DETROIT -- White Sox right-hander Lucas Giolito didn’t want to leave Friday’s Opening Day start against the Tigers after four scoreless innings and 61 pitches.
But he had no choice after feeling “a little tweak” in his lower left abdominal area on three straight pitches. Now the ace is hoping to miss as little time as possible, although a trip to the injured list is forthcoming with manager Tony La Russa adding on Saturday that Giolito will be out for at least two starts.
“That's optimistic. That's what I was told,” La Russa said. “I'll embrace that.”
“Very just freak, kind of random, kind of stuff that can happen,” Giolito said prior to Saturday’s contest at Comerica Park. “I didn’t think I’d ever be dealing with such a strange injury. But here we are. So now the focus is just 100 percent attention to detail when it comes to this rehab stuff and try to get back out there soon. That’s it.”
The Giolito injury further tests a White Sox pitching staff seemingly receiving a season’s worth of challenges less than one week into the 2022 campaign. Lance Lynn, who provides the 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation with Giolito, underwent surgery on Tuesday to repair a slight tear in a tendon near his right knee.
Lynn will be out for approximately two months. Garrett Crochet, who was set to fill the hybrid starter/reliever role vacated by Michael Kopech when he moved into the rotation, was lost for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, also on Tuesday.
Vince Velasquez moves into the rotation and gets the call for Tuesday’s home opener against the Mariners at Guaranteed Rate Field. Johnny Cueto, whose Minor League deal with the White Sox is expected to be announced in the coming week, would need to be ramped in Arizona and Triple-A Charlotte without any Spring Training, and Reynaldo López, who has 96 starts in his 112 career appearances, would be a logical move into the rotation in place of Giolito.
Tanner Banks also could be an option, although the 30-year-old rookie’s focus would be innings more than starts. La Russa didn’t include López on Saturday because he’s the pitcher the White Sox would turn to behind Dylan Cease or Sunday after Kopech exits following anywhere from two to four innings, which is what he was built up to during Spring Training.
“If there's a good chance to win, he's going to be in there,” La Russa said of López. “On the off-day Monday, we'll see where he stands for the homestand. He's at the top of the chart right now as far as healthy and I think pitch effectively in whatever Cease leaves open or whatever happens tomorrow.”
“It’s time for some guys to get tested,” Giolito said. “There’s a lot of talent there and it’s all about just the preparation for these guys going out there knowing how good they are, having that confidence and executing. They can do it, 100 percent. It’s like we are getting tested a little bit and I think these guys will rise to the occasion and we’ll be all right.”
Giolito struck out six against the Tigers, who eventually claimed a 5-4 walk-off victory, and felt as if he could have gone at least another two innings. His exit left 15 outs for the bullpen to fill, and the White Sox must be careful not to overwork the bullpen early with the starting rotation issue. It was a tough departure for Giolito, who plans to keep his arm active during this down time after he worked diligently in the offseason to be ready for ’22.
“Like most cases, if it’s just something small, I’m going to try to push through it,” Giolito said. “If it’s later in the year, and it’s like a big game, probably going to try to push through it.
“I do not like coming off the field. I do not like missing time. So, it was just something that I never felt before and was strange, so I had to say something.”