Fedde's stability further magnified with empty spot in White Sox rotation

May 20th, 2024

TORONTO -- Shaking things up is easier when you know where to lean for stability.

Therein lies the value of -- a “pillar of consistency,” as manager Pedro Grifol put it ahead of a 9-3 loss to the Blue Jays on Monday afternoon.

Fedde took the mound at Rogers Centre a few hours after the White Sox DFA’d Brad Keller, who’d held the fifth spot in the rotation for the past week. The club didn’t share an immediate plan to fill that newly open role, and there won’t be any real urgency to do so until later this week.

It helps that the front-end starters -- namely Fedde and Garrett Crochet -- are putting together some deep outings.

“It shows kind of the growth I've had as a pitcher,” Fedde said. “I never want to be the kind of guy that puts the bullpen in bad situations, or someone they can't count on. So I'm thankful that Pedro gave me a chance to work into the sixth inning.”

At 84 pitches after six frames, Fedde told his manager he was willing to go back out for the seventh. But it was Grifol’s turn to prioritize his starter.

“You know what, this guy has been looking at a lot of innings,” said Grifol. “Fedde and Crochet, these guys have been workhorses for us. … They give us the innings when we need them.”

Beyond length, Monday’s start wasn’t perfect by any means. Fedde allowed five earned runs on one walk and seven hits, including a two-run homer to lefty-hitter Daulton Varsho. But things never truly snowballed, as evidenced by Fedde’s pitch count.

Those six frames may mean even more once the White Sox make a decision about their fifth starter.

“For the pitchers in the organization, it's an opportunity time,” said Grifol. “This is an opportunity for you to pitch your [butt] off and get a chance. I always tell our guys: opportunity meets preparation at some point. Prepare yourself for when you get that opportunity.

“It might be one inning, but that one inning could get you a second inning. … It might be one start that can get you a second start, then a third. There’s been a lot of great careers that started off with just that one inning, just being prepared for the opportunity.”

Look no further than Fedde, who reinvented himself one good inning at a time in the KBO last year, then turned that into a successful return to the Major Leagues.

Just as they did by looking overseas to find a gem in Fedde, the White Sox will “see where creativity takes” them as they work to fill their open rotation spot.

Michael Soroka is one candidate, which would mean losing a long-relief arm, as Soroka was moved to the bullpen when Keller took over a rotation spot.

The White Sox also have some prospects knocking on the door. Nick Nastrini (the club’s No. 8 prospect, per MLB Pipeline) could get another taste of the big leagues after a pair of clunky starts in mid-April. A more unconventional -- or exciting -- option would be to fast-track a guy like Drew Thorpe (No. 3 prospect), acquired as part of the Dylan Cease trade that began this whole shakeup. The right-hander has yet to pitch at the Triple-A level, but he’s dominated Double-A this year, sporting a 1.50 ERA over 42 innings and eight starts.

Those young guys would probably still require a close look at their innings total, though. Plus, development isn’t always linear -- as evidenced by Nastrini’s eight runs (seven earned) allowed over his eight innings in the Majors.

Having a veteran like Fedde leading the way can add some padding to the early bumps.

“I've seen all kinds of approaches against him,” Grifol said of Fedde. “And he's done a good job of adjusting quickly.”

Fedde kept the White Sox in the game on Monday, even if the stats showed some hard hits and crooked numbers. Facing a low-strikeout team in the Blue Jays, he pitched to contact, relying mostly on a sinker/sweeper combo against Toronto’s aggressive, righty-heavy lineup.

That resulted in weak contact and some quick middle innings. The White Sox put some runners on base against José Berríos, too, but there weren’t many offensive standouts beyond Paul DeJong, who homered and hit an RBI single on a 3-for-4 day.

Four tack-on runs against the bullpen widened the gap on the scoreboard.

“We had some opportunities there that we didn't capitalize on,” said Grifol. “Overall, we just got beat.”