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Sorting out options for the Chicago White Sox rotation after the Dylan Cease trade — and Michael Kopech’s move to the bullpen

GLENDALE, Ariz. — A pitching coach’s job at times can be a nightmare during spring training.

“(You’re) trying to get everybody in games and build guys out,” Chicago White Sox pitching coach Ethan Katz said Thursday.

Katz is now juggling an extra wrinkle after the Sox traded ace Dylan Cease to San Diego Padres on Wednesday.

“For my first three years (as the Sox pitching coach), we had kind of a set rotation,” Katz said. “This year’s a little bit different, so I’m trying to piece this together as we speak with what it might look like and getting new guys acclimated here as well.”

The trade, along with the team’s decision to move Michael Kopech to the bullpen, has created a couple of openings in the rotation. Katz estimated the Sox have as many as 10 starting options.

“A lot of guys (are) throwing bulk innings right now,” he said. “Obviously with the Dylan news, that will open it a little more. We’ll see how it plays out. We’ve got to have a lot of discussions and we still have a lot of time even though it is winding down. We’ll figure it out.

“There’s still a lot of options and that’s a credit to the front office and the talent they brought in here. It’s also a credit to the guys and how they are throwing it too. It’s going to be a lot of tough decisions, but you would rather have that than easy ones.”

Right-handers Erick Fedde and Michael Soroka have both made three starts this spring, and Chris Flexen made his second start and third appearance overall Friday against the Cubs at Camelback Ranch.

Fedde has induced a team-leading three double plays in Cactus League games while Soroka is tied for second with 12 strikeouts.

“Getting to see Fedde live and in person and getting to know him, he’s a totally different pitcher from what he was before, but he has the experience here in the big leagues, which says a lot,” Katz said. “(Soroka) put in a lot of hard work in the offseason, but we have some ideas with the stuff he’s done in the past and the direction we’d like to see him go, and he’s really bought into it, so we’ve been really pleased with both of them.”

Flexen allowed two runs in four innings Friday. He has a 2.00 ERA in his nine innings.

“Obviously, trying to recapture where he was in ’21, and we’ve kind of been able to do that early on,” Katz said. “He’s made some nice adjustments with his delivery and pitch mix, so we’ve been really pleased with where he’s at as well.”

Everyone in camp is pleased with what they’ve seen from Garrett Crochet. The left-hander, who is attempting to move from the bullpen to the rotation, has not allowed a run in nine innings and has 12 strikeouts in four appearances, including one start.

“He’s on his way to do whatever is needed,” Katz said. “He’s in a good place and we don’t need to add or do anything different to what we’ve been doing.”

Crochet struck out three in three scoreless innings Wednesday against the Los Angeles Angels.

“I feel like I’m in a good place building up and we’ll kind of see when camp ends,” he said. “The competition is still much ongoing.”

That competition continues this weekend with Jake Woodford and Chad Kuhl slated to start Saturday’s split-squad games against the Seattle Mariners in Peoria, Ariz., and the San Francisco Giants at Camelback Ranch, respectively.

Both could be in line for four innings of work. Jared Shuster could get two to three innings against the Giants, and Touki Toussaint might get two innings against the Mariners. Nick Nastrini and Jonathan Cannon are scheduled for either three or four innings against the Oakland Athletics on Sunday in Mesa, Ariz.

Nastrini, acquired last season as part of a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers, has had a strong camp with a 1.29 ERA and nine strikeouts in seven innings.

“We’ve got a lot of options,” Katz said. “(Nastrini is) still here, so I think anybody that’s still in camp is in the picture to do anything, so we’ve got a long way to go, but he’s still here, he’s still throwing, got him built out to be an option.”

The Sox recently signed former Kansas City Royals pitcher Brad Keller to a minor-league deal. The right-hander will have a live bullpen session Saturday. Davis Martin, recently optioned to Triple-A Charlotte as he continues to make his way back from Tommy John surgery, could be a factor later. And general manager Chris Getz said Drew Thorpe, one of the players acquired in the Cease trade, is someone who has “more or less been knocking on the door” to pitch in the big leagues.

With Cease’s departure, the Sox will need to name a starter for opening day. Manager Pedro Grifol said, “we’re not there yet” in terms of making that announcement.

As for the rotation as a whole, Grifol is excited about the options.

“Some guys continue to go out there and (are) telling us that, ‘Hey, I’m here and I can be part of this,’ ” Grifol said. “That’s what is exciting about this camp. These guys are competing, they’re taking advantage of the opportunity, opportunity means preparation at some point.

“And here’s their opportunity and I’ll be damned if they’re not prepared.”