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Fulmer's rotation spot in jeopardy

Prospect's struggles, Santiago's strong spring raise No. 5 slot questions; Shields unhappy with performance vs. A's
MLB.com @alysonfooter

MESA, Ariz. -- Carson Fulmer was the projected No. 5 starter when Spring Training began more than a month ago, but his start Monday could determine whether he still has an edge for the job.

Fulmer will pitch against the Diamondbacks in a game that, for a more established starter, would mean little more than continuing to build up the pitch counts and innings to be ready for his first start of the regular season.

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MESA, Ariz. -- Carson Fulmer was the projected No. 5 starter when Spring Training began more than a month ago, but his start Monday could determine whether he still has an edge for the job.

Fulmer will pitch against the Diamondbacks in a game that, for a more established starter, would mean little more than continuing to build up the pitch counts and innings to be ready for his first start of the regular season.

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But for Fulmer, Monday is more significant than that. It would be slightly dramatic to say his future depends on this one outing, but given the results of his four Cactus League starts, it would probably behoove him to make this one against the D-backs a little more impactful.

Fulmer has an 18.90 ERA over four starts. Most recently, he yielded seven earned runs -- including three homers -- over 1 2/3 innings against the Brewers on Wednesday. While the Cactus League is not always friendly to pitchers and, as Sox manager Rick Renteria pointed out Sunday morning, the defense behind Fulmer hasn't always been top-notch, Fulmer simply hasn't pitched well.

There is still time, but not an abundance of it.

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"Our hope is that we are going to allow Fulmer to be who he is, see if he can have what everybody hopes to be a positive outing," Renteria said. "We believe we have a guy that is capable of pitching in the big leagues successfully. I think we're at a point right now where we are going to try to continue to evaluate over the next couple of starts."

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They're also evaluating non-roster invitee Hector Santiago, a left-handed veteran who has been in the running for the fifth starter spot all spring and may just win it. Santiago, 30, has allowed one earned run in four Cactus League appearances, three of which have been in relief.

When he's not lending advice and friendly counseling to Fulmer, Santiago is working to ensure his spring performances merit rotation consideration. He can also relieve, and that versatility could work in his favor. The Sox, of course, are familiar with Santiago. He started his career with Chicago, filling both roles from 2011-13.

"Every year, my career's been a grind or a battle in Spring Training, competing for a spot, or a bullpen spot," Santiago said. "I always try to be a positive guy. Just put the ball in my hand and I'm going to try to succeed, and at the end of the day, let the coaches and staff make the decision. I just like that chance to compete."

Shields vs. A's

In his first start since he was named Opening Day starter, James Shields struggled, allowing seven runs to the A's -- including two homers -- on eight hits over 3 2/3 innings in the Sox' 14-0 loss at Hohokam Stadium.

"When I'm not establishing my fastball and not getting ahead of hitters, it's tough to pitch that way for any pitcher," he said.

Video: CWS@OAK: Shields on missing spots in loss to A's

The A's patience in the early innings led to Shields' pitch count escalating quickly. Shields wanted to build his pitch count as he works toward Opening Day, but this wasn't how he wanted to do it.

"Way too many pitches per innings," he said. "They worked the count on me a lot. I threw a lot of pitches in the first inning. I had to grind those first three innings out, and in the fourth inning I was just missing my spots and they were getting hit. Not a very good day today."

Noteworthy

• The White Sox have eight games remaining this spring, including five more at Camelback Ranch. They'll end the exhibition season with a game against their Triple-A affiliate, the Charlotte Knights, at their ballpark in Charlotte, N.C.

Up Next

The White Sox will travel to Scottsdale on Monday to meet the Diamondbacks at Salt River Fields at 3:10 p.m. CT. Many of the regulars who were given the day off on Sunday, including Yoan Moncada, are expected to be back in the lineup. They will face D-backs right-hander Albert Suarez. Fans can watch on MLB.TV or MLB Network.

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLBs.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.

Chicago White Sox, Carson Fulmer, Hector Santiago