How will the White Sox use Chris Sale next season?

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In September, White Sox general manager Ken Williams stated that 2010 first-round pick Chris Sale would have a chance to win a spot in the starting rotation next spring.

One scenario Williams discussed at the time is that the young left-hander could function as an insurance policy if Jake Peavy needs more time to bounce back from surgery to repair a torn lat muscle. Well, White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper recently told Scott Merkin of MLB.com that he isn’t so sure about that plan.

“If Peavy ain’t ready, I’m not sure the best thing for a young kid is to start for X amount of days and weeks and then move him to the bullpen. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for Sale to be in the bullpen and get more experience and then make him a starter. Years ago, that’s the way a lot of organizations did it.”

Sale, who turns 22 next March, thrived as a reliever after being promoted to the major leagues in August, posting a 1.93 ERA and 32/10 K/BB ratio over 23 1/3 innings. The lanky lefty held the opposition scoreless in 17 out of his 21 appearances.

Both Williams and Cooper see Sale as a starting pitcher in the long-term, but the White Sox potentially have an abundance of riches in their starting rotation next season. If Peavy bounces back from surgery without a hitch — obviously far from a given — the White Sox also have Gavin Floyd, John Danks, Mark Buehrle and Edwin Jackson under team control. Barring injury or a potential trade, it’s hard to see Sale getting a legitimate shot, at least in the short-term.

Merkin believes that Tony Pena is more likely to be a temporary fill-in for the starting rotation. Pena, who is arbitration-eligible this winter, posted a mediocre 5.10 ERA and 56/45 K/BB ratio over 100 2/3 innings this past season. He made three starts down the stretch after Gavin Floyd was shut down due to shoulder tightness.

Rays sign lefty Ryan Merritt to a minor league deal

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The Tampa Bay Rays have signed lefty swingman Ryan Merritt to a minor league contract. Nah, it’s not a big signing but we’ll take anything today.

Merritt, who has spent his entire career in the Indians organization, spent the entire 2018 season at Triple-A Columbus. It wasn’t a bad year for him — he posted a 3.79 ERA and a 52/2 K/BB ratio in 13 starts and two relief appearances covering 71.1 innings — but the Tribe just couldn’t find a role for him at the big league level. He has shown in the past, however, that he can hack it in the bigs, having posted a 1.71 ERA in 31.2 innings with the Indians between 2016-2017.

His thing is that he simply doesn’t strike guys out at anything approaching a typical clip for a big leaguer: 3.7 per nine innings in his small sample of major league outings and 6.3 Ks per nine innings in the minors. Which, while it may not prevent him from having success at the big league level, is likely a reason for the limited number of chances he’s been given.

The Rays are probably the best place he could go, frankly. They’ve shown themselves willing to utilize guys in unique ways and are more likely than most teams to find places to spot a lefty control specialist who has shown he can both start and come out of the pen.