Pitching in state of flux for White Sox

Pitching in state of flux for White Sox

CHICAGO -- As of Monday afternoon, just a few hours before the White Sox series opener with Texas, Nick Masset found himself in pitching limbo.

"Just a couple of days ago, it was 'maybe,'" said Masset of his chance for a spot-start on Tuesday night in place of the injured Jose Contreras. "Today, it was, 'Be ready for the bullpen.'

"There's no final word," Masset added.

That final word came approximately 15 minutes later, when manager Ozzie Guillen announced during his pregame media session that Mark Buehrle would be moved up one day and work on three days' rest in Tuesday's start. Clayton Richard, the Minor League callup who was added to the roster on Monday, makes his Major League debut in a start on Wednesday afternoon for the series finale at U.S. Cellular Field.

Buehrle will be away from the team on Wednesday, returning to Missouri for his grandfather's funeral. Both the veteran left-hander and the White Sox didn't want Buehrle to miss his scheduled turn.

"It's something you can't control," said Guillen of Buehrle's absence. "It's not going to be that short, four days."

Richard, who replaced Adam Russell on the active roster and received his spot on the 40-man roster when Andrew Sisco was moved to the 60-day disabled list, has gone through the professional year of his life. The 24-year-old started the 2008 campaign for Double-A Birmingham, where he posted a 6-6 record with a 2.47 ERA

After earning a promotion to Triple-A Charlotte, Richard won all six of his starts with a 2.37 ERA. Richard fanned 29 and walked just four over 38 innings pitched.

This strong combined effort helped earn him the starting nod for the U.S. team at the All-Star Futures Game at Yankee Stadium on July 13. Richard also was selected as part of the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team for the Beijing Games in August, although this Major League promotion appears to have cost him that Olympic opportunity.

"I'm really not sure on how it's going to work out," said Richard of reports he had been removed from the Olympic roster as of Monday. "But I know I'm happy where I'm at, and really, all I have to worry about now is what happens out there on the field. I'm here for whatever they need."

According to Guillen, the White Sox thought about easing Richard into big league life by using him out of the bullpen. But after much internal discussion, they decided the best option for the former quarterback at the University of Michigan and the team itself was to temporarily move Richard into the rotation.

"We don't know what we're going to get from [him out of] the bullpen, but we can have an idea what kind of stuff he has when he starts," Guillen said. "He has a routine, all the different things."

"Good for him," added White Sox general manager Ken Williams of Richard's opportunity. "He's taken the ball and run with it."

Williams spoke of how Richard has established both sides of the plate with his fastball, throws a little deception into his delivery and has a good breaking ball and changeup. Richard added that he tries to pitch off his fastball and throw in a little sink, while featuring great command.

Barring some sort of trade or true struggles on Wednesday, Richard figures to get a second start in the Metrodome next week. But even a rough patch for the left-hander over the next few weeks won't sour the White Sox on this rising prospect.

"Whether he can relax enough to show us [what he has] when he gets his turn to pitch, well, we will all find that out together," Williams said. "Even with a poor showing out there, we still know what we have in terms of another quality lefty."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.