Sox have good rotation, but can they afford to lose a starter?

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Sox have good rotation, but can they afford to lose a starter?

Kenny Williams gets why there's some pessimism among the fanbase regarding the White Sox. The sting of 2011's "All In" season still lingers with Opening Day just days away.

But the White Sox GM is confident his starting rotation is going to be better than some people think. That's completely fair -- John Danks, Jake Peavy, Gavin Floyd, Chris Sale and Philip Humber comprise a pretty solid staff. While the Sox may not have the star power of Justin Verlander or the 1-2 punch of Ubaldo Jimenez and Justin Masterson, those five pitchers are good enough to compete for a division title.

That's if they can stay healthy. Few teams would be better off with a replacement to an injured starter without a little luck. For the White Sox, though, the prospect of losing one of Danks, Peavy, Floyd, Sale or Humber is worrying.

Gracious WSCR-670 AM host Wayne Randazzo asked me about the outlook for the 2012 starting rotation on his program Sunday, which brought this issue to the forefront: The White Sox don't have much pitching depth beyond their five starters.

Dylan Axelrod could be good for a few spot starts here and there, and most likely he'd ride the Carlos TorresLucas Harrell express from Charlotte to Chicago if necessary. He looked hittable this spring, allowing 29 hits and walking 13 in 19 23 Cactus League innings -- and while that's a small sample size, it came in one more innings than his small-sample success in the majors last year.

That's not to totally discount Axelrod, because he has had success with every level at which he's started since joining the White Sox. Whether he could sustain that success over an extended stay in the majors -- say, more than eight or so starts -- remains to be seen.

Beyond Axelrod, there aren't a ton of options. Zach Stewart may not be one for a long-term spot in the rotation, as he likely wouldn't be stretched out working as the team's long reliever. The same goes for Hector Santiago, but to a more extreme level in terms of being stretched out.

Nestor Molina has thrown a grand total of 22 innings above the Single-A level and will begin 2012 with Double-A Birmingham. It's probably best to see if he can get Triple-A hitters out before bringing him to the majors, so he may not be an option until late in the year.

Scott Olsen could be in the mix, but he's coming off shoulder issues and hasn't appeared in spring training -- probably not a good sign for the former Marlins and Nationals starter. Terry Doyle and Charlie Leesman aren't realistic options yet, either.

If the worst happens and a starter does go down with a long-term injury, the Sox best bet may be to plug Axelrod into the rotation and then work to acquire a replacement -- unless Axelrod looks extremely impressive.

The Sox can sustain a short-term injury to a starter, but a long-term one looks tricky as we draw closer to Opening Day.

Of course, if the rotation can stay generally healthy, it'll be a strength of the team. So the news isn't all doom and gloom here.

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