CHICAGO -- Here’s a look at some postseason-focused questions surrounding the White Sox following their clinching of a playoff spot with a 4-3 victory over the Twins on Sept. 17.
What could the postseason roster look like?
SP: Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel, Dane Dunning, Dylan Cease
RP: Alex Colomé, Aaron Bummer, Evan Marshall, Codi Heuer, Matt Foster, Jace Fry, Gio González, Reynaldo López, Jimmy Cordero, Garrett Crochet, Carlos Rodón
C: Yasmani Grandal, James McCann
1B: José Abreu
2B: Nick Madrigal
SS: Tim Anderson
3B: Yoán Moncada
DH: Edwin Encarnación
LF: Eloy Jiménez
CF: Luis Robert
RF: Nomar Mazara, Adam Engel
Bench: Yolmer Sánchez, Jarrod Dyson
Could this roster alignment change?
Super-sub Leury García had a tendon in his left thumb surgically repaired, but the switch-hitter may be ready for the postseason. There’s also a decision to be made on how many pitchers will be needed for a short series, with whoever ends up as the fourth starter potentially available out of the bullpen.
Is this rotation setup a certainty?
Giolito, who struck out 11 in his final regular-season appearance Wednesday in Cleveland, will start Game 1. Keuchel’s back has responded from a stint on the 10-day injured list, so he will hold down the second slot. The White Sox are 5-1 in Dunning’s starts, but Cease also has been effective -- although he has not consistently been able to work deep into games after walking seven in three-plus innings during his last start. It’s highly unlikely that anyone but these four will get a starting nod, although López has pitched well since returning from the alternate training site in Schaumburg, Ill.
Does winning the American League Central mean something?
Sure, especially for a team without a division title or playoff appearance since 2008, and just three playoff appearances since 2001. But the White Sox have dropped out of the lead following a 1-5 road stretch and in reality, capturing the AL Central isn’t as meaningful as getting all the main players on track and setting themselves up for an extended postseason run.
What is the Wild Card round schedule?
Game 1 is set for Tuesday, Sept. 29, with Games 2 and 3 (if necessary) following on the ensuing Wednesday and Thursday. There are no days off in this round.
Who will the White Sox face in the first round?
The eight AL teams are all but set, with the Twins, A’s, Rays, Yankees, Indians, Astros and Blue Jays joining the White Sox. The No. 4 seed White Sox are lined up to host the No. 5 Yankees, but that pairing could change by Sunday.
The White Sox probably would like to avoid Cleveland and its 8-2 edge over them this season. Indians right-hander Shane Bieber, the AL Cy Young Award front-runner, is a tough matchup for any team at any time. He is not the opening draw a team wants in a best-of-three competition.
Who could be a surprise hero?
It’s difficult to be a surprise when you have 423 career homers, as Encarnación does, but the prolific veteran slugger has struggled this season. He still has the power to turn a game with one swing of the bat, and that same power can carry a team over a short series.
Luis Robert is mired in a 6-for-70 slump during September. He also has the talent to put those struggles behind him upon getting a clean postseason slate.
Will that final regular-season Cubs series mean something?
There’s always some sort of meaning when these crosstown rivals play. But again, both teams already have qualified for the playoffs, both teams are fighting to win their respective division and both teams are trying to get a successful season back in focus.
Here’s the big question: Can the White Sox win it all?
This year was designated as the move from three years of rebuilding to contending, but even in the abbreviated 60-game campaign, it would have been tough to imagine a World Series title. Renteria’s crew has been the best team in the AL over the last 30 to 40 games, and the White Sox can beat a team in so many ways. It’s still a young group, but certainly as talented as any in the playoffs.
Can they win it all? Without a doubt. Will they? Some things would have to work in their favor to go with their great talent.