GLENDALE, Ariz. -- As set as the Chicago White Sox’s roster seemed to be heading into spring training, there still remains a number of significant decisions to make with the pitching staff.
Chris Sale’s foot injury has created some intrigue in the starting rotation, at least for the opening week of the season, but the bullpen is far from set as well.
Left-hander Carlos Rodon was initially believed to be the pitcher that would benefit most from Sale’s temporary absence, but over the past two weeks, veteran Brad Penny has been the one that has actually taken the most advantage.
Penny was competitive Saturday in his fourth Cactus League appearance, and second start, giving up three runs on five hits over four-plus innings. In 11 2/3 Cactus League innings, he has a 4.63 ERA.
Penny is in camp on a minor-league deal, and the White Sox have declined to reveal what the 36-year old would make if he ended up making the roster.
It doesn’t figure to be a daunting dollar amount, compared to what the rest of the roster is making, but the price could come into play, especially if the White Sox don’t see Penny making more than a spot start or two at the outset.
A decision to break camp with a fifth starter could hinge on Sale’s recovery. If he is on track to return by April 12, the White Sox can get by with just four starters over the first week of the regular season.
And if the club leaves the desert with just four starters, that figures to benefit the bullpen with an extra man for at least a week. It leaves manager Robin Ventura and staff with some decisions to make.
“I think we do have some interesting things that are still going on in the bullpen,” Ventura said. “We have a long way to go until you get there.”
While acknowledging that Penny’s preference is to be a starter, Ventura did mention the bullpen as a possibility. Whatever plan the White Sox reveal to Penny, the pitcher knows he can trust them.
“I can’t ask for a better shake,” Penny said of his opportunities to pitch this spring. “Last year with the Royals, I wasn’t going to get that opportunity. They’ve been honest with me: ‘We’re going to give you the innings, you’re going to pitch.’ They’ve stuck to their word, absolutely.”