White Sox: Previewing The Starting Pitching, Bullpen
White Sox starting pitching has depth issues, bullpen could be different after trade deadline. Will fans see top prospects pitch this season in Chicago?
The Chicago White Sox strength has been its pitching over the past few seasons. After trading its ace Chris Sale this past offseason, the pitching depth has been worsened for the Sox. With a rebuild underway, how strong will the Sox starting rotation be for 2017?
While the Sox starting rotation is dealing with a lack of depth, the bullpen is relatively strong at the back end for this season. However, that could change by the trading deadline as the Sox have some valuable assets in the bullpen they can trade.
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With the Sox trading Sale, it left a hole in the team’s starting rotation. Although the Sox still have All-Star left-hander Jose Quintana, the rest of the rotation isn’t as strong as its been in the past. Carlos Rodon has started the season on the disabled list, and is likely to miss five to six weeks of action.
Veteran left-hander Derek Holland was signed this past offseason to add depth to the rotation, but he didn’t have a strong Spring Training. In five starts during the Spring, Holland went 2-1 with a 5.09 ERA. Holland allowed 10 walks to go along with 12 strikeouts. His last outing of Spring Training was solid as he pitched two scoreless innings against the Milwaukee Brewers to go along with four strikeouts. He will get his first start of the season on Friday against the undefeated Minnesota Twins.
Another veteran pitcher, Miguel Gonzalez also didn’t have a strong Spring Training or World Baseball Classic. Despite a solid 2016 season where he went 5-8 with a 3.73 ERA, Gonzalez didn’t have a good outing in the WBC for his native country of Mexico. The 32-year-old right-hander struggled in his only outing in the WBC, and his Spring Training was okay, but not great. Gonzalez pitched 8.1 innings during Spring Training and compiled a 4.32 ERA with six strikeouts, and just one walk. He will be relied upon to be the Sox fourth starter this season.
James Shields, who had one of the worst seasons as a Sox starter in a long time last season will look to rebound in 2017. Shields started his rebound on Thursday as he pitched 5.1 innings against the Tigers, allowing just one earned run and recording five strikeouts. Shields most likely won’t ever be the same pitcher he was with the Tampa Rays and Kansas City Royals, but he will need to be much better than he was in 2016. Shields went a combined 6-19 with a 5.85 ERA for both the San Diego Padres and White Sox last season.
Quintana, who could be traded this season will look to have another solid season on the mound for the Sox. Although his Opening Day start against Detroit on Tuesday wasn’t good, Quintana still has the tools to be an effective pitcher this season. Last season, Quintana reached double-digit victories for the first time in his career. Quintana finished 2016 with a 13-12 record, 3.20 ERA, 208 innings pitched and 181 strikeouts. His win total, ERA, innings pitched and strikeouts were career highs. In order for the Sox to have success on the mound, they will need Quintana to be the true ace of the starting rotation.
With Rodon’s injury, the Sox pitching depth is exposed. The Sox will most likely have to rely on unproven pitchers in Rodon’s absence. Dylan Covey, a Rule 5 Draft Pick is on the team, and could get a start or two with Rodon on the disabled list. Anthony Swarzak, who made the team out of Spring Training, could get a start but this isn’t something the Sox should be confident about. With the Sox lack of depth in the starting rotation, April and May could be ugly for the team until Rodon returns from injury.
The Sox bullpen is mostly unchanged from the end of last season. David Robertson, who could be traded this season is the closer. Nate Jones, another trade candidate who had a solid WBC along with Robertson for Team USA is the setup man. Michael Ynoa, Zach Putnam and Dan Jennings remain in the bullpen. Jake Petricka, who returned this Spring from a season-ending hip injury in 2016, was placed on the 10-day disabled list by the Sox on Thursday.
Petricka was placed on the DL with a strained lat muscle. The Sox recalled Tommy Kahnle from Triple-A Charlotte on Thursday to take his place. The Sox bullpen struggled last season with the loss of Petricka and Putnam to season-ending injuries. With the absences of Petricka and Putnam last season, the Sox didn’t have many reliable arms for middle relief.
This led to the emergence of Jennings last season. In 2016, Jennings posted a 2.08 ERA in a career-high 60.2 innings pitched. With the trade of Zach Duke last season, Jennings was the only reliable left-handed reliever for the Sox. He will again be the only reliable left-handed reliever for the South Siders in 2017. He will need to repeat his success from last season in order for the Sox to hold onto leads during late innings.
If the Sox do trade Robertson, they could insert Jones as the closer and promote Zack Burdi. Until then, the Sox back end of the bullpen will remain strong. The rest of the bullpen will need to step up if the Sox want to have any success holding leads this season.