Rotation alternatives not obvious for White Sox

Rotation alternatives not obvious for South Siders
2008-03-12T00:00:00Z Rotation alternatives not obvious for White SoxGEORGE CASTLE
Times Correspondent
nwitimes.com
March 12, 2008 12:00 am  • 

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

Rare is the team that finishes the season with the same five rotation pitchers with which it starts.

The White Sox plan to sink or swim -- for now -- with veterans Mark Buehrle, Javier Vazquez and Jose Contreras, along with the youthful John Danks and Gavin Floyd.

Yet what if Contreras does not come back from a miserable 1 1/2 seasons in 2006-07? What if Danks and Floyd still endure severe growing pains? How about injuries?

Short of general manager Kenny Williams trading third baseman Joe Crede, the team's most marketable player, for a starting pitcher, the Plan B starters do not stand out.

None of the alternatives has a good shot of making the club coming out of Tucson with the exception of right-hander Nick Masset, who is out of options.

"Nick features a classic four-pitch mix and has added a cut fastball to the sinker he already possesses," assistant general manager Rick Hahn said. "He simply needs to build his confidence in each of his offerings."

Japanese veteran Tomo Okha, about to turn 32, has given up just one run in six spring innings so far. Okha was 50-63 in nine big-league seasons, including 13-8 in Montreal in 2002. He could be sent to Triple-A Charlotte as insurance.

"He's got experience and has come up with a cutter," pitching coach Don Cooper said.

Other younger alternatives at Charlotte will be knuckleballer Charlie Haeger and fellow right-handers Jack Egbert and Lance Broadway. Haeger had brief stints with the Sox the past two seasons.

"At age 24, (Haeger) is farther along than many knuckleballers who went on to have successful major-league careers," Hahn said. "Being able to consistently command that pitch -- which is tricky to do and made more difficult by the desert atmosphere -- will be the key for Charlie."

Egbert, 24, a 13-round Sox draftee in 2004, impressed management with his poise during a 12-8 season with Class AA Birmingham in 2007. Sidelined early with a sore elbow, Egbert made his spring debut Sunday.

"Perhaps the best suited for our ballpark of the (alternates), Jack has had great success inducing groundballs and strikeouts over the past two seasons," Hahn said. "The key for him is getting him healthy and back the path he was on at the end of the 2007 season."

"He might not light up the radar gun, but he can pitch," Cooper said.

Broadway, also 24, has virtually hit a plateau after being drafted No. 1 in 2005. He has been shelled in the spring.

"He added a sinker to his repertoire last spring training that has increased his ability to get groundballs and makes him better suited for our ballpark," Hahn said. "Consistency with that pitch -- and his putaway curveball -- will be the key to his success."

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