Kenny Williams officially ruled out the best-case scenario for Chris Sale's comeback, but other palatable options remain in play.
The White Sox's executive vice president told MLB Network on Wednesday that Sale wouldn't be able to make his third consecutive Opening Day start, but the avulsion fracture in his right foot might not keep him out much longer.
"He's not going to be the Opening Day starter," Williams said. "We're going to take him on a little slower road, but it looks like he could make the April 12 start.
"Now, whether we're going to want him to make that start would be dependent upon just how he comes along, but all signs are pointing upward right now, and Chris is a guy who wants to be out on the mound. If it's not that 12th start, we'll fit him into the rotation shortly after that."
Here's the video, if you can tolerate Chris Russo.
If the White Sox are indeed applying a unique mystery treatment to Sale's foot, it's not a miracle cure. Still, having a specific backup date is a good consolation prize at this time. And even if he's delayed a week or so beyond that, the Sox still aren't in awful shape. They have three off days in the first two weeks, meaning they won't need a fifth starter until April 20 or so.
The biggest drawback? It puts a premium on Sale, Robin Ventura and Don Cooper doing what they can to make a DL stint a recurring feature after he comes back. It's one thing to miss a start or two during the season, but it's harder to absorb when he opens the year three starts in the hole.
Williams didn't rule out Carlos Rodon as a possible season-opening replacement, but of course he wouldn't. Rodon's performance against the Rangers on Wednesday might have stalled some of his own momentum instead.
The Rangers stung Rodon for three runs on five hits and a walk over 2⅓ innings. All five hits were singles, but at least three of them were solidly struck (I was half-watching at work).
It's a shame Camelback Ranch doesn't have pitch-tracking data, because it looked to me like Rodon suffered for working on his fastball command and changeup. Rodon admitted the former was a problem; the latter might not have been a huge factor, as the only item I can find resembling a count was Scott Merkin's story, which only says Rodon threw "a couple more changeups" on Wednesday.
There's nothing particularly worrisome about Rodon's performance. The Sox might actually welcome spring-training mortality from their No. 1 prospect, as it would make it easier to explain a season-opening assignment in Charlotte, even if the Sox have room for him to make a start or two over the first couple weeks.