CHICAGO -- What should the White Sox do with Dylan Covey?
It's one of the many questions they've tried to answer during Year 2 of the development stage of their rebuild, with numerous young players being given a chance to prove their fit. Covey made his 16th start of the 2018 season in Sunday's 9-7 loss to the Indians at Guaranteed Rate Field, and the last 10 starts seem to indicate the right-hander could potentially move toward a bullpen role, at least in the short term.
But after falling to 42-75 overall and completing a 1-5 homestand, White Sox manager Rick Renteria stuck by his struggling starter.
"As it stands right now, he's absolutely still in the rotation," said Renteria of Covey. "[White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper] and I will sit down, but right now, until further notice, he's still in the rotation. If we need to make an adjustment, we will, I'm sure.
"We need him to continue to gain more experience in that starter's role. As much as we can, continue to give him a chance, try to develop his skill set."
Covey allowed six earned runs on seven hits over 2 2/3 innings against Cleveland, striking out three and walking two. He dipped to 1-8 in in his past 10 starts, with 46 earned runs given up on 60 hits over 46 1/3 innings. The right-hander made an adjustment to his sinker, Covey's best pitch, in the third, but it was too late.
"If I pound down in the zone, they pound it into the ground. I think I climbed the ladder a bit too much today," Covey said. "These hitters have a weakness up in the zone, but I throw sinkers, so it's hard to attack up in the zone when I throw a sinker.
"I just need to trust my stuff and be down in the zone regardless of what a scouting report might say. If I'm down in the zone, I'll be better. It's just an adjustment I need to make earlier rather than making the adjustment in the third inning when I have 80 pitches."
This tough run came after Covey opened with an impressive six start stretch where he outdueled Chris Sale at Fenway Park in a 1-0 victory on June 8 and beat the Indians on June 13 at home. Covey even mixed in a two-hitter over 8 1/3 innings against the Mariners at Safeco Field on July 21 for his only win in his past 10 starts.
The White Sox have a strong replacement option if a bullpen direction is what they choose for Covey. Michael Kopech, the team's No. 2 prospect per MLB Pipeline, has been dominating the International League opposition in his last six starts for Triple-A Charlotte. The right-hander has a 3-0 record with a 1.89 ERA to go with 50 strikeouts and a mere four walks yielded in 38 innings.
Kopech started Saturday for Charlotte, so he would be on track to pitch Friday or Saturday at home against the Royals next weekend. General manager Rick Hahn has spoken of top prospects such as Kopech and outfielder Eloy Jimenez fulfilling a checklist of things to accomplish beyond the numbers before a callup is made, so nothing is certain, even with rosters expanding after Sept. 1.
• Jimenez, Kopech, Cease impressing at Triple-A
Cleveland scored four in the first, punctuated by a Melky Cabrera three-run homer against his old team. Carlos Carrasco settled in with a six-run lead, and he retired 16 in a row after Adam Engel's second-inning single before departing after seven. Hector Santiago took the ball from Covey in the third and allowed one unearned run in 3 2/3 innings.
Despite trailing by six runs entering the ninth, the White Sox brought the tying run to the plate and closer Cody Allen into the game. Dan Otero hit Avisail Garcia with a pitch with one out in what seemed like a non-descript act at the time. But Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson followed with singles to score a run. Kevan Smith singled home a second run and Engel tripled in two with a line drive off the glove of Greg Allen in left-center.
Allen struck out Nicky Delmonico and Yolmer Sanchez to end the game and send Covey to a fourth straight loss.
"[Covey's] pitches were coming back over the plate. He wasn't hitting his spots and Smitty felt like he wasn't trusting letting it go," Renteria said. "He's got to continue to trust what he has, and that's basically the bottom line, so he can execute and make his pitches.
"We'll just continue, and trying to allow him the opportunity to gain some ground. We'll just continue to move with him."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Engel does it again: Some outfielders go their entire career without making one home run-stealing catch. Engel made his third in a six-game homestand on Sunday, and this one might have been his best yet. With two runners on and one out in the eighth, Engel raced into right-center to track down a Yonder Alonso fly ball with a 102.3-mph exit velocity, per Statcast™. He leaped with his body against the wall, reached over and robbed Alonso of his 21st home run in support of reliever Thyago Vieira. Engel then homered in the bottom half of the frame, his third of the season and first since June 3 vs. Milwaukee, and he followed that up with a two-run triple in the ninth.
His catch appeared to give the White Sox a little life against the Indians' bullpen.
"That's a lot of fun, any time you can help the pitcher out. It gives the team confidence and a little momentum. It's good," said Engel, who also took homers away from New York's Greg Bird and Kyle Higashioka this week. "Just the chances of there being three balls in one week that you have the opportunity to go up and bring back I feel like is slim.
• Engel robs third homer this week
"It's cool that it happened and I was glad I was able to make the plays for my pitchers. You do it a decent amount in practice. You have an idea. It's cool in a game. That's really the best way to describe it. It's a really cool feeling to come back with it and you know you saved at least one run."
HE SAID IT
"A lot of hugging, I feel like. I've gotten hugs from all three guys. I know they appreciate it and that's why we do it." -- Engel, on the pitchers' reaction to his home run saving catches
The White Sox begin a brief three-game road trip to Detroit on Monday night with first pitch at 6:10 p.m. CT. Reynaldo Lopez is scheduled to make his 24th start of the season and fourth career against the Tigers, while Artie Lewicki starts for Detroit. Lopez has a 1.93 ERA in his last two starts but is 2-3 with a 5.06 ERA and a .286 opponents' average over his last five starts on the road.