Doug Padilla recaps the White Sox and looks at what changes might be in store for 2014.
Despite having a Cy Young Award candidate in Chris Sale, and a pair of pitchers who reached 200 innings (Sale and Jose Quintana), the White Sox were merely middle of the pack when it came to the results from their starters. The starting staff’s combined 3.99 ERA was eighth in the American League and its .257 opponents’ batting average was seventh. The best news for the White Sox might have been the prospects that emerged as possible 2014 rotation candidates.
The good: Sale verified his credentials as a staff ace, refusing to let a frustrating season rattle him too much. There was no doubt that the lack of run support from the White Sox’s offense got him off track at times, but he still managed to essentially match his ERA from a year ago, while raising strikeout and innings totals, all while reducing his walk numbers. If Sale was the emotional one, then Quintana was his exact opposite, showing an unaffected approach that enabled him to pair a 3.51 ERA with his 200 innings. John Danks might not have wowed anybody with his numbers this year after a return from shoulder surgery, but his 138 1/3 innings were key to getting him closer to full strength moving into next year.
The bad: Early injuries to both Gavin Floyd and Jake Peavy got the rotation off track and it struggled to recover. Dylan Axelrod managed to be a crafty fill-in starter for a long stretch before he ultimately ran out of gas. White Sox starters had just 44 victories, the third lowest total in the American League, but the lack of run support from the offense and some shoddy defense has to take a lot of the blame in that category.
Who’s next?: With a solid season between Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte, Erik Johnson emerged as a strong candidate for the 2014 rotation as a possible No. 5 starter. Andre Rienzo will be in the No. 5 starter mix as well, but could still manage to win an Opening Day roster spot as a long reliever if Johnson becomes a starter. Left-hander Charlie Leesman also will get a long look in spring training.
2014 outlook: Manager Robin Ventura said that his only certainty for next season’s team is that Sale will be his Opening Day starter. Beyond that, anything could happen before the 2014 season begins. The White Sox could be looking at four left-handed starters next season, but Ventura said he isn’t worried about it as long as everybody is performing. The White Sox might be willing to field trade offers on Quintana this offseason, but unless they end up with a No. 2 starting candidate as good as him, if not better, that kind of move isn’t likely to happen.