White Sox spring preview: Starting rotation

With Mark Buehrle gone, John Danks takes over the ace role, but can he rebound from a subpar 2011 season? Jamie Squire/Getty Images

With spring training fast approaching, Doug Padilla previews the White Sox roster by position.

Since the Chicago White Sox’s five-man rotation can already be identified, the biggest question surrounding this group has to do with performance.

Presenting the White Sox’s 2012 starting staff: John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Jake Peavy, Chris Sale, Phil Humber.

Gone from last season is not only Mark Buehrle, but also that quirky six-man rotation that lasted primarily because Humber earned the right to keep on starting. Humber now enters spring training with a set spot on a big-league staff for the first time in his professional career.

Danks figures to get the Opening Day nod, but Peavy’s ability to turn back the clock to his San Diego Padres days will go a long way toward helping the club have success. Peavy has been told he is finally as healthy as he’s going to get, so his final season in a White Sox uniform should be his best as long as the injury bug doesn’t strike again.

Floyd will be out to convince the White Sox to activate a $9.5 million club option for 2013 (he will make $7 million this season). Sale will get the chance to start that he was promised when he was added to the bullpen shortly after being drafted in 2010. The lefty, who has tons of upside, will try to find his changeup again after ditching it when he became a reliever.

Thin on legitimate starting options in the minor leagues, the White Sox have added a handful of them since midway through the 2011 season, including Zach Stewart, Simon Castro and Nestor Molina.

BEST-CASE SCENARIO IN 2012: We know the arms, now it’s time to find out what they will do. Danks needs to return to being the dependable horse of the rotation putting in 210 innings or so, while Peavy shows he can revive his front-of-the-rotation form. Floyd needs to find another two-month run like he had in 2012, while Humber avoids the midseason lull he ran into last season. Don’t judge Sale on his first two months, good or bad. Instead look for a steady season with something close to 180 innings.

WORST-CASE SCENARIO FOR 2012: If Peavy has trouble recovering between starts like he did last season and Sale struggles to adjust to his new role, the White Sox could have issues. Perhaps one from the group of Stewart, Castro and Molina can emerge to make key contributions, but asking two to do it will be pushing it. Humber doesn’t have to be as dominating as he was over the first three months, but he will probably have to match his overall performance from last year when he delivered a 3.75 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP, second among the starters to Floyd’s 1.16 mark.

KID TO WATCH: Molina and Castro will be in competition to see who is called up first when the White Sox have a need. But don't sleep on right-hander Jake Petricka, a second-round pick in 2010, who needs to embrace a quality secondary pitch to complement a blazing fastball.