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What parts of White Sox’ roster are taking shape, still undecided as spring training games start

Vinnie Duber Avatar
February 22, 2024
Chris Flexen

PHOENIX — White Sox baseball returns to your television Friday.

While the South Siders have spent nearly two weeks in the Arizona desert — plenty of them much longer — most fans back home in Chicago consider the first televised Cactus League game as the true start of spring training.

Of course, these games don’t count, and we even heard from Pedro Grifol that the White Sox’ staff isn’t making its final roster decisions based exclusively on the outcomes in those contests.

But considering plenty of folks will be dipping back into White Sox baseball for the first time with the Crosstown (Crossvalley?) matchup with the Cubs, here’s a look at a few notable comments by team decision-makers as the Opening Day roster takes shape.

Chris Flexen seems destined for spot in White Sox’ rotation

It’ll be solely bullpen arms used in the first few spring games, but there are plenty of eyes on the starting-pitching competition. But how many spots are really up for grabs?

Chris Getz said shortly after the White Sox signed Chris Flexen to a major league free-agent deal that he expected the right-handed to be part of the team’s starting rotation. Despite Grifol saying the White Sox are stretching out 14 or 15 guys to be part of the starting-pitching competition this spring, it seems little has changed for Getz.

“The idea is for Chris to be a starter for us,” Getz said Tuesday. “We like the fact that we have competition in the building, I think that’s healthy for all professional athletes. Based on his skill set and the potential of his pitch mix and his experience, we’d love to give him a solid runway as a starter with us.”

Flexen pitched both as a starter and reliever while splitting time for the Rockies and Mariners last season. His 2023 did not go well, and he finished with a 6.86 ERA. But Getz said the team identified Flexen as someone they could work with to restore his past success.

With Flexen seemingly destined for one of the five spots in the rotation — Grifol said at the outset of camp that the White Sox are leaning toward a traditional five-man starting staff — it seems that the much ballyhooed competition could only be for one available spot.

Dylan Cease has already been named the team’s Opening Day starter, while Erick Fedde is a lock after inking a two-year free-agent deal in the winter. Michael Kopech, too, seems a sure thing with the White Sox eager to give him every opportunity to prove he can be the dominant starter that was envisioned when he was acquired in the Chris Sale trade way back in 2016.

That leaves only one spot for the likes of Michael Soroka, Touki Toussaint, Nick Nastrini and many others.

Dominic Fletcher has ‘a leg up’ on earning bulk of playing time in right field

There was a worthy question following the White Sox’ acquisition of Dominic Fletcher in a trade with the Diamondbacks of whether he’d be given the everyday gig in right field or if he’d be included as part of a platoon.

Fletcher’s lefty-righty splits weren’t good last season, with him struggling mightily against left-handed pitchers both at the major league and minor league levels. Zach DeLoach, who the White Sox acquired the same day in a trade with the Mariners, hit lefties well in the minor leagues last season, and Kevin Pillar is a right-handed hitter who could provide a different look.

But whether or not either or both of DeLoach and Pillar make the team or not, it seems the White Sox prefer to hand the majority of the playing time in right field to Fletcher.

“Fletcher, he has a leg up, he does,” Getz said, “considering where he’s at in his career, the body of work in the minor leagues. He got a taste of the big leagues and had some success. I think our depth is really improved in the outfield. But Dom’s going to get a strong look.

“So far (in camp), I’ve been very impressed, and it matches up with what Josh (Barfield, White Sox assistant general manager and former Diamondbacks farm director) was saying in the offseason. The work ethic seems strong, the way that he mixes in with his teammates, but most importantly, you look at the physicality that he can bring to the box and the alertness defensively, the versatility. It’s all there.”

With Andrew Benintendi and Luis Robert Jr. locked into everyday spot in left and center field and Fletcher having that leg up in right, it figures there’s just one outfield spot, as the fourth guy out there, to be won.

White Sox’ bullpen is a complete mystery

How wide open is the competition for jobs in the White Sox’ relief corps this spring?

Grifol was asked what his bullpen was going to look like and provided a frank response at this early stage of camp.

“You have any ideas? I have no idea,” Grifol quipped Wednesday. “I mean, let it play out? I have no idea. I’m excited about it. But I have no idea.”

Grifol surely has some idea, considering the offseason was spent acquiring certain guys to be part of the group. But truthfully it’s impossible to project who will be there past major league free-agent signings John Brebbia and Tim Hill. And even Brebbia is dealing with a strained right calf, though the White Sox are hopeful he’ll be ready for Opening Day.

Getz has brought in plenty of candidates, including just in the last couple weeks. Since Getz’s pre-spring presser two Mondays ago, the team announced minor league deals with Jesse Chavez, Corey Knebel, Dominic Leone and Bryan Shaw. And given the amount of mystery, it’s not outrageous to suggest they all have as good a chance of making the Opening Day roster as anyone else.

Thursday, pitching coach Ethan Katz even threw a spotlight on Justin Anderson, who hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2019, as someone worth watching for a spot in the ‘pen.

“I think a lot of him. That’s why he’s here,” Katz said. “I’m really excited to get him into games and show what he can do, because he is a big-time arm and has that experience at the back end of games. People should know about him and not forget about him.”

So it goes without saying, there’s a lot of ways this could play out.

“We have a lot of veteran guys that have been there, done that. That, I respect and love because there’s something about handing the ball to somebody knowing that they’re going to slow it down and they’re going to know how to handle a situation. That, I actually absolutely respect and love and admire.

“But there’s a lot of competition.”

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