4 questions for the Chicago White Sox as the Cactus League season winds down

MESA, Ariz. — Chicago White Sox infielder Braden Shewmake was on his way to shortstop for the bottom of the fifth Saturday against the Seattle Mariners in Peoria, Ariz., when he began to hop.

“(First baseman Andrew) Vaughn called his name to do something, he turned around and his spike got caught,” manager Pedro Grifol said Sunday. “He knew he had sprained it pretty good.”

Shewmake suffered a left lateral ankle sprain. The estimated recovery time is two to four weeks. Grifol said it’s not a high ankle sprain.

“I saw him walking around today and they didn’t even think he was going to be able to do that, so he’s a quick healer,” Grifol said. “It’s amazing how that works. You want to make a team, so you heal quickly.”

Shewmake had been a leading candidate to break camp with the Sox as a role player capable of providing depth at multiple spots in the infield. He has a team-leading six stolen bases in 17 games this spring and has played 11 games at shortstop, five games at second base and two at third.

Danny Mendick and Zach Remillard are also in that utility role mix. Gavin Sheets (first base and right field) and Mike Moustakas (first and third base) are options for power from the left side.

How will it all shake out? That’s just one of the questions facing the Sox with the final week of Cactus League games underway. Here are three more questions.

1. Who is the opening day starter?

There are openings in the starting rotation following the Dylan Cease trade to the San Diego Padres on Wednesday and the team’s decision to move Michael Kopech to the bullpen.

Cease’s departure also means someone new will be selected to start opening day. An announcement could be coming early this week.

Michael Soroka and Erick Fedde are two possibilities.

Acquired as part of the trade that sent reliever Aaron Bummer to the Atlanta Braves, Soroka has been one of the most effective pitchers in camp. He has a 2.00 ERA in three starts, with 12 strikeouts and four walks in nine innings.

The Sox signed Fedde to a two-year deal in the offseason after the right-hander earned MVP honors in the Korea Baseball Organization in 2023. Everything is clicking for him when batters are hitting the ball on the ground, and he has induced a team-high three double plays this spring.

Soroka handled the opening-day duties in 2020 while with the Braves. He said that while it would be a great honor, it’s not something he’s focusing on.

“I’m focusing on the little things that will make me a better pitcher over 30, 32 starts,” Soroka said Thursday.

The most buzzed-about pitcher in camp has been Garrett Crochet, who is attempting to make the move from the bullpen to the rotation.

2. Who is starting in right field?

Dominic Fletcher and Kevin Pillar have gotten the bulk of the starts in right field this spring.

Pillar, a nonroster invitee, entered Sunday hitting .250 with five doubles and five runs in 15 games. Fletcher, acquired in a February trade from the Arizona Diamondbacks, is 7-for-41 (.171) in 18 games.

“If he was kind of overswinging at pitches out of the strike zone or swing decisions were poor, then maybe,” Grifol said when asked if there was anything to be alarmed about Fletcher. “But swing decisions have been good.”

Outfield depth options include Brett Phillips, Rafael Ortega and Mark Payton.

“(Fletcher is) just a smart, smart guy, Pillar has done a really good job out there, he’s has the track record of being a plus defender. Great makeup. Character, leadership, integrity, you name it,” Grifol said. “Ortega has done well, Phillips has done really well, Payton has done really well. These guys have really taken the bull by the horn and have shown what they could do.”

3. Who will be the closer?

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The bullpen has been another area impacted by injuries.

John Brebbia continues to work his way back from a right calf strain suffered early in camp. Jimmy Lambert is recovering from lingering shoulder issues.

There’s a mix of veteran nonroster invitees, like Jesse Chavez and Dominic Leone, and players with no big-league experience, such as camp standout Jordan Leasure.

As the Sox formulate the makeup of the ’pen, they are also working through options for the ninth inning. Kopech’s shift to the bullpen puts him on that potential list.

“Just kind of focused on doing my job the best I can do it, and if that moves me to a vital role then that’s great,” Kopech said Saturday. “If not, then I keep fine-tuning everything I can to where I’m efficient out there.”