Just when you thought Dylan Axelrod was finished as a starting pitcher with the White Sox, the rookie right-hander took the mound in place of Gavin Floyd on Monday night at Boston and was absolutely brilliant.
Just three days after pitching 2 innings of relief in Friday night's marathon 14-inning win at Kansas City, Axelrod stepped up big-time and threw 6 innings against the Red Sox, allowing 1 run with 8 strikeouts and no walks.
While he provided a huge lift, Axelrod is not a guy you want to count on too much during a pennant race.
If the White Sox are going to stay on top in the AL Central -- or claim a wild-card spot -- they need to shore up the starting rotation.
The Sox obviously need some veteran help in the bullpen as well, considering they are navigating with veteran Matt Thornton and six rookies.
One of them, lefty Leyson Septimo, spoiled Axelrod's solid start against Boston by issuing back-to-back walks to Carl Crawford and David Ortiz leading off the eighth inning. Adrian Gonzalez followed with a 3-run homer to snap a 1-1 tie and lift the Red Sox to a 5-1 win.
General manager Kenny Williams has some big decisions to make between now and the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline, and they all involve pitching.
Let's keep the focus on the starting rotation for now.
Floyd met up with the White Sox in Boston on Monday after having an MRI on his sore right elbow.
While no structural damage was found, Floyd's return is unknown.
"The ligament is great and it's just a little tendinitis in the flexor muscles," Floyd told reporters. "So it's good news. But it's a little bit of bad."
Bad because Floyd has been feeling pain on the mound.
"It has been like a gradual thing," Floyd said. "It has gotten better in between starts for a little bit and it's been manageable. The start date has been fine and the day before was a lot better than the days before that. Then, it just, the last start (July 7), it was tight and a little sore and it got tighter a little bit as the game went on.
"I didn't think nothing of it. I thought it would be fine. I threw a little bit in the (all-star) break and it was sore and tender, especially on off-speed stuff. I threw a bullpen (in Kansas City on Friday) and I didn't think I could compete because I was kind of pitching worried whether something was wrong."
Since Floyd doesn't even know when he'll be able to throw a bullpen, it's no surprise the White Sox are being linked to potential trade candidates like the Brewers' Zack Greinke and the Cubs' Ryan Dempster, a close friend of White Sox captain Paul Konerko.
As for another injured Sox starter -- John Danks -- the news was a little better Monday.
Danks (sore shoulder) hasn't thrown for a few weeks, but he played catch before the Sox lost to Boston.
"I'm giddy right now and it's still sore," Danks told reporters. "Just to go out there and throw and feel like we are making progress again, it's definitely huge. I needed something positive to happen. It was getting kind of tough there for a little bit. I don't know how much longer we have. But for sure we are moving in the right direction."
Danks has been out since May 20, so he is going to need to build up arm strength and go on a lengthy rehab assignment before rejoining the White Sox.
If all goes well, a late August return looks like the best-case scenario.