Young starting pitchers key to Chicago White Sox's future

Why are the Chicago White Sox so excited about the future?

Eloy Jimenez looks like he's going to be an offensive force, and fellow outfield prospect Luis Robert showed off all five of his tools in spring training before going down with a left thumb injury.

Add in Zack Collins, Blake Rutherford, Jake Burger (out for the season with an Achilles injury), Micker Adolfo and Gavin Sheets, and the Sox's future lineup has a promising look.

But as they advance in the rebuild and try to get back into the playoffs for the first time since 2008, look for the White Sox's deep pool of young starting pitchers to lead the way.

"We have some really, really good pitching," James Shields said. "And we have some good pitching coming up as well. I'm excited."

Under contract for one more season, the 36-year-old Shields is not going to be around when the Sox expect to be contenders.

Ditto for Miguel Gonzalez and Hector Santiago, who are on one-year contracts and likely to join Shields in the White Sox's rotation this year.

Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez are two young starters that are keys for the future, and they both arrived from Class AAA Charlotte in 2017.

Giolito was 3-3 with a 2.38 ERA in 7 starts for the Sox. Lopez was 3-3 with a 4.72 ERA in 8 starts.

"I need to continue to build off that," Giolito said. "I think if you want to be successful in the big leagues you have to feel like you belong in the big leagues, and it took me a little while to figure that out.

"But now I feel a lot better about that and I'm looking forward to building off it and working on things I need to work on and achieving more success."

Giolito and Lopez are in place, so that leaves three spots in the White Sox's future rotation. There are plenty of options.

Still sidelined after having shoulder surgery in September, Carlos Rodon has been able to gradually ramp up his throwing program and the left-hander is expected to be back with the Sox before the all-star break.

The No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 draft, Rodon is 20-21 with a 3.95 ERA in parts of three seasons with the White Sox.

"Everyone is so young, a bunch of young guys," Rodon said. "It's going to be really fun this year to grow together and that's why I really don't want to miss out. I want to grow with these guys."

Michael Kopech is expected to grow into a front-line starter for the Sox after going a combined 9-8 with a 2.88 ERA for Class AA Birmingham and Charlotte last year. The rocket-armed righty also had 172 strikeouts in 134⅓ innings.

"I'm really excited about what the future has in store," the 21-year-old Kopech said. "Of course, we have a lot of big-league talent that has been taking care of business, but when we are all there and able to help out together it's going to be a lot of fun. It's going to be a good deal for the next couple of years, at least."

After Kopech, Alec Hansen is the next young starter expected to make it to the Sox, and keep an eye on Dylan Cease.

Acquired along with Jimenez in the trade that sent starter Jose Quintana to the Cubs last July, Cease pitched 6⅓ scoreless innings and had 9 strikeouts in his first 3 Cactus League appearances with the Sox.

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