White Sox’ Lance Lynn to have knee surgery; Lucas Giolito named Opening Day starter

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Lance Lynn was the likely candidate to be the White Sox’ Opening Day starter, but Lynn’s first start will have to wait about two months, the team learned Sunday.

Instead, Lucas Giolito will take the mound on Opening Day Friday in Detroit.

Lynn has a minor tear in a tendon in his right knee and will have a 30-minute procedure done Tuesday in Chicago that will keep him off a mound for about four weeks. He’ll need another four weeks to build up strength after that, the big blow coming a week before the season opener in Detroit to a team with World Series aspirations.

Manager Tony La Russa named Giolito the season-opening starter on Monday. This will be Giolito’s third consecutive Opening Day start. Dylan Cease and Michael Kopech will start the weekend games against the Tigers.

Reynaldo Lopez and Vince Velasquez will be asked to step up in a combination of starting and long-relief roles to shoulder some of the burden.

“Obviously, it’s unfortunate that we have to spend the first several weeks without Lance,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “It’s an opportunity for some of the other arms we’ll be carrying with the expanded roster to fill some of that void.

“It’s part of the game. We have a very deep and talented roster.”

La Russa said he had two Opening Day options in Lynn and Giolito but also said he knew who would start. Most indications pointed to Lynn. He also will be without prized lefty reliever Garrett Crochet, who is having Tommy John surgery Tuesday.

“It’s kind of the same as last year,” Giolito said of a team that lost Eloy Jimenez to a pectoral tear in spring training. “After we found out about Garrett, Tony addressed the clubhouse much in the same vein as Eloy last year. It always sucks, but that’s just how the game goes sometimes. And so the focus is on the here and now. We have a very good team. We have depth despite losing key players. So we just keep pushing forward, and we know that we are really good with what we have.”

Hopping on his left leg, limping toward the dugout and bending forward with both hands on his thighs, Lynn exited his last Cactus League start Saturday night against the Diamondbacks after 3,, innings and 79 pitches.

“I think he just landed wrong,” La Russa said. “Or it seemed like it.”

“This was the first time whatever was apparently ailing him gave and led to a tear,” Hahn said.

After the season, Hahn said Lynn “got treatment, and it was addressed various ways. And again, there was no tear at the time, so a surgical procedure wasn’t called for until this happened.”

With a shortened spring leading to the season, and with Kopech having only a two-inning start under his belt, the Sox — like all 30 teams — already faced concerns about pitching manpower with innings limits. Lynn’s injury only complicates matters and heightens the importance of Velasquez and Lopez as “backup” starters behind Giolito, Cease, Kopech and Dallas Keuchel.

The Sox have a heavy American League Central slate of games in April and May and play the Rays, Red Sox, Yankees and Cubs outside the division.

“All morning long, we’ve been talking about ‘what-ifs’ and how we would cover, and I just think that the priority is going to be the series you are playing,” La Russa said Sunday morning, uncertain at the moment of the severity of Lynn’s injury.

Starters are not expected to go much past four, five or six innings depending on pitch counts, La Russa said.

“It might rain tomorrow, snow the next day,” he said. “So we are going to ‘what-if,’ but the priority will be the first three games against Detroit.”

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