Scott Merkin is only burying the lede here if I presume he looked at pre-season p..."/> Scott Merkin is only burying the lede here if I presume he looked at pre-season p..."/>

A surprisingly finalized rotation


There are some pitchers pictured. // Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

I suppose Scott Merkin is only burying the lede here if I presume he looked at pre-season plans for the White Sox to plug Felipe Paulino right into the starting rotation with the same skepticism I did.

"“Chris Sale and Jose Quintana will be at the top, followed by John Danks and Felipe Paulino. Rookie Erik Johnsonhas the edge on other fifth-starter candidates such as Eric Surkamp, Andre Rienzo, Omar Poveda and Chris Beck, according to White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper.”"

But the White Sox have expressed confidence in Paulino’s readiness all along, despite him having yet to throw a MLB pitch since undergoing Tommy John surgery, and showing only fits and start of major league effectiveness throughout the parts of five seasons he’s been in (4.45 ERA as a starter). But if he’s ahead of Erik Johnson in the hierarchy, then perhaps it’s time to stop doubting how sincere the Sox’ confidence in him is.

It’s easy to see why Paulino’s appealing as a hunk of clay for Don Cooper to mold if nothing else. When healthy, he averaged 95 mph on his fastball and hasn’t had a strikeout percentage below 20% since his debut season. He throws extremely hard and hitters naturally miss on his stuff. The refinement is needed elsewhere.

More revealing about this…reveal is that if BA-minted No. 63 prospect Erik Johnson is in the battle for the fifth starter slot, it’s really not much of a battle at all. Johnson spent the last month of 2013 getting groomed to take a spot in the starting five and the enthusiasm behind him hasn’t waned at any point this year.

In a year that’s all about developing new fixtures, Johnson offers more upside than Andre Rienzo, who could just as easily become an effective reliever at this point. Eric Surkamp is self-admitted finesse lefty in a rotation that surely doesn’t need his handedness to switch things up. Chris Beck just broke into Double-A last year and is far too raw still, and who in the fresh hell is Omar Poveda? Do you understand how upsetting it is to write about a team on a daily basis for over four years and have some guy you’ve completely never heard of mentioned as a rotation candidate?

Poveda is a 26-year-old who has yet to make his major league debut, and is now on his fourth organization. He’s on the precipice of the bigs in the sense that he’s a starter and has been in Triple-A for long enough that something’s gotta give, so he would seemingly be a rotation candidate the way Zach Stewart is, except without the pre-established sense of contempt. Then again, the Sox current No. 2 starter was a minor league free agent at the beginning of 2012, and they did have a kid from Nacogdoches, Texas pitch a perfect game.

That kid, thankfully, would probably not crack this rotation.

Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan