The White Sox have such an embarrassment of riches in the rotation that all the qualified left-handers cannot be accommodated.
That will be problem No. 1 for the Sox, as they begin spring training in Glendale, Ariz.
The ideal scenario features southpaw John Danks fully recovered from shoulder surgery by late March while Chris Sale is ready for a jump in endurance.
Thus fellow lefties Hector Santiago and Jose Quintana would be in a pitch-off for the final rotation spot. The loser would go to the bullpen…or to another team?
Not so fast. New general manager Rick Hahn, who knows he has plenty of suitors for his apparent pitching surplus, initially said he’s not inclined to trade the extra arm(s) by the time the team breaks camp.
A team always needs pitchers beyond those who begin the season as the starting five. But the no-trade idea is hardly set in stone, since Hahn has lineup needs that could be satisfied by a much-desired arm.
However the numbers shake out, the Sox are still charged with matching the nemesis Tigers pitcher-for-pitcher. The division champs have a gilded Big Four of Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez (also pursued by the Cubs) and Doug Fister. The Sox hope is to have an edge in 1-through-12 depth on the staff.
The effort to forge that quality starts with Danks, a disappointment through ineffectiveness, then injury the past two seasons. As part of his final buildup to spring training, he was supposed to start throwing breaking balls.
“I’m putting something behind it,” Danks said “I’m not just lobbing it up there. I’m pushing it as far as I can. It’s not 100 percent cutting it loose, but it’s enough to make me feel pretty good about where I’m at right now."
The Sox will ration 17-game-winner Sale’s workload in camp to prepare for a jump-up in innings come April. He won’t be handled with kid-gloves, skipping or pushing back starts to save on his arm anymore. Sale fully expects to easily surpass 200 innings.
“That’s my goal,” Sale said. “I want to be out there for every start. I’m hoping I can pull my end of the chain for us."
The easiest transition for the pitchers will be throwing to Tyler Flowers, replacing A.J. Pierzynski after eight memorable seasons behind the plate.
“We’re all excited to have Tyler back there for us,” Sale said. “We know what he’s capable of.”
Flowers knows he’s been handed his golden opportunity to finally stick as a regular catcher.
“This is what you dream about,” Flowers said. “This is the challenge of my life. This is everything I worked for. Whatever happens, I’m confident going into it.”
Flowers’ offensive development is crucial to a lineup very similar to the one that collapsed down the stretch in 2012. Hahn and manager Robin Ventura obviously are counting on maturation from the likes of Dayan Viciedo and Gordon Beckham, and newly-acquired Jeff Keppinger’s ability to perform the bat-handling tasks of a No. 2 hitter.
Glendale also will be the time and place Adam Dunn can complete the personal hitting recovery begun last season.
The big slugger was in no way satisfied with his 41-homer American League Comeback Player of the Year Award. A .204 average and 222 strikeouts properly tempered Dunn’s attitude. If the miscast No. 3 hitter can successfully flip-flop lineup slots during the spring with Alex Rios, the Sox order might be able to flow more naturally.