The Chicago White Sox played about half of the 2010 season without their No. 1 starting pitcher, Jake Peavy. And, by the looks of things, they'll be continuing that trend for a while longer in 2011.
At yesterday's general manager meetings in Orlando, Fla., White Sox GM Kenny Williams said, "I'm not looking [for Peavy to return in] April in my mind, but he may surprise me." ESPN Chicago's Bruce Levine went a step further, citing an unnamed MLB source as saying, "It may be as late as June before Peavy is ready to return from an injury few baseball players have suffered." That injury would be a detached latissimus dorsi muscle underneath Peavy's right shoulder.
Interestingly, Williams also said the team has six starters and that he's considering adding another. Levine presumes those six to be: 1) Mark Buehrle, 2) John Danks, 3) Gavin Floyd, 4) Edwin Jackson, 5) Tony Pena, and 6) Chris Sale. Pena would seem the most likely candidate to assume the fifth starter's role while Peavy is out. He did start three games for the Sox this past season and certainly fits the ground-ball-guy, innings-eater profile. But what if Chris Sale gets a shot?
Granted, right now, that appears unlikely. Pitching coach Don Cooper was quoted just last week as saying he'd "have to hear the reasons" to give Sale, who will be barely 22 years old on Opening Day, a month of starts. "I don't think a kid like this needs to be bounced around," said the Coop. "I like him in the bullpen for the 2011 season,"
But let's say Cooper changes his mind and the youngster gets a month -- or even two months -- of starts. And let's say he really succeeds. The Sox could then face a difficult choice when Peavy returns. Presumably, they'd have to bounce one of their starters (likely Floyd or Jackson) to the pen. A nice problem to have but an awkward one nonetheless, especially if both are pitching well.
The truth is, it's still a little early in the off-season to get too worried about any of this. Kenny Williams is no stranger to bold moves (Alex Rios, Manny Ramirez), and he may open a spot in the rotation for Sale with a trade (Floyd's name has already come up) or even anoint the young lefty closer if Bobby Jenks is nontendered as many expect and the team fails to sign one. But we'll be interested to see how the Sox pitching staff shapes up as the off-season moves along.