White Sox stay flexible with starting rotation

White Sox stay flexible with starting rotation

CHICAGO -- The White Sox have at least six quality starters as part of their 2013 starting rotation as of Halloween.

It's a scary proposition for the South Siders' opponents. But agreeing to a two-year, $29 million extension with Jake Peavy and exercising the 2013 club option at $9.5 million on Gavin Floyd gives the White Sox great flexibility before baseball's Hot Stove really gets warm -- not to mention striking fear into the hearts of their American League Central rivals.

Peavy and Floyd join Chris Sale, John Danks, Jose Quintana and Hector Santiago as candidates for the starting rotation. That list doesn't include rising Minor League talent such as Andre Rienzo, Charlie Leesman, Simon Castro and Nestor Molina.

Danks continues to hit all markers in his recovery from arthroscopic left shoulder surgery on Aug. 6 and is scheduled to begin throwing on Thursday. But much like Peavy's comeback from lat surgery heading into the 2011 season, the White Sox know Danks might not be ready at the start of the 2013 campaign and will need to have his workload watched as the season progresses.

Starting pitching depth allows the White Sox leeway with Danks.

"It's nice to be able to insulate and not rush that," said White Sox general manager Rick Hahn of Danks' recovery. "We always prefer to have more depth than less with pitching."

"We'll have to monitor [Danks] like we monitored Peavy, like we monitored Sale," said White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper. "He'll be throwing all winter, so two thoughts come to mind. We'll need innings to back him up with in games, as we are not going to say, 'Here's 120 pitches,' and at some point, we'll be skipping his turn. To have depth is really important. The more, the better."

Floyd, 29, was 12-11 with a 4.29 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 29 starts last season. The 6-foot-6, 235-pounder reached double figures in victories for the fifth consecutive season, joining the Rays' James Shields, the Tigers' Justin Verlander and the Angels' Jered Weaver as the only AL pitchers to accomplish that feat. After coming back from a right elbow strain on Sept. 12, Floyd finished with seven earned runs allowed over his final 25 innings. His overall body of work and the possibility of another starter with 200-plus innings has Cooper excited to have Floyd back in the fold.

"Listen, Gavin was much better in his last five starts, with the way he threw the ball aggressively," Cooper said. "We got him to use his best physical strength and cut him away from analyzing and scrutinizing.

"I've said before that the mental guy in Gavin was choking the physical guy and not letting the physical guy go. Gavin fell back into that at times this year. That will be my goal with Gavin. Build on his last five starts, with the Gavin we saw when he was really good."

Having this abundance of quality starters affords Hahn the opportunity to potentially deal from strength and fill a void at third base or even at catcher, if the team doesn't bring back free agent A.J. Pierzynski or give the starting job to Tyler Flowers. The White Sox declined the 2013 options on right-hander Brett Myers ($10 million, $3 million buyout) and third baseman Kevin Youkilis ($13 million, $1 million buyout).

Although Hahn said he had nice conversations with Youkilis and Myers about the option decision and that the White Sox would like all their free agents to return, that proposition seems highly unlikely. The 2013 payroll is fast approaching $90 million, and with Hahn saying last week the payroll will check in around the same $97 million mark as in 2012, it could mean the end of an eight-year run with the organization for Pierzynski. Hahn did not expect to make any qualifying offers to the remaining White Sox free agents before the exclusive negotiating period for the team ends Friday night.

"Nobody has meant more to Chicago over his time than A.J.," said Peavy of his batterymate. "He has been a tremendous player for quite a while. I wish him the best in free agency and hope he comes back. If it doesn't happen, it's something we can't control."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.