Chicago White Sox Looking At A Long List Of Options For Their Starting Rotation

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Chicago White Sox manager Pedro Grifol plans to start Dylan Cease on opening day next month against Detroit. Of course, that could change.

There is an abundance of uncertainty when it comes to his pitching staff.

The White Sox are considering a long list of rotation options during spring training, and how that situation shakes out likely will affect the bullpen.

“We’re stretching out probably 14, 15 guys and we’ll see where it goes,” Grifol said Tuesday. “And we’ll shape our bullpen accordingly at the right time. And if that means that we have a few guys in that pen that can go multiple innings, two and three or maybe three and four, then so be it. That helps us out.”

The 28-year-old Cease was the subject of trade rumors for much of the offseason, but it looks as if he will at least begin the season with Chicago. He went 7-9 with a 4.58 ERA in a career-high 33 starts in 2023, striking out 214 in 177 innings.

“He dealt with this really well and he continues to deal with it really well,” Grifol said. “And he understands the business. So I’m glad he’s here. I’m glad he’s a White Sox. But we’ll see where that goes.”

After Cease, it gets a little more uncertain.

Chicago acquired Mike Soroka and Jared Shuster in a November trade with Atlanta, and it signed Erick Fedde to a $15 million, two-year contract in December. Michael Kopech, Garrett Crochet, Chris Flexen, Touki Toussaint, Jake Eder and Nick Nastrini also are in the mix for a starting job.

After the White Sox went 61-101 last year in Grifol's first season as manager, they aren't exactly ruling anything out.

“I love competition,” Grifol said. “I love that part of our camp this year, that we’ve got a lot of competition on the pitching side of it, and we got some competition on the position player side.”

There also is uncertainty in the bullpen. Aaron Bummer was traded to Atlanta in the deal that brought in Soroka and Shuster, and Gregory Santos was shipped to Seattle on Feb. 3.

The team announced Tuesday it had agreed to minor league contracts with right-handers Corey Knebel and Dominic Leone that include invites to big league camp. Knebel has 72 saves in the majors.

Kopech or Crochet could be employed as a high-leverage reliever if either one loses out on a rotation spot, or if Chicago simply wants to put another big arm in its bullpen. Kopech has 43 career relief appearances in the majors, and Crochet has worked exclusively as a reliever in the big leagues.

“I’m open to anything,” Crochet said. “I’ve been training this offseason to be a starter and it’s kind of what’s in my mind. It’s up to the front office to decide what’s the best path to kind of execute the plan but I’m open to anything that’s helping the big league club. Starting is definitely No. 1 for me.”

The 24-year-old Crochet, a 6-foot-6 left-hander, was selected by Chicago with the No. 11 overall pick in the 2020 amateur draft out of the University of Tennessee. He missed the 2022 season while he recovered from Tommy John surgery.

Crochet said being a starting pitcher is “kind of the prized pony” in the majors.

“Everybody wants to be able to start, not everyone can do it,” he said. “For me, I have a lot of self-belief I can do it so I wanted a chance to prove that.”