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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White Sox do not expect Mayor Lightfoot's travel order to impact MLB season

White Sox do not expect Mayor Lightfoot's travel order to impact MLB season

Mayor Lori Lightfoot issued an emergency travel order Thursday that requires travelers visiting Chicago from states experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases to quarantine for two weeks.

By the end of the month, a certain group of travelers — Major League Baseball teams — are scheduled to visit Chicago to play games against the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field. Likewise, the White Sox will be traveling to play road games in other states, as well, from which they will eventually return.

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But the White Sox say they aren't expecting the new order to impact their upcoming 2020 season.

"Based on our current understanding, we do not expect this to impact our operations as presently planned," a White Sox spokesperson told NBC Sports Chicago on Thursday.

Currently, no states that are home to Central Division teams from either the AL or NL are impacted by Mayor Lightfoot's order. But as has become extremely apparent, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic can change things quickly, and there's no knowing which states might be impacted come Opening Day or at any point during the two-month baseball season.

At the moment, the mayor's order, which goes into effect Monday, applies to visitors from Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah. Landing on that list involves a specific metric. Per the city's website, "a state will be designated if it has a case rate greater than 15 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 resident population, per day, over a 7-day rolling average."

Major League Baseball is imposing a geographic schedule to minimize travel for teams during the shortened, 60-game season. Teams will only play their division rivals and teams from the same geographic division in the other league. The White Sox will play their four AL Central rivals and the five teams from the NL Central.

As of the mayor's order being issued Thursday, the states of Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin were not part of the travel order. But every one of those states except Missouri, as well as Illinois, is currently experiencing a week-to-week increase in the number of new cases. The number of new cases is also rising in Iowa, where the White Sox are still on schedule to play in the Field of Dreams game on Aug. 13.

The city has the ability to grant exemptions, though, and Major League Baseball's extensive health and safety measures could come into play. According to the city's website, "the Commissioner of Health may additionally grant an exemption based upon an organization’s or business’ testing and other control policies or in extraordinary circumstances, which warrant an exception from mandatory quarantine."

So the city has the power to let the MLB season, as it pertains to teams traveling in and out of Chicago, to operate as planned. It can allow the Cleveland Indians come to town, or allow the White Sox to return from a trip to Detroit, even if other travelers from Ohio or Michigan, for example, are mandated to quarantine for two weeks.

As mentioned, the evolving status of the pandemic and the response to it, not just in Chicago but across the country, can change everything in a hurry. Major League Baseball faces its own internal hurdles when it comes to safely getting the season off the ground and completing it.

But as the White Sox understand it, there might not be reason to believe Mayor Lightfoot would be throwing a separate wrench into the difficult task of playing the 2020 baseball season.


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Yoan Moncada all in on Luis Robert, predicts big rookie season with White Sox

Yoan Moncada all in on Luis Robert, predicts big rookie season with White Sox

One of the most popular questions surrounding the White Sox, as they head into a season unlike any other, has lingered throughout the three-month layoff.

What kind of rookie year will Luis Robert have?

Things have obviously changed since March, when spring training came to an abrupt halt and everyone on the South Side had to wait indefinitely to see Robert play his first major league game. The wait is over, but Robert's first taste of the bigs will come in a shortened, 60-game season. The hype is still there, sure — and for good reason — but as past hyped White Sox prospects like Yoan Moncada and Eloy Jimenez have shown, it can take time to adjust to major league pitching and start playing up to expectations.

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Moncada went through a full season's worth of struggles in 2018, striking out 217 times before having a huge 2019 campaign and emerging as the team's best all-around player.

So when he shares confidence that Robert's going to do just fine in his rookie season, it might not be a bad idea to listen.

"He’s a young guy with a lot of talent. Everybody saw that during the spring," Moncada said through team interpreter Billy Russo on Wednesday. "I think for him, the key is to just play his game, don’t feel pressure, and with the support of all of us, he’s going to be good. I’m very confident he’s going to have a very, very good season just because of the talent he has."

The talent is obvious. Robert garnered preseason expectations as a front-runner for AL Rookie of the Year honors because he's a true five-tool threat who spent last season wowing minor league crowds with a combination of tape-measure home runs, blazing speed and highlight-reel catches in center field.

The hype is real.

“He can do it on the defensive side of the ball and the offensive side,” second baseman Nick Madrigal said back in February. “He’ll hit a 400-plus-foot home run one day, and then he’ll make a Superman catch in the outfield. It seems like he can do it all. Stealing bases every day. He’s definitely the complete package.”

But how will the unpredictable circumstances of 2020 affect Robert? How they will affect anyone remains a mystery until teams start workouts this week and start playing games a few weeks later. One thing we can calculate at the moment is time, and Robert won't have much of it to make any necessary adjustments.

We saw it take far more than 60 games for Jimenez to get used to the way big league pitchers were attacking him last season. He figured it out eventually, started launching balls over the center-field fence and had a torrid final month to his rookie campaign. Robert won't have the same luxuries in 2020.

RELATED: Yoan Moncada: White Sox still on track for success in 2020, even after layoff

But he will have resources, the same ones he was expected to be able to lean on before the pandemic wiped so much of the season off the calendar. Moncada has benefited so much from Jose Abreu's mentorship, and there's no doubt that Abreu and Moncada both will offer any advice they have to their countryman Robert.

"I passed through that process, and Abreu was there helping me through the process and that was very helpful," Moncada said Wednesday. "And I think for (Robert), it’s going to be the same. We’re going to be there for whatever he needs, for whatever questions that he has. That’s going to be very helpful for him. We’re always going to be there for him."

They'll just have to be there from six feet away.


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