The lockers on each side of Michael Kopech aren’t the only things that feel newly empty in the White Sox clubhouse after five pitchers were traded this week.
“[Lance Lynn] was a leader in the clubhouse,” said Kopech. “Having a lot of questions, maybe some anxieties about the game, he made it feel like it wasn’t an individual type of feeling and is something that maybe everyone feels.”
Lynn and Lucas Giolito are gone. Mike Clevinger (activated off the injured list Saturday) is a pending free agent with a mutual option for 2024. Davis Martin will be rehabbing from Tommy John surgery into next season, and upper minors Sox pitching prospects have been plagued by injuries and struggles as well.
Beyond Dylan Cease and Michael Kopech, projecting the 2024 Sox rotation is difficult, such that the well-traveled Touki Toussaint throwing five scoreless innings Friday has potential relevance to the future.
“I feel like I have the stuff to fulfill that role,” said Garrett Crochet on Saturday. “I just want the opportunity to do it.”
When the towering 24-year-old left-hander was selected 11th overall three years ago, it certainly was hoped he would be right in the middle of the 2024 Sox starting rotation. But an express path to Chicago through the bullpen and Tommy John surgery have limited Crochet to 70 1/3 major league innings since then.
Crochet’s media session began Saturday with clarifying that he does intend to pitch again this season. A muscle strain in his shoulder ended his rehab assignment prematurely earlier this month, and will sideline him from throwing for another two-to-three weeks. In his first season back from Tommy John, Crochet has pitched just 10 innings with the White Sox, recording a 3.60 ERA, but with 11 walks over nine strikeouts.
“I feel like [a starter’s] routine is a better routine for me based on the bumps and bruises that have been happening to me [in relief],” said Crochet. “I just want the opportunity to do it. If I can’t I’m more than willing to go back into the reliever role. That’s been my dream from the start. I’d like to at last either prove to myself I can or can’t, and then I can be at peace with that.”
When Crochet was routed to the bullpen at the start of his pro career and subsequently kept there, his lack of innings—and his effectiveness in relief for a contending team—was cited for why he was not ready to undertake a starter’s workload. Crochet’s experience logging heavy innings, dating back to a college career where his junior season was mostly wiped out by COVID, remains threadbare.
Yet the state of White Sox pitching prods them to look in atypical directions.
“There is a need for us to develop or acquire starters,” said manager Pedro Grifol. “We’ve spoken about it. We know his wants and what he’s motivated to do.”
Grifol reiterated that all discussion of Crochet starting is very premature before he even recovers from his current injury and stays consistently healthy afterward, and that the Sox wouldn’t assume his major league readiness either. If Crochet were to convert to starting, Grifol believes he would need to return to the minors to develop into that role, which Crochet made it clear he’s willing to do.
“That’s more than OK with me,” said Crochet, who amid the third IL stint of his young career, is just hungry for more progress toward his long-term goals than he’s enjoyed this season. “First year back [from TJ] is really just trying to stay on the field. Wish I could have done that a little bit better. So far in my career I’ve had a lot of time on the IL. It is tough, but still I have a lot of baseball ahead of me.”
Maybe, there’s still some chance he has some starting ahead of him too.
“That’s certainly on the table,” said Grifol.