Following the Chicago White Sox' ongoing weekend series with the Boston Red Sox, the South Siders could shift to a six-man rotation for the remainder of the regular season.
Manager Tony La Russa said the team was considering the idea of giving Reynaldo López a few more starts before the beginning of the playoffs, dropping a sixth pitcher into the starting staff beginning Tuesday, when the White Sox start a stretch of 15 games in 14 days.
Why? Well, a lot of it has to do with the still unresolved issue of Carlos Rodón's tired shoulder. The left-hander made his return to the mound Friday following a delay brought on by the second bout of shoulder fatigue he's dealt with during an otherwise dream season.
After suffering numerous significant arm injuries throughout his career, Rodón is in somewhat new territory in the innings-pitched department, already at 124 innings, the most he's logged in a single season since 2016. It's a dramatic increase from the 7.2 innings he threw during the shortened 2020 season and the 34.2 he pitched in 2019, and it's requiring the White Sox to figure out on the fly what his recovery will look like from one start to the next.
The White Sox aren't sure how much time Rodón will require between starts to be at as close to 100 percent as possible, hence the inclusion of López in the team's plans to allow Rodón to benefit from extra rest, as he has for much of the campaign to this point.
It's indeed a luxury to take advantage of for the White Sox, who have seen López excel both starting and pitching out of the bullpen during his ongoing bounce-back season. After posting a 6.49 ERA in 2020, he's got a 2.05 mark in 44 innings this season, providing the White Sox with the confidence to call on him in various situations. Certainly, that could spill over into the postseason, where López, though likely not starting, could find himself a critical piece of the pitching plans at a time of year when starters have short leashes and bullpens are called on early and often.
"I remember seeing him when he first got here, and he had the kind of stuff that got your attention," La Russa said of López on Saturday. "I wasn't here the last couple years when he struggled, so I'm here now and I see from spring training out, he's picked up velocity. And there probably was something with his vision. But his arm feels better.
"I just know he's looking more and more like the guy that first got here and made such a good impact on the club."
The White Sox are in the process of getting their starting rotation back to full strength, Rodón pitching Friday, Lance Lynn coming off the IL on Friday and expected to pitch Sunday and Lucas Giolito expected to make his own IL return and start Tuesday night. Adding López to the mix — and having it count as a definite positive — shows the amount of quality pitching the White Sox will boast in October, when their dominant arms figure to be the chief reason they can dream about a lengthy playoff run.