Column: 1 month down, 5 to go. Chicago White Sox rotation in flux as fans tune out after a horrific April.

Maybe Garrett Crochet should cherish his time in the Chicago White Sox starting rotation.

He might not be long for the role.

Asked before Tuesday’s 6-5 loss to the Minnesota Twins whether Crochet could be heading back to the bullpen at some point, manager Pedro Grifol said “there’s a possibility” he could.

“Obviously the workload is a real thing,” he said. “We can’t hide from that. The innings were really low last year. The pitches thrown were really low. Every time he steps on the mound is uncharted waters.”

True enough, which would be too bad for Crochet, who worked hard to be considered for the rotation opening and was excited to show what he could do. But now it seems like it’s not a matter of whether he’ll go to the bullpen this season, but when.

The anemic Sox offense has been the primary reason for the horrific 6-23 start, making the rotation their only hope of avoiding a historically bad season. Michael Soroka threw four no-hit innings Tuesday against the Twins but failed to make it out of the fifth, the fourth time in his last five starts he hasn’t gone five innings.

When Crochet is on, he’s among the more dominant starters around. He’s a max effort pitcher and ranked third in majors Tuesday with a 32.9% strikeout rate.

It would be nice to see what he could do over an entire season, but this was something that could have been telegraphed as far back as spring training when the Sox began stretching Crochet out to be a starter after he missed 2022 after undergoing Tommy John surgery and spent most of last spring rehabbing or on the IL.

He made 13 appearances in 2023 from May 18 to June 15, throwing 10 innings, before heading to the IL with left shoulder inflammation. Crochet made three more appearances at the end of the season, giving him 12 2/3 total innings with the Sox, along with 12 1/3 innings in the minors.

I asked Crochet about it on the second day of spring training. Innings limits are so rigid these days, and he was coming off a season of being injured and rehabbing. Did he think he could convince them to let him keep pitching in September?

“That’ll be something that’s out of my control,” he said. “All I can do is just do whatever is in my power, in my five-day routine, and be as open and honest with the training staff and coaching staff as I can.”

Crochet eventually was named opening day starter and threw six innings in that first MLB start. He was even better in his second start, lasting seven innings. But since then he’s failed to go more than five innings, and his ERA zoomed to 6.37 after a four-inning stint last week against Minnesota.

Then came Monday’s rematch against the Twins, when he was removed after five innings and 77 pitches, despite having retired the final 11 batters he faced. Crochet was hoping to save the bullpen and seemed upset in the dugout because he was feeling strong. He was open and honest, and was also overruled.

Photos: Minnesota Twins 6, Chicago White Sox 5

“We have to really monitor that and we have to communicate with him and we’ve got to be smart,” Grifol said Tuesday. “He’s a competitor, he (didn’t) want to come out of that game. At the end of the day, he knows that’s the right thing for him because the idea here is to not only help us win baseball games, but to keep him healthy and make sure he’s part of the future here for years to come.”

Grifol said he loves having “tough conversations” with starters.

“I don’t want guys that want to come out of ball games,” he said. “There’s a reason for it. It was one of those (times), whether he agrees with it or not, he was coming out of that game. But I actually really enjoy when guys don’t want to come out of games, because in my mind and the way I was brought up in the game, the pitcher walks through those doors and in his mind he should be the starter and the closer of this ballgame. That’s how I see it.”

Maybe that’s how he sees it. But that’s not how Grifol manages.

Erick Fedde was allowed to throw 108 pitches Sunday in an 8 1/3 inning gem, but he’s been the exception to the rule. Soroka threw 67 pitches in 4 1/3 innings Tuesday. The Sox bullpen is going to be toast before Memorial Day at this rate, which happens when you know before the season that most of your starters will be limited in their workloads because of past injuries or lack of effectiveness.

When you deal Dylan Cease in spring training without having anyone who can fill his innings, what do you expect?

The Sox are already bringing in two replacements. Brad Keller was called up from Triple-A Charlotte on Sunday and is scheduled to start Friday in St. Louis. Mike Clevinger, who allowed two runs on six hits over four innings Tuesday in his second start at Charlotte, is next, probably next week in Tampa Bay.

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“He’ll make one more start, we’ll re-evaluate and see if he goes into our rotation or needs another one,” Grifol said of Clevinger before the game. “We’ll wait and see when that happens.”

“Wait and see” is the default answer to any question posed to the Sox manager these days. It’s no wonder why Sox fans are turned off and tuning out. Sox Park was a ghost town again on Tuesday.

It’s almost as if the Sox prefer fans to be apathetic.

Tommy Pham was lauded by Grifol and his players for being a spark plug for the offense after he came up and helped them to a sweep over the Rays. Then Pham sat on Monday for the dubious reason of getting some rest. How tired could he have been after only three games?

It doesn’t help matters that new broadcaster John Schriffen was calling out “the haters” on the broadcast and in social media posts, as if any criticism of the Sox’s awful start was unwarranted. If the Sox don’t stop him from trolling fans it could get ugly, as in Losing Ugly.

One month down, and five to go.

It’s going to be a long, hard slog.

Better get some rest.