Thursday, March 30, 2017

White Sox Opening Day roster: What's left to decide?

Cody Asche -- will he make the Sox's roster?
With four days left until the home opener, the White Sox are done playing in Arizona and are bound for Milwaukee to play a couple of exhibition games Friday and Saturday against the Brewers.

They won't finalize their 25-man roster for Opening Day until Sunday, but from the looks of things, 23 of the spots are set.

Barring some sort of trade or last-minute acquisition, this will be the 12-man pitching staff:

Starters: Jose Quintana, Miguel Gonzalez, James Shields, Derek Holland, Dylan Covey

Relievers: David Robertson, Nate Jones, Dan Jennings, Jake Petricka, Zach Putnam, Michael Ynoa, Anthony Swarzak

Covey, a Rule 5 draft pick, takes the rotation spot of Carlos Rodon, who will begin the season on the 15-day disabled list. Relief pitching prospect Zack Burdi led the team with 17 strikeouts in 12 Cactus League innings, but he said Wednesday he will begin the season in Triple-A Charlotte.

Burdi probably would have made the club had Robertson been traded, but the Sox already have enough right-handers to work in short relief. They needed to keep a couple guys who could throw multiple innings at a time out of the bullpen, because Quintana is the only starting pitcher who can be trusted to get into the seventh inning consistently.

Ynoa, who is out of options, and Swarzak, a veteran with starting experience, are two pitchers who can eat innings on a day where a starter doesn't make it past the fifth inning -- and there likely will be a few of those for the Sox this season.

The Sox decided against keeping a second left-hander in the bullpen, as I thought they might, even though Cory Luebke did all he could to make the club -- a 0.96 ERA in 9.1 spring innings.

Among position players, I'm seeing 11 roster locks for the 13 spots:

Catchers: Omar Narvaez, Geovany Soto

Infielders: Jose Abreu, Todd Frazier, Tim Anderson, Tyler Saladino, Yolmer Sanchez

Outfielders: Melky Cabrera, Avisail Garcia, Jacob May

Utility: Leury Garcia

That leaves Matt Davidson, Cody Asche and Rymer Liriano on the bubble for the final two spots.

Davidson was in line for an extended look at the end of last season, but then he broke his foot running the bases in his first game after being called up to the Sox. He entered camp as a good bet to make the roster, because he's out of options and a lot has been invested in his development.

For those reasons, he still may make the club, but 25 strikeouts in 63 spring plate appearances isn't what the Sox were hoping to see from him this spring, I'm sure. He did hit three home runs and posted a .764 OPS.

Asche struck out 17 times in 52 plate appearances, too, but he was more productive than most, posting a .310/.453/.714 slash line with four home runs, nine RBIs, five doubles and a team-high 10 walks. Asche hits left-handed, which could put him at an advantage.

Liriano fanned 22 times in 53 plate appearances and slashed .170/.264/.340. Hard to see him making the club after that, and he seems to be a better bet to sneak through waivers than Davidson or Asche, but apparently he's still under consideration for a roster spot.

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