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Chicago White Sox: The Battle to Become Fifth Starter in Rotation

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SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 25: Manny Banuelos #58 of the Chicago White Sox delivers a pitch during the spring game against the San Francisco Giants at Scottsdale Stadium on February 25, 2019 in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 25: Manny Banuelos #58 of the Chicago White Sox delivers a pitch during the spring game against the San Francisco Giants at Scottsdale Stadium on February 25, 2019 in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images) /
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Chicago White Sox battle for the fifth starter could heat up as the end of Spring Training is near and the start of the regular season is within a week.

With the start of the regular season quickly approaching, the Chicago White Sox must work on getting their starting rotation set for the 2019 campaign. We already know who will be starting on Opening Day in Carlos Rodon. Reynaldo Lopez figures to be the team’s second starter in their rotation.

On Thursday, Ivan Nova solidified himself even further as a member of the White Sox rotation with a nice outing against the Texas Rangers. Lucas Giolito is a question mark but so is the fifth starter spot in the Sox rotation for this upcoming season.

The two pitchers that are battling for the White Sox last rotation spot for this season is veteran right-hander Ervin Santana and left-handed pitcher Manny Banuelos. Santana signed a minor-league deal this offseason with the Sox and made his first start of the Spring this past Wednesday against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Banuelos was acquired via trade from the Los Angeles Dodgers this offseason and has produced some good outings during Spring Training as a starter. With the Sox currently only having one left-handed starter in their rotation in Rodon, they could use another lefty to provide balance for this upcoming season.

In Banuelos’ last three outings, he’s given up just five combined earned runs in 10.2 innings pitched while recording 10 strikeouts and allowing two walks. Banuelos didn’t get off to a good start this year as he allowed four walks in 1.1 innings pitched in his second outing of the Spring against the Cubs on March 3.

For Banuelos, becoming a starting pitcher with the Sox would be good news for the young hurler. He hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2015 with the Atlanta Braves when he went 1-4 with a 5.13 ERA over seven total appearances with six of those being starts. Banuelos still has a big hill to climb to enter this season as the Sox fifth starter as he will battle a veteran in Santana.

Santana is coming off an injury-plagued 2018 season with the Minnesota Twins. He made just five starts for the Twins after getting surgery on his right middle finger before the start of last season. Although he made his return later in the year, Santana wasn’t the same pitcher he had been in 2017 when he finished the year with a 16-8 record, 3.28 ERA, 1.126 WHIP and was seventh in American League Cy Young Award voting.

The 36-year-old could be a viable option to be the Sox fifth starter this season and has the experience to be successful in that role. In his first start of the Spring this past Wednesday, Santana pitched four innings and allowed four earned runs on eight hits. Clearly, he has more to work on to get ready for the season. However, he could take some time to get his rhythm back with another start before the end of Spring Training.

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As the Sox prepare for Opening Day, a decision will need to be made on who will be the team’s fifth starting pitcher. If they want to go with an experienced veteran then Santana will get the nod. But if they want to try their hands with an inexperienced lefty, the Sox will choose Banuelos. With expectations for 2019 low, the Sox could afford to choose either pitcher as their fifth starter and it wouldn’t be a poor choice until they’re unable to perform well.

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