1. The White Sox were rained out for the second time already this season on Wednesday, pushing back the much anticipated debut of James Shields and leaving everyone wondering if baseball will ever be played on the south side of Chicago again.
The extra day of rest the Sox lost from Monday’s rainout has been restored, and as of now nothing has changed in terms of the upcoming rotation. Shields is scheduled to pitch on Thursday, with Derek Holland and Miguel Gonzalez slated for Friday and Saturday, respectively. Sunday’s series finale is still listed as TBA, and it’s entirely possible the White Sox skip the fifth spot in the rotation — likely Dylan Covey — in favor of Jose Quintana on regular rest.
This is solid news from an aesthetic standpoint, as skipping the place of whomever replaces Carlos Rodon for however long he’s out means less time, ya know, watching those guys pitch.
Before we get to that point, though, the first guy up will be Shields, whose start will undoubtedly be dissected as he looks to prove he can be a competent starting pitcher following his no good, very bad 2016. Shields’ importance to the 2017 White Sox won’t be measured so much by his ability to help the team win games as it will his ability to soak up innings on a team pretty much devoid of rotation depth. As the current object of the season focuses more on developing young players with an eye toward the future, proving he can function more like the average-ish pitcher he was in 2015 than the sub-replacement performance we saw a year ago would more than acceptable.
2. Speaking of rotation depth, the White Sox added another arm to the stockpile on Wednesday with the addition of Mike Pelfrey on a minor-league deal. Pelfrey was released by the Tigers at the end of Spring Training despite being due $7 million this season and it’s easy to see why after a season in which he posted a 5.07 ERA and a somehow worse 6.42 DRA, while walking almost as many hitters per nine (3.5) as strikeouts per nine (4.2).
Pelfrey is purely a depth signing, but a reasonable one considering the first injury to the rotation brought a Rule 5 draft pick to the forefront, and until any of the prospects are ready for promotion, the next lines of defense at Triple-A include the likes of Chris Volstad and Tyler Danish. Pelfrey isn’t likely to provide anything of value other than innings if and when he’s called upon, but as we’ve already outlined, there is and will be a need there. And besides, when he takes the mound for the White Sox, it’ll be on Detroit’s dime.
3. We’re a little more than two months from the 2016-17 international signing period closing and the White Sox reported pursuit of Cuban outfielder Luis Robert is beginning to take center stage.
Baseball America’s Ben Badler’s scouting report on Robert is glowing, and if the White Sox are able to land him it would give them a top-notch hitting prospect they’re sorely lacking outside of Yoan Moncada and Zack Collins.
Robert has the talent of a first-round pick if he were in the draft. After he signs, he should be ready for an assignment to a low or high Class A affiliate. He has a strong, lean frame at 6-foot-3 with broad shoulders, a wide back and quick-twitch athleticism. A righthanded hitter with excellent bat speed and a sound swing, Robert has plus power with room to continue filling out and increase that in the future.
As Badler notes, the timing of when Robert signs will be key. He has yet to be cleared to sign with a major-league team. If he’s cleared prior to June 15, the White Sox would have a leg-up as they have yet to exceed their bonus allotment for this signing period, as several teams already have. Even if he doesn’t opt to sign until after that date, when teams are allotted between $4.75 and $5.75 million, the White Sox would still be at an advantage as teams that overspent during the previous spending period would be forbidden from signing a period for more than $300,000, of which there are 11 such teams.
White Sox special assistant Marco Paddy was one of a crowd of team scouts and evaluators who attended Robert’s showcase last week, and Badler reported that the White Sox, along with the Astros, were scheduling private workouts with the 19 year old as well.
Rick Hahn has said, without mentioning any specific prospect by name, that the White Sox would be willing to go over their limit in the current international free agent period if the right situation were to present itself. Their pursuit of Robert will be one to watch in the coming months.
4. Amid the news of Monday’s rainout, Tuesday’s loss, and Wednesday’s rainout, the biggest news to come out of the first week of the season thus far was the Rodon health update, which Hahn provided Monday. Rodon has been throwing off flat ground for the last week, and Hahn said if all goes well he will throw from the mound starting on April 10, followed by a minor league rehab assignment. He said the process of getting him ready for the season could take up to six weeks, comparing the process to beginning with the start of spring training and working up to Opening Day.
Rodon missing six weeks would be a significant letdown during a season in which his progress was one of the few things worth watching. From a long term perspective, Rodon is one of the most important pieces in the White Sox future and them doing everything in their power to make sure he’s 100 percent healthy before putting him in a big league game again is completely reasonable.
5. The White Sox have gone a long way to make sure they’re getting a good look at some of the young unknowns that make up the roster this season, the trade of Peter Bourjos and ascension of Jacob May being the most obvious example as May joined Omar Narvaez and, to a lesser extent Tyler Saladino, in the Opening Day starting lineup.
One of the more interesting things to watch will be how Rick Renteria splits up playing time between Matt Davidson and Cody Asche. Davidson falls under the “unknown quantity” category that befits the aforementioned players, and one would assume the White Sox would follow suit with him in regards to playing time. Asche drew the Opening Day start at designated hitter, and while it would be foolish to draw any overwhelming conclusions based on that — it’s entirely possible Renteria just saw it unfit to throw the strikeout-prone Davidson out there against Justin Verlander — the more at-bats the White Sox get him and the other young players, the better.
Lead Photo Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports