After Giolito, Keuchel, Chicago White Sox have to sort out starting rotation

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito (27) walks to the dugout after retiring the Oakland Athletics in the fourth inning of Game 1 of an American League wild-card baseball series Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, in Oakland, Calif.

    Chicago White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito (27) walks to the dugout after retiring the Oakland Athletics in the fourth inning of Game 1 of an American League wild-card baseball series Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, in Oakland, Calif.

  • Chicago White Sox pitcher Dallas Keuchel (60) walks to the dugout after being relieved in the fourth inning in Game 2 of an American League wild-card baseball series against the Oakland Athletics Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020, in Oakland, Calif.

    Chicago White Sox pitcher Dallas Keuchel (60) walks to the dugout after being relieved in the fourth inning in Game 2 of an American League wild-card baseball series against the Oakland Athletics Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020, in Oakland, Calif.

 
 
Updated 10/22/2020 7:34 PM

The White Sox have a rising young star at the top of their starting rotation.

They have an old-school veteran in the No. 2 slot.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

After ace Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel, they have a bushel of starting candidates and a lot of question marks.

"We do have a group of young pitchers that we feel really good about," Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. "And we have a group of young pitchers that we think are going to play roles on championship clubs going forward. We're not really at a point where we know exactly what those roles are going to be just yet."

If the White Sox decide against paying up for a free-agent starter such as Trevor Bauer or Marcus Stroman this winter, they'll be left with plenty of in-house options.

Dylan Cease was the Sox's No. 3 starter for most of this season, and the former Cubs prospect looked good early in the year.

But after going 4-1 with a 2.14 ERA in August, Cease slipped badly in September and was 1-2 with a 5.64 ERA to go with 16 walks in 22⅓ innings.

The White Sox desperately needed a third starter in the playoffs, but Cease was not available after pitching 1 scoreless inning of relief in Game 2.

The 24-year-old righty has a great arm, but Cease has to start throwing consistent strikes if he wants to stick in the Sox's rotation.

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Dane Dunning did start Game 3 for the White Sox, but he also faded down the stretch and was pulled by ex-manager Rick Renteria with two outs in the first inning of his playoff debut.

Considering he missed the entire 2019 season recovering from Tommy John surgery and wasn't able to get some needed minor-league innings this year, Dunning (2-0, 3.97 ERA) acquitted himself pretty well as a rookie and should be better in 2021 and beyond.

Michael Kopech is the biggest question for the Sox moving forward. Showing why he is considered a front-end arm late in the 2018 season when he joined the White Sox's rotation, Kopech injured his elbow during a Sept. 5 start against the Tigers.

Kopech had Tommy John surgery which cost him all of last season and he opted out this year.

That is a lengthy layoff, but the Sox expect the 24-year-old Kopech to be ready to roll when spring training opens in February.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Having Michael Kopech back is going to be a nice shot in the arm, but at the same time we know he hasn't faced hitters at the big-league level for two years," Hahn said. "So what exactly are we getting in 2021 is still to be determined."

Reynaldo Lopez, Jonathan Stiever and Jimmy Lambert also are in the starting mix for the White Sox, and so is a potential star -- Garrett Crochet.

The Sox's first-round draft pick in June (No. 11 overall) out of Tennessee, Crochet went right from the Schaumburg training facility to the major-league bullpen in September and instantly brought back memories of Chris Sale with 8 strikeouts and no walks over 6 scoreless innings.

Crochet, a 21-year-old lefty who throws 100-mph fastballs with ease, struck out both Oakland hitters he faced in Game 3 of the playoffs before exiting with an arm injury.

The initial worry was an elbow issue and Tommy John procedure, but it appears Crochet is going to be fine with a winter of rest.

"The information is good, it's positive," Hahn said. "He is dealing with a flexor strain, essentially a muscle strain in the forearm. The UCL (elbow ligament) is clean, no issues there. We expect him to continue to progress and he'll be without restriction come next spring."

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