Originally written on Midwest Sports Fans  |  Last updated 9/4/12

Throughout last week’s struggles, which saw Chicago go 1-6 against Baltimore and Detroit, you heard many complaints about the first place White Sox from fans.

The most consistent of those complaints was about the starting rotation, which struggled mightily in all cases outside of spot starter Dylan Axelrod, who dazzled in Camden Yards.

The “Axe Man” has a 0.96 ERA in his wins so far in 2012. Credit: UC Irvine Sports

With just under a month left in the 2012 regular season, it’s strange that we’re discussing Axelrod and fellow spot starter Hector Santiago in such great detail for a team competing for a division title. But it’s looking like they’re both going to be important down the stretch.

There are numerous question marks about the White Sox rotation as we head into the heart of September:

  • John Danks is on the disabled list for the rest of the year (and has been since May).
  • Gavin Floyd is temporarily shelved and still experiencing soreness.
  • Many wonder if the workload for the likes of Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, who are both already in uncharted waters for personal innings pitched in a season, is becoming too great.

The Sox have prided themselves on giving pitchers ample rest whenever they thought it’d be a benefit to the player and the team. But with the injury problems the team is having, it makes it much harder to spread the youngsters out and give them  that extra rest.

Current bullpen long-man Phil Humber, who threw the 21st perfect game in the MLB’s history this past April, has given the Sox evidence time and time again in the months since that he can’t pick up the extra slack and eat up major innings in a spot start role. He’s been consistently inconsistent in the rotation all throughout 2012 and has even struggled in a very limited bullpen role.

In a very fair sample size of 100 2/3 IP, Humber’s ERA is 5.81 to go along with a 1.47 WHIP … and a 14.37 ERA in his losses. I don’t think I need to delve into the numbers much further … you guys get what I’m getting at with Humber.

With Humber out of the mix, the two unexpected names that we brought up earlier – Dylan Axelrod and Hector Santiago – may just be the solution and the Sox way to nip the ‘IP bug’ in the bud.

Monday night Hector Santiago made his first big league start. This came after the former closer was stretched out with some impressive long-man work out of the ‘pen.

He looked very good, going 6.0 innings and only letting up 3 hits and 1 earned run, which came on a Jamey Carroll solo home run, his first since 2009.

“Screwgie” looks much more comfortable as a starter than as a closer. Credit: daylife.com

Axelrod last pitched Tuesday in Baltimore, tossing 7.1 innings of 1-run ball that led to the Sox’ only victory of the road trip.

If these guys can serve as consistently reliable options to pick up starts here and there, it could really go a long way to help save the arms of Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, all while not rushing Gavin Floyd back.

Going forward, 11 of the Sox final 28 games are against the Twins and Indians, two lefty-heavy lineups. I wouldn’t put it past Robin Ventura and Don Cooper to call upon the southpaw Santiago for a couple of those games, if needed. It’s thought that Axelrod, who rejoined the Sox Tuesday, will be the starter for the afternoon game on Sunday in Minnesota, which is technically the next time that Hector Santiago, or at least that spot in the rotation, is due up.

It’s hard to predict exactly where else Axelrod could be penciled into the schedule. But he has done well facing some good offenses that were rather unfamiliar with him. He’s done well against the Red Sox, Yankees, and Orioles this year, all tough American League East Division foes.

While I know this sounds no more accurate than shooting fish in a barrel, maybe team management will send him out there against the Rays when they come to town September 27-30th for a 4-game set that is in the middle of a stretch that sees the Sox finish the season playing a game in each of the final 16 days.

Some rest may be needed there for certain guys, though that is obviously a period of time where you need to run out your best players every day if they can muster up the strength.

The other variable to look at is that “Axe” has done very well on the road, so maybe they’d be inclined to trot him out there away from US Cellular Field, like they probably are at Target Field on Sunday.

Wherever and whenever Hector Santiago and Dylan Axelrod start, it looks like they may be viable options to help other more prominent players stay rested for a hopeful playoff run.

Moral of the story: these guys are proving themselves to be valuable assets to the team. They may be afterthoughts when it’s all said and done, but for now lets appreciate them much like we’ve been “appreciating the game” all year.

*****

This post was also featured on Zach’s White Sox blog, GrabSomeBench.com! Follow them on Twitter at @Grab_Some_Bench for more updates!

The post Chicago White Sox Spot Starters Hector Santiago and Dyland Axelrod Could Be Key Down The Stretch appeared first on Midwest Sports Fans.


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