too. The guys at Double-A have a little more future promise and might be allowed to develop further, just like the White Sox are doing with Cease.

It might just be one spot start, but it’s another step in the ongoing saga involving the team’s starting-pitching depth, or lack thereof.

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For on-the-rise White Sox, learning to win also means learning to lose

For on-the-rise White Sox, learning to win also means learning to lose

The White Sox lost Saturday night.

That’s baseball, of course, they’re not all going to be winners. And this rebuilding franchise has seen plenty of losses. But the feelings have been so good of late — whether because of Eloy Jimenez’s 400-foot homers or Lucas Giolito’s Cy Young caliber season to this point or a variety of other positive signs that make the White Sox future so bright — that losing Saturday to the first-place New York Yankees seemed rather sour.

Obviously there will be plenty more losses for this White Sox team before the book closes on the 2019 campaign. Back under .500, these South Siders aren’t expected to reach elite status before all the pieces arrive, and it would be no shock if they’re removed from the playoff race in the American League by the time crunch time rolls around in September.

But don’t tell these White Sox that an 8-4 defeat is a return to reality or a reminder that this team is still a work in progress. Even if, for a lot of players, development is still occurring at the major league level, the “learning experiences” that have been such a large part of the conversation surrounding this team in recent seasons and their daily goal of winning baseball games aren’t mutually exclusive.

“The Yankees are sitting in first place and they lost two games in a row,” catcher James McCann said Saturday night, providing a reminder of how the first two games of this weekend series went. “Just because you're expected to win and expected to be World Series contenders doesn't mean you're not going to lose ballgames. It's how you bounce back.

“And it doesn't mean you're going to win tomorrow, either. It's just, how do you handle a defeat? How do you handle a bad at-bat? How do you handle a bad outing, whatever it may be? But it doesn't mean that we step back and say, ‘Oh, we're back under .500, we're supposed to lose.’

“We expect to win when we show up to the ballpark. You can take learning experiences whether you win or lose. Do I think a game like tonight reminds us we're supposed to be in a rebuilding mode? No. We still expect to win, and we're going to show up tomorrow with that mentality.”

Maybe that’s a description of the much-discussed “learning to win” young teams supposedly need to do on the road to contender status. Maybe that can’t happen until a team figures out how to bounce back from a defeat — until it learns how to lose and how to act in the wake of a loss.

For all McCann’s certainty about the team’s expectations on a daily basis, his explanation was peppered with questions. He said he’s seen the answer to “how do you bounce back?” from this club, and his three-run homer in the eighth inning Saturday night was fairly convincing evidence that the White Sox didn’t use up all their fight just getting back to .500.

So while the White Sox know they won’t win every game — that no team will — they need to know how they handle defeat. Losing, it turns out, might end up being more instructive about when this team is ready to win.

“I think we've done a pretty good job (bouncing back),” McCann said. “You look at the road trip in Houston and Minnesota where we took two out of four from a good Houston team and then played really not very good baseball for three days in Minnesota only to come home and have an extremely good homestand.

“It's the big picture. It's not the very next day. It's not, ‘We've got to bounce back and win.’ It's not a must-win situation in the middle of June. But it's how do you handle yourself? How does a game like tonight, do you show up flat tomorrow and let it snowball into a three-, four-game spiral? Or do you fight?

“And that's what this team's been really good at doing is fighting and not giving in.”

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Eloy Jimenez gets rave review from Yankees All Star: 'He can be a star for all of MLB'

Eloy Jimenez gets rave review from Yankees All Star: 'He can be a star for all of MLB'

The temperature is rising on the South Side, and if you look outside, you know it has nothing to do with Mother Nature.

Instead, it’s a heat wave coming from a fresh-faced 22-year-old slugger who’s crushing baseballs, igniting a fan base and screaming “Hi Mom!” to his actual mother whenever he spots a TV camera with its red light on.

Eloy Jimenez has arrived with the White Sox, and according to a New York Yankees All Star who has known him for years, the best is yet to come.

“Not this year, but next year, he’s going to be even better,” infielder Gleyber Torres said about Jimenez.

The two of them were signed by that team across town in 2013 when they were both 16 years old. They were practically inseparable back then, and they remain tight to this day.

“I talk with Gleyber pretty much every single day now. He’s kind of like my brother,” Jimenez said. “We haven’t lost that communication, and I think that’s good for us.”

Torres echoed similar thoughts about Jimenez.

“In my first couple years with the Cubs, he was my roommate every day. We’ve got a really good relationship. We’re like brothers. We are really good friends,” Torres said. “I’m just happy to see what he’s doing right now.”

Which, lately, has been just about everything.

There was that majestic home run Jimenez belted on Wednesday against the Washington Nationals that landed on the center field concourse at Guaranteed Rate Field, the two walks the next day when the Yankees decided to pitch around Jimenez as if he was a perennial All Star, and then the two-homer game on Friday: The first one gave the White Sox the lead, the second stuck a dagger into the Yankees, as well as the heart of his longtime friend.

“For sure, I didn’t like it,” Torres said with a smile about Jimenez’s two-homer, six-RBI game. “I’m not surprised. I knew Eloy before he signed with the Cubs out of the Dominican. He’s a big dude. The power is coming every day.”

How good can Jimenez be? Torres, who plays on a star-studded team with Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge and Didi Gregorius, sees Jimenez reaching the same stratosphere.

“He can be a star for all of MLB. He’s just a young guy right now, but when he matures a little more, he can do everything.”

Jimenez is turning up the heat in Chicago, and it’s not even summer yet.

The South Side can’t wait for the sizzle to come.

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