Cooper defends White Sox farm system

CHICAGO -- The Chicago White Sox minor league system hasn’t exactly been proficient at producing impact position players lately, but pitching coach Don Cooper has no issue with its output.

With Andre Rienzo, Charlie Leesman and Erik Johnson on the rise and Scott Snodgress behind those three at the Double-A level, the system that is often knocked does have a department that keeps on giving.

“Does it bother me when the system gets knocked?” Cooper asked. “Here’s what I’ll say: I know this, that we have a good, a very good minor league pitching thing going. We’ve got guys that have been there for a while, we are all on the same page and they know what we need to do, so if you are knocking the pitching department, then you are off base.

“Look at the guys that are here and what they are doing here. Whoever is saying that doesn’t have any legs to stand on.”

Rienzo has only arrived at the big league level, but homegrown talent like Chris Sale and Hector Santiago are already in the mix. Leesman made his debut Friday night by giving up only a run over five-plus innings, despite five walks. He struck out eight.

“We started this youth process last year and it’s continuing,” Cooper said. “One year doesn’t make a big leaguer. We added Rienzo in there to the four other guys, and when someone else comes, then we’ll welcome him and start the process with him. That’s what’s going on; it’s a process with each guy, no matter how you shake it out. Each guy is in a different part of that process.”

Not everybody in the foursome of Rienzo, Johnson, Leesman and Snodgress might stick on the major league level but, by throwing numbers at the problem, the White Sox like their chances that at least two of them will be serviceable starters for a long time.

With Sale on board, none of the four need to project out to a potential staff ace, not that Chicago would have an issue if any of them did.

“You know, listen, we got five starters here right now and they pretty young,” Cooper said. “You mentioned Johnson, and there’s six, Leesman could be a seventh. There’s probably one or two guys I’m forgetting. It’s nice to know that we’ve got some pitching coming along if we need it. But heck, our starters are kind of locked in pretty good.

“If the season was to end today, let’s say, there might be some competition for the fifth spot, right? That’s the way I see it. The other guys have earned the opportunity to stay and continue their process.”

Right now, the White Sox are projecting a 2014 rotation of Sale, John Danks, Jose Quintana and Santiago. That leaves the fifth spot to be decided at spring training among all of the young arms.