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Chicago White Sox Spring Training Preview: Starting Pitching

The Chicago White Sox have quite a different look heading into the 2012 season after falling flat on their faces during the “All In” season of 2011.  The Chicago White Sox finished the season with a 79-83 record and 16
games behind division champion Detroit Tigers.

This will be the first Spring Training for the Chicago White Sox without Ozzie Guillen since he was hired to be the skipper in 2004.  Guillen’s teammate and the man he shared the left side of the infield with for many season will be his predecessor, Robin Ventura.  This will also be the first time the White Sox come into camp not relying heavily on the left arm of Mark Buehrle, who followed Guillen to the Miami Marlins.  Buehrle has started 10 out of the last 11 opening days, with the other in 2007 being Jose Contrereas.

I want to start out Spring Training by discussing who will take the spot of Buehrle on opening day and who will fill out the rest of the rotation.

I believe that John Danks is most likely to start Opening Day in Texas come April 6th.  Danks is fresh off signing his first big contract this offseason after rumors circled that Kenny Williams tried trading his young lefty.  The contract that was signed (5 years/$65 million) indicated that Williams, Ventura and pitching coach Don Cooper all believe that he can be a #1 starter on this staff.

Following Danks in the rotation will be Jake Peavy, who entering his second full season with the White Sox.  This is a big season for Peavy who says he is as healthy as he is going to get and anything under 30 starts would be very disappointing.  If the Sox want to compete this season, Peavy has to start at least 25 games.

Another pitcher that the White Sox need to finally step up and live up to what they believe he can do is Gavin Floyd.  Floyd is coming off a season in which he had an ERA of 4.37.  That was his worst season since becoming a full time starter on the Southside.  He needs to be under an ERA of 4, as he is now expected to be that concrete #3 starter.

The newcomer to this rotation will be Chris Sale.  While relieving for the White Sox over the past season and a half, Sale has an ERA of 2.58 while striking out hitters at the rate of 10.6/9IP.  I think the Sox will take it easy on Sale this year as they ease him into the rotation.  I project somewhere between 150-160 innings pitched this season with some breaks throughout.

The last spot will be open to competition, but the early favorite and most likely starter will be Phil Humber.  Humber made the team out of Spring Training last season as a non-roster invitee.  Humber really made an impact the first half of the season with an ERA of 3.10 in 18 games (16 starts).  I believe fatigue became a factor in the second half as he had an ERA of 5.10 in 10 starts.  Overall, if he can become a consistent pitcher, he could be the White Sox #5 starter for the next few years.

There are a few names to keep an eye on when it comes to starting pitching.  Zach Stewart is a guy who is ready to make an impact right now, mostly as areliever but he does have experience starting.  Stewart is the most logical choice at the moment to be the 6th starter say someone gets hurt, *cough* Peavy *cough*.  Hector Santiago is a lefty who has started for the White Sox before in spot start duty.  Santiago is more likely to challenge for the 3rd lefty out of the bullpen, but would be 7th or 8th on the depth chart.  Scott Olsen, a former National and Marlin, was also invited to camp and has 127 starts in the majors.  Another guy who has started for the Chicago White Sox is Dylan Axelrod.  He creates pretty good depth and insurance for this rotation.

Prospect Nestor Molina – acquired by Kenny Williams for Sergio Santos this offseason – ranks by most as the Chicago White Sox’s second best prospect to Addison Reed.  Simon Castro and Pedro Hernandez – acquired for Carlos Quentin – will both need some more time in the minors.  Jacob Petricka, a 2010 3rd round pick, will look to show his stuff during camp and then carry that to the minors and try to make a rise to the show sometime this season.

In the end, I believe the White Sox have a decent rotation that will depend even more on a healthy Jake Peavy now that Mark Buehrle has moved his home to Miami.  Stewart will be relied on at some point this season, whether it is a Peavy injury or the Sox just giving Chris Sale some rest.  Let’s hope that the Sox don’t have to depend on guys like Axelrod, Santiago and Olsen to make more than 3 combined starts this year, or it is going to be a very long year.  It may be a long year without that.