CHICAGO -- Who will replace D.J. Carrasco?
It's not a question that figured to be of major concern for the White Sox as they analyzed their 2010 American League Central title chances. But the White Sox middle reliever played a valuable role not currently occupied by any hurler on the active roster.
The White Sox are depending on their starting rotation consistently working deep into games. If there's more than a blip on that starting radar, though, it might take two or even three pitchers to fill the job Carrasco regularly accomplished.
"We will miss D.J.," said White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski. "He was a special guy. He could take the ball and go three innings and come back and throw three more the next day. Those guys are undervalued at times."
"D.J. was very valuable to us last year," White Sox left-handed setup man Matt Thornton said. "This year, it's hard to tell what's going to happen. Will he be that needed anyway? There will be days where starters get knocked out early and need someone to eat innings. But they were trying to put the best team out there now and that's the decision they made that was best for the team."
Carrasco led AL relievers with 89 1/3 innings pitched last year, but the White Sox non-tendered him. The rotation of Mark Buehrle, Jake Peavy, Gavin Floyd, John Danks and Freddy Garcia factored into the equation, with short-start risks such as Jose Contreras and Bartolo Colon no longer around, and the White Sox ultimately opted to keep infielder Jayson Nix over a 13th pitcher and long man such as Greg Aquino.
Sergio Santos said he's built up to go two innings if needed, and there might be some days where Scott Linebrink or Tony Pena get called on for that role. The ideal plan is to have the long relief needed as little as possible.
"Some days, you really will need the starters, ride him a little longer than normally," Thornton said. "They might have to take their lumps here or there because we don't have Carrasco. It's the same for the relievers. Some days, we have to pick it up and clean up the mess. We'll have to eat an extra inning sometimes."
"Hopefully, we don't get blown out that often," Pierzynski said.