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.

Derek Holland ends spring on strong note as White Sox down Dodgers

Derek Holland ends spring on strong note as White Sox down Dodgers

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Derek Holland ended a productive spring with his best outing to date on Monday afternoon.

Healthy and excited to officially kick off his White Sox career, Holland delivered six strong innings in a 5-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday. The left-hander allowed two earned runs and five hits in six innings pitched, walking two and striking out one. Holland is expected to pitch once more in Milwaukee on Saturday before pitching in the third game of the regular season.

“Definitely feel good,” Holland said. “Feel very confident with everything, very happy with how the spring went. I worked on what we needed to work on to get myself ready for the season and stay healthy and I’m very happy with that. But most of all when you get out there and pitch, the defense, you have to keep them on their toes, and I thought the last out was the perfect example of that.”

Holland was referring to a nice diving catch by Jacob May that prevented at least one run from scoring. The longtime Texas Rangers pitcher was pleased to have established his fastball early and mixed in his offspeed pitches and changeup.

“I wanted to make sure we were going the distance,” Holland said. “I didn’t want to have a setback, and I thought we did a great job.”

The White Sox appear to have narrowly avoided one setback on Monday and are awaiting word on another. An X-ray on the left wrist of infielder Tyler Saladino was negative after he was hit by a pitch while getting in work in a pair of minor-league games. Saladino has been diagnosed with a bruised wrist.

The team is still awaiting word on pitcher Jake Petricka, who took a comebacker off his pitching hand in the seventh inning. Petricka exited the game, got his hand wrapped in ice and left to take an X-ray.

The White Sox are also waiting to learn the results of Carlos Rodon’s second opinion. Rodon was scratched from Friday’s start with a tight bicep tendon and had a physical exam and took an MRI, both of which showed he had no structural damage. Rodon traveled to Los Angeles early Monday for the second opinion with Dr. Neal ElAttrache.

Even if he receives the all clear, the White Sox will remain cautious, manager Rick Renteria said. “It’s almost like you have to re-start the process a little bit,” Renteria said. “It would be foolish to try to anticipate or push him into any direction without first of all ultimately having whatever the diagnosis is or the validation or whatever it might be of the second opinion. Once we get that, we’ll know hopefully tomorrow how we can ultimately proceed. I wouldn’t think we’d try to ramp him up quickly.”

The club also expects to have more clarity on the status of right-handed pitcher Juan Minaya on Tuesday. Minaya, who has been out since March 15 with an abdominal tear, was re-evaluated on Monday. Minaya had a 3.18 ERA and nine strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings this spring.

Matt Davidson also had two hits in the White Sox victory and drove in a run. Melky Cabrera hit a solo homer, his first of the spring. Yolmer Sanchez blasted his third homer of the spring, a two-run shot.

Zach Putnam struck out two in a scoreless inning.

With season a week away, Todd Frazier is 'right where I need to be'

With season a week away, Todd Frazier is 'right where I need to be'

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- After he pulled the ball more than ever in 2016, Todd Frazier has worked to hit it the opposite way more often this spring. Even if he struggled.

But as the Opening Day nears, Frazier doesn’t want to cheat himself. Though he struggled last season, Frazier hit a career-high 40 homers. That kind of success means Frazier will continue to pull a pitch if it’s where he likes it. That approach led to a double and Frazier’s first home run of the spring in a 5-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers at Camelback Ranch. Both balls were hit to left field.

“I’ve been working on a lot of things and sometimes when you work on something the results aren’t going to be there,” Frazier said. “But I still stay true to myself. And once we start getting going here, pretty close, close as can be -- it’s time to have those things in the back of your mind. But at the same time, you have to hit it where the pitch is and put in play. I was working on a lot of things. I was still trying to go right field, couldn’t get it out there. And now you go to what you know best and just react.”

According to fangraphs.com, Frazier hit 22.8 percent of all balls he put in play to right field last year, which is actually above his career mark of 22.5 percent. But en route to slashing .225/.302/.464, Frazier saw a second consecutive dramatic drop in the number of balls he hit to center. Of the balls Frazier put in play, only 28.5 percent went up the middle, down from 37.7 percent in 2014 when he produced a career-best wRC+ of 122.

To correct that trend, Frazier has worked to give himself a better chance to hit outside pitches the opposite way. Now that his focus is back on hitting to all fields, Frazier thought it was a good sign to homer with a week left before the season starts.

“It feels good,” Frazier said. “It’s showing I’m in the right place. It was a changeup and I’ve been out in front on a lot of those. I’ve got about 10 or 12 more at-bats before the season starts and it’s go time. Get back in the rhythm of things. Whatever you worked on, keep that there. If it’s outside now I have that weapon too as well. I’m right where I need to be.”