Column: Chicago White Sox rookie starters Nick Nastrini and Jonathan Cannon deserve a shot to stick in rotation

It might be deemed cruel and unusual punishment to promote Nick Nastrini and Jonathan Cannon to the Chicago White Sox during this historical stretch of badness.

The two Sox pitching prospects had the misfortune of making their major-league debuts in back-to-back games for a team off to the worst start in franchise history, and whose lineup featured six players batting under .200.

Asking someone to make their major-league debut with no margin for error was a bold move by general manager Chris Getz, but the rookies managed to survive their debuts with their heads held high and their confidence intact.

Nastrini pitched five strong innings without getting any run support Monday in a 2-0 loss to the Kansas City Royals, while Cannon matched him Wednesday with five quality innings in a 4-2 loss to the Royals in Game 1 of a doubleheader.

The only run Cannon allowed came on Adam Frazier’s two-out single in the second, moments after center fielder Dominic Fletcher slipped on a fly ball and let it fall behind him for a double. Cannon was still in line for the win before Salvador Perez’s two-run, eighth-inning home run off Michael Kopech erased a one-run lead.

In a more suitable environment, Nastrini and Cannon would have stamped their tickets into the rotation and given fans a chance to gauge their progress as they navigate their way through the major leagues.

Instead they play for the White Sox, where the default answer to any question about the team’s plans is “We’ll see.”

Nastrini is penciled in for a start Sunday in Philadelphia, but the Sox have made no announcement yet. Cannon’s next start is unknown, and manager Pedro Grifol wasn’t ready to commit to him Wednesday.

Photos: Kansas City Royals 4, Chicago White Sox 2

“They called me up to start today, and I thought I was able to put my best foot forward,” Cannon said. “In regard to future starts or whatever, I’m trying to take it one start at a time. I was really happy with the performance today, and I thought my stuff was good.”

So what do you say, Grifol?

“We’ll regroup tomorrow and we’ll see how we’re going to line this up,” Grifol said between games.

It shouldn’t be this hard.

A rotation including Garrett Crochet, Nastrini and Cannon would be a nod to the future, a small gift to Sox fans for sticking with them through this brutal stretch to start the season.

“It was two good days, and for the future here,” Grifol said of the rookies’ starts. “These guys are pretty good.”

Maybe the future is here and no one informed Grifol, so we’re doomed to keep living in the past.

This season is over for the Sox, who are 3-15 after the 2-1 win over the Royals in Game 2 of the doubleheader. The sooner they acknowledge that and move on to the actual rebuilding part of the rebuild, the easier it will be to win back some of their fans. Another paltry crowd of 10,412 turned out Wednesday for the doubleheader, a trend that won’t end any time soon.

This team is never going to hit. Proven hitters have slumps and come out of them, so Eloy Jiménez and Andrew Benintendi will likely return to their old selves. But most of the other hitters on this team are either too young to have a track record or are coming off poor offensive seasons and just picking up where they left off.

That means the only reasons anyone would come out to Sox Park are the giveaways, the food and maybe a chance to see a nice pitching performance from the starter.

Instead of thinking about the future, they’re eagerly holding a spot for Mike Clevinger, who couldn’t wait to get out of his $12 million mutual option, then came crawling back for $3 million when no other team wanted him. And they’re holding another for Brad Keller, who is pitching at Triple-A Charlotte and has that much-needed ex-Royals pedigree.

And they’re seemingly intent on giving more opportunities to Chris Flexen, who has an 8.78 ERA in three starts after posting a 6.86 ERA in 2023 for the Seattle Mariners and Colorado Rockies.

We’re not anointing Nastrini and Cannon saviors after one start. Surely they would go through some ups and downs, like most Sox rookies not named Chris Sale. Remember Dylan Cease’s rookie season in 2019, when he posted a 5.79 ERA in 14 starts? Watching him evolve into the Sox ace by 2022 and finish second to Justin Verlander in the American League Cy Young Award voting was a treat fans won’t soon forget.

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The Sox have an off day Thursday before starting a series in Philadelphia, where Crochet takes the mound. At this point he’s the only starter fans have any real faith in at the start of a game. Erick Fedde can give you five decent innings, but hasn’t shown yet he can last long. Michael Soroka and Flexen, both reclamation projects, have shown why they’re considered projects.

The outings of Nastrini and Cannon were a shot in the arm to a Sox team in need of a pick-me-up. Cannon was ecstatic to be able to come up to the majors with his friend — the third time two Sox rookies debuted in back-to-back games and the first time since Charlie Biggs and Fabian Kowalik did it in September 1932.

“I knew on Friday, and I hadn’t heard about Nick yet,” Cannon said. “But I showed up to the locker room in Jacksonville (Fla.) and saw his locker empty, and I was so happy. I’ve never been so happy to see a locker empty.

“It was awesome because I knew he was going up. I was happy we got to share the last 24 hours, 48 hours together and experience it together.”

In a season where nothing has gone right, the Sox have a chance to do the right thing and let Nastrini and Cannon experience their journey together.

Will they do it?

We’ll see.