The Chicago White Sox are in search of a reliable arm to hold down the end of a playoff rotation, assuming they reach the postseason for the first time since 2008.
If the White Sox outlast the Tigers for the AL Central championship, their first three arms to start in the playoffs would seem set, barring injury. Chris Sale and Jake Peavy would appear to be your first two starters, with Gavin Floyd taking the bump in the third game of the series.
From there, it's anybody's guess as to who Chicago will tap for additional starts in October.
The White Sox are planning to start Hector Santiago Wednesday night against Cleveland. The spot start is a way to get Peavy an extra day off, but it helps illustrate just how much trouble Chicago seems to be having holding to a set rotation.
Peavy is essentially starting against Tampa Bay in place of Jose Quintana, who has been skipped as it looks right now. Following Peavy, Floyd and Sale will throw on four days' rest.
After that, someone has to take the ball in the White Sox last home game this season on Sunday. Who will that person be?
Will it be Quintana, who threw two-thirds of an inning in Tuesday's 4-3 loss to the Indians? Quintana would be pitching on four days' rest after this abbreviated appearance. The 23-year-old lefty has been worn down after throwing over 180 innings between Chicago and Double-A Birmingham in 2012.
Francisco Liriano lasted just 3.2 innings Tuesday, though a botched double-play didn't help his cause. He has been inconsistent at best for Chicago since coming over from Minnesota, though he did dominate his former club through seven innings in his previous start.
You could speculate that Liriano could make a case for inclusion in a possible playoff rotation with another strong start before the regular season ends. Trouble is, he may not get that start.
Robin Ventura could go with a rested Quintana or try to squeeze Santiago and the bullpen in the last game with the Rays. He then may choose to roll the dice on Peavy, Floyd and Sale in Cleveland to wrap up the regular season, especially if those games could decide the division.
If somehow the White Sox are able to get to the postseason using a makeshift three-man rotation, it isn't likely the situation will continue to bear fruit. Now in a dead heat with Detroit, 2012 has essentially become an eight-game affair. Using Sale and Peavy twice in that span could get the White Sox over the hump, but at what cost?
Chicago has to qualify for the playoffs before Ventura has to make decisions concerning his starters. That fourth man in line for the ball may have to be a group project if the need arises.
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