Cannon, Nastrini offer promising glimpse at future

April 18th, 2024

CHICAGO -- The news of ’s impending Major League mound debut already had been delivered to the 23-year-old right-hander this past Friday, with the team’s third-round pick in the 2022 Draft lined up for Tuesday night against the Royals in Chicago.

Cannon’s first big-league pitch was moved by rain back to Game 1 of a Wednesday doubleheader, which the Royals won, 4-2. It also followed ’s first career start Monday night at Guaranteed Rate Field.

While Cannon knew of his big opportunity, he wasn’t certain about Nastrini until arriving at Triple-A Charlotte’s visiting clubhouse this past Saturday in Jacksonville.

“I saw his locker empty, and I was so happy,” Cannon said. “I’ve never been so happy to see a locker empty.

“It was awesome because I knew he was going up. I was happy we got to share the last 24 hours, 48 hours and experience it together.”

Nastrini is the No. 8 White Sox prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, and Cannon is No. 11, starting the influx of young players to a team currently sitting at 3-15 after ending a six-game losing streak with a 2-1 victory in Wednesday’s nightcap. Cannon departed in line for his first career victory in that first career start, having allowed one run on three hits over five innings, striking out three and throwing 54 of his 79 pitches for strikes.

Cannon's final line should have read one hit allowed and no runs. But center fielder Dominic Fletcher slipped on Nelson Velázquez’s two-out fly ball, which went for a double as it flew over Fletcher’s recovery attempt. Adam Frazier followed with a run-scoring single to center.

"He's got really good movement. He's got weapons and he comes right at you. He's really aggressive,” said White Sox manager Pedro Grifol of Cannon. “He's got good mound presence.

“Kind of similar to Nastrini [Monday] as far as the mound presence and the character and the confidence that they show out there. It was two good days and for the future here. These guys are pretty good."

Those impressive mound efforts for Nastrini and Cannon marked the third time in White Sox history they’ve had a starting pitcher make his MLB debut on back-to-back days, according to MLB Network research. They joined Charlie Biggs and Fabian Kowalik in 1932 and Roy Patterson and John Skopec in 1901.

Grifol would not commit to Cannon getting another White Sox start at this moment, while Nastrini, 24, takes the mound Sunday for the series finale in Philadelphia. Left-hander Garrett Crochet, 24, made the Opening Day start for the White Sox and has looked strong in his new rotation role with an American League-leading 31 strikeouts.

Crochet also has a single-season career-high of 54 1/3 innings from the bullpen, so his workload needs to be watched. Michael Soroka and Erick Fedde are set in the rotation, with Fedde striking out five over 5 2/3 scoreless innings in Game 2, and veterans Brad Keller and Mike Clevinger are working their way toward joining the White Sox.

So, there are decisions to be made. Nastrini and Cannon have added to the conversation.

“Obviously, I’m taking it one start at a time,” Cannon said. “They called me up to start today, and I was able to put my best foot forward. I was really happy with the performance, and I thought my stuff was good.”

“I’ve got to focus on who we are playing next. So I’ve got to keep working and doing my job every single day,” Nastrini said. “That’s what I’m getting paid to do, that’s what I’m here to do -- get better every single day and try to prepare, bring some energy into the clubhouse and dugout and try to win ballgames today.”

Rookie reliever Jordan Leasure, 25, hurled a scoreless sixth in Game 1, giving him 7 1/3 scoreless innings over seven appearances to start his career. It was a snapshot of what the White Sox future could be, especially on the pitching side.

“The team has a chance to gameplan for you,” Fedde said. “And for what those guys did, to come out and pitch really well and dominate and give us really a chance to win, it’s impressive and they deserve a ton of credit.”

“Both those guys did great,” said shortstop Paul DeJong, who had five hits in the doubleheader. “They pounded the zone, the moment wasn’t too great for them. They looked like they belong and have been here. It will be fun to watch them develop and blossom.”