Thursday, April 18, 2019

Palka to Charlotte; Giolito to IL; Cordell excels; Fulmer flops

The White Sox on Wednesday optioned outfielder Daniel Palka to Triple-A Charlotte, just hours after he broke an 0-for-32 slump with a broken-bat single in a 4-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals.

Of course, Palka also grounded into a double play with the bases loaded and one out in a tie game in the bottom of the eighth inning, and he also made the final out of the game in the bottom of the 10th -- making weak contact in both at-bats.

It was time to send him down. Past time, in fact.

Amid all the Tim Anderson controversy, it was almost forgotten that pitcher Lucas Giolito had to leave Wednesday's game in the third inning with left hamstring tightness. It was unfortunate, because Giolito had his good stuff working. He had not allowed a hit and struck out five through 2.2 innings.

These two roster moves allowed Ryan Cordell and Carson Fulmer to return from Charlotte for Thursday's game in Detroit, a 9-7 White Sox loss. 

Cordell started in right field batting ninth, and went 3 for 4 with his second home run of the season, which briefly gave the Sox a 5-4 lead in the seventh inning. On this blog, we previously endorsed Cordell's recall from Charlotte, although I had suggested he replace Adam Engel, not Palka.

In any case, Cordell seems to be the best of the bad options in the Sox outfield right now. He's swinging the bat better than Palka, Engel or Nicky Delmonico, who is at Charlotte.

As we've stated before, Cordell should not be seen as a long-term solution to anything, and as a Sox fan, I long for the day when we aren't talking about shuffling through a bunch of never-will-be outfielders. But, this is the situation right now, and the Sox need to give the playing time to the man who is doing the best job.

At the moment, that's Cordell. Give it a week, and it might be someone else's turn.

As for Fulmer, he found himself on the mound in the eighth inning of a 7-7 game Thursday, and he gave up two runs and lost it on a single, two hit batters and two sacrifice flies. Fulmer continued his longstanding habit of giving things away by loading the bases with the two hit batsmen.

I didn't really like Fulmer being on the mound in that situation on his first day back in the bigs, but in fairness to Sox manager Rick Renteria, he lacks good options in the bullpen.

For me, Fulmer is a symbol of why the Sox rebuild has stagnated. The rebuild proponents want to the team to tank again for draft position this season, but the thing is, the Sox haven't done a good job with their first-round draft picks, of which Fulmer is one.

He's out of options, and this might be his last kick at the can with the Sox organization. Can a rebuild really work for an organization that a) doesn't draft well and b) doesn't want to spend in free agency?

It doesn't look good. The Sox (7-12) lost 100 games last season; they are on pace for 99 losses this season. As a friend texted me this afternoon, "This just keeps getting worse." 

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Kansas City Royals are intent on teaching Tim Anderson the unwritten rules

Touchdown celebrations are allowed in football.

Goals in hockey? Raise your stick, pump your fist, let out a yell and hug your teammates.

A slam dunk or a 3-point play in basketball gets everyone fired up, right?

However, in baseball, if a batter hits a home run, he is to drop his bat quietly, lower his head and solemnly round the bases -- quickly. Otherwise, he might hurt the tender sensitivities of the pitcher who just gave up the hit.

That's the message the Kansas City Royals sent White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson on Wednesday. Anderson hit a mammoth two-run homer off Kansas City starter Brad Keller in the fourth inning at Guaranteed Rate Field. After making contact, Anderson tossed his bat javelin-style back toward his own dugout and appeared to exhort his teammates, as if to say, "Let's go!"

Now, now, now, Timmy, that show of emotion is not acceptable in this stodgy, ole game of baseball.

Keller -- who is probably the best pitcher on the butthurt, last-place Royals, which isn't saying much -- drilled Anderson in ass in the sixth inning as punishment. Not satisfied, Royals players and coaches came on the field and started chirping at Anderson for his transgression as he slowly made his way down the first-base line. Of course, benches and bullpens emptied. Anderson and Keller both were ejected.

I don't know what Kansas City pitching Cal Eldred is thinking about. His team has one of the highest bullpen ERAs in the league. Perhaps he should be more concerned about that than teaching Anderson a lesson, but yelling at a player on the opposing team for hitting a home run off one of his pitchers seemed to be a high priority today.

Look, I'm not a real fan of the celebration of mundane things. And celebrating a home run in the fourth inning of an April game between two bad teams is not real high on my to-do list.

But, I'm also not going to go into "old man yells at cloud" mode either. A new generation is coming into the game, one that doesn't mind celebrating hits in the fourth inning, and one that doesn't mind charging onto the field as if they've won the World Series after a ninth-inning victory. Times have changed, and I'm OK with that.

More over, all 30 teams in baseball "pimp" home runs now, so in my mind, any team that gets pissed off about another team celebrating a home run is living in a glass house.

Get over yourselves, Royals. If you don't want Anderson to celebrate, get him out next time.

Does anyone else wonder whether these bizarre "unwritten rules" are among the reasons some young people today find baseball boring?

You know, baseball is a game. It's OK if the people playing it have some fun.

If Keller strikes Anderson out in that situation, I wouldn't have minded it if he had pumped his fist for pitching out of a jam. So, why should anyone mind if Anderson flipped his bat when he had success?

It's time to lighten up.

For the record, the Royals won, 4-3, in 10 innings, but the Sox took two of three in the series. So, the Sox (7-10) are in fourth place and the Royals (6-12) are in last. That's probably where these two teams will stay all season.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

White Sox win two out of three at Yankee Stadium

Tim Anderson
The New York Yankees have almost a full team of guys on the injured list: Luis Severino, Didi Gregorius, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks, Gary Sanchez, Miguel Andujar, Dellin Betances, Aaron Hicks, Troy Tulowitzki and Jacoby Ellsbury.

There are a few others, too, but those are names that most people know.

Not that anyone is going to feel sorry for the Yankees. Coming into the weekend, I was thinking it was a good time for the White Sox to play New York, just because of all those injuries.

On the other side, however, I'm sure Yankees fans were thinking this was a good time to play the Sox, who entered this series on a five-game losing streak.

Turns out, it was a good time for the Sox to play the Yankees. They won two out of three games and improved to 5-9 on the season. Here's a look back at the weekend that was:

Friday, April 12
White Sox 9, Yankees 6 (7 innings): This rain-shortened game will be remembered because Eloy Jimenez hit his first two home runs in the major leagues. Jimenez's first home run, a two-run blast in the top of the fifth inning, capped a four-run rally and put the Sox ahead to stay at 7-5.

If Jimenez has the career that Sox fans hope he does, Yankees reliever Jonathan Holder becomes the answer to a trivia question -- he gave up the first home run in Jimenez's career.

Yonder Alonso also homered as part of that fifth inning, and Jimenez and James McCann hit back-to-back home runs in the seventh inning off Chad Green to cap the scoring. The rain came before the Yankees had a chance to bat in the bottom of the inning, and when the game was called, most Sox fans probably breathed a sigh of relief knowing the bullpen wouldn't be asked to protect a three-run lead.

Lucas Giolito (2-1) gave up four runs in the first two innings to put the Sox in an early hole, but he hung around long enough for the offense to rally and give him a win. Giolito gave up six runs, four earned, on six hits. He struck out six and walked four.

Saturday, April 13
Yankees 4, White Sox 0: CC Sabathia is retiring after this season, and not a moment too soon for Sox fans. He's 19-7 in his career against the South Siders, and although he did not get the win on this day, Sox batters had no answer for him.

Sabathia worked five innings and allowed only one hit -- a single by Jose Rondon -- and combined on a one-hitter with three Yankees relievers.

Ivan Nova (0-2) got stuck with a loss because second baseman Yolmer Sanchez didn't catch a routine grounder. Nova held the Yankees off the board through six innings, before giving up a leadoff single to Gleybor Torres in the bottom of the seventh.

Jace Fry relieved Nova and got the ground ball the Sox needed off the bat of Greg Bird. It should have been a double play, but Sanchez kicked it, and the Sox got no outs. Instead of two out, nobody on, the Yankees had first and second with nobody out.

I always say, when the opposition hits you a double-play ball and you make an error and get no outs, that's going to lead to a crooked number against. Sure enough, the Yankees went on to score three runs in that seventh inning. Ballgame.

Sunday, April 14
White Sox 5, Yankees 2: I heard most of this game on the radio, because I had to take my better half to Midway Airport in the middle of a freak April snowstorm. Thank goodness the Sox were on the road this weekend, right? And they secured a series win behind a grand slam from Tim Anderson and a quality start from Carlos Rodon.

Rodon scuffled early, giving up single runs in both the first and third innings. Both runners that came around to score reached on walks, but the left-hander recovered to give up nothing through the middle innings. In fact, the Yankees had only one hit after the third inning in this game.

The final line for Rodon (2-2): 6 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 5 Ks, 2 BBs.

The Sox got to Masahiro Tanaka (1-1) the second time through the batting order. Jose Abreu doubled with one out in the fourth inning. Alonso and Jimenez walked, and that set the table for Anderson, who lined an 0-1 pitch over the wall in right-center field for a grand slam and 4-2 Sox lead.

Abreu's sacrifice fly in the fifth inning added a run, and the pitching did the rest. Fry, Nate Jones, Kelvin Herrera and Alex Colome combined for three innings of scoreless relief. Colome worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his third save in as many chances.

The Sox now come back to snowy Chicago for a brief three-game homestand. A series against the Kansas City Royals is set to begin Monday night.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Deep thoughts: Should Ryan Cordell take Adam Engel's roster spot?

Adam Engel
Outfielder Ryan Cordell hit for the cycle Wednesday night in the Charlotte Knights' 10-9 victory over the Norfolk Tides.

Cordell, who started the season with the White Sox and appeared in five games before being optioned to Triple-A, went 5 for 5 with four runs scored and three RBIs in the victory. He's 6 for 9 since being sent down.

Hmmmmm ... Cordell only had six at-bats in the major leagues in those five games, and he struck out in three of the six. But, he also produced a two-run, pinch-hit home run that gave the Sox a lead. His other hit was an RBI double.

I don't necessarily think Cordell has much lasting power in professional baseball, but he seems to be playing well right now, and that makes me wonder whether he'd be a better use of a roster spot than Adam Engel -- who is being squeezed out of playing time by Leury Garcia, of all people.

On Tuesday, the Sox lost, 10-5, to the Tampa Bay Rays. But, they had a chance to tie the game in the bottom of the eighth. The Sox had pulled within 8-5, and they had the bases loaded with two outs. Yolmer Sanchez was due to hit, but with a left-handed pitcher on the mound, manager Rick Renteria decided to use a pinch hitter.

And he summoned ... Engel?!

Engel, the lifetime .205 hitter, who is 2 for 15 so far this season. Naturally, Engel struck out to end the threat, and that was it for the Sox on that day.

You can't help but wonder if Cordell would have been more of a threat with the bat in that scenario -- at least in the short run while he's hot. (Note: Cordell is NOT a long-term answer for anything.)

If Renteria isn't going to start Engel in center field every day to take advantage of Engel's run prevention skills, then why is Engel on the roster?

Just wondering.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Some rare positivity: Dylan Cease pitches well in Triple-A debut

Let's preface by saying this: Dylan Cease should not be called up to the White Sox until he is ready to pitch in the major leagues. There still are things he can improve upon at the Triple-A level.

That said, it's possible Cease is the best starting pitcher in the organization right now. The Sox's best healthy pitching prospect made his Triple-A season debut Tuesday in Game 1 of a doubleheader and tossed five shutout innings in a 4-0 Charlotte victory over Norfolk.

Cease struck out five, allowed three hits, issued no walks (!) and threw 47 of his 73 pitches for strikes. His fastball sat at 96 mph, and he retired the final 10 batters he faced.

Good start.

Now, it is possible Norfolk isn't swinging the bats very well. The Knights won the second game of the doubleheader, 3-0, with Dylan Covey, Zach Thompson and Thyago Vieira combining on a one-hitter with 10 strikeouts.

I mention this only to put things in proper context. It is only one outing for Cease, but as Sox fans, we are starved for some good news on the pitching front these days.

At the major league level Wednesday, Reynaldo Lopez got his rear handed to him again as the Sox lost, 9-1, to the Tampa Bay Rays. 

Lopez lasted 4.1 innings, allowing eight earned runs on 10 hits. He struck out five, walked four and gave up three home runs. His season ERA swelled to 12.15.

It's concerning. Lopez's 2018 peripherals suggested maybe he wasn't as good as his 3.91 ERA, and a reasonable person shouldn't be surprised by some regression from the right-hander this season. But there's regression, and then there's falling off a cliff.

This is falling off a cliff. Lopez has given up an alarming six home runs in 13.1 innings this season.

The Sox (3-8) did not get a single quality start on the six-game homestand. Sox starters have posted a 14.91 ERA over the past six games. It's a miracle they won one.

As a Sox fan, I've praying to see some credible run prevention on the field. At this point, I don't care if they lose 2-1. I just want to see somebody pitch well, and see some players catch the damn ball and make smart plays on defense.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Maybe Ricky's boys don't quit, but they sure can't pitch

Ervin Santana
You have to give the White Sox front office credit. They took a 100-loss team and somehow managed to make it even less enjoyable to watch.

I'm glad Tuesday's 10-5 Sox loss to the Tampa Bay Rays was an afternoon game, as being at work spared me from the majority of the agony. Although, Jace Fry's 46-pitch slog of a relief appearance in the top of the ninth inning spanned most of my 45-minute drive home from the office.

That's a little too much bad radio with Ed Farmer for me. The game ended at 5:06 p.m. local time, which means the nine-inning game took four minutes short of four hours.

Sox starting pitcher Ervin Santana didn't survive the fourth inning. He worked only 3.2 innings, allowing seven earned runs on seven hits. He walked three and struck out one. He threw only 45 of his 88 pitches for strikes and gave up three home runs.

Tampa Bay batters drew eight walks, and I don't even want to count how many three-ball counts there must have been in that game.

The Sox are 1-4 on the homestand and 3-7 for the season. They have received poor starting pitching in every single one of the these five home games. Here's a look at the last pass through the rotation:

Reynaldo Lopez: 5 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 5 Ks, 4 BBs, 3 HRs allowed
Lucas Giolito: 4.1 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 4 Ks, 4 BBs, 1 HR allowed
Ivan Nova: 2.1 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 2 Ks, 1 BB, 0 HR allowed
Carlos Rodon: 4.2 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 9 Ks, 5 BBs, 0 HR allowed
Santana: 3.2 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 1 K, 3 BBs, 3 HRs allowed

So, Sox starters have a 13.50 ERA on this homestand. That's not going to get it done. In fact, it's completely unwatchable, watching this team get buried in the early innings day after day.

Personally, I've grown tired of the alleged "positive trajectory" the Sox claim to be on. They think they are positioning themselves to compete for "multiple championships."

Frankly, I think they are positioning themselves to alienate the few fans they have left. Yes, Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada are swinging the bats well. However, with so little pitching in place and not much beyond Dylan Cease in the pipeline, this looks more like a express elevator straight to hell than a "positive trajectory."

Monday, April 8, 2019

First homestand going poorly for White Sox

The view from my seat on Opening Day at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Steve Stone normally is a good TV analyst, but I was scratching my head Sunday when he was talking about Monday's pitching matchup between the White Sox's Carlos Rodon and the Rays' Blake Snell.

Stone said something to the effect of Rodon and Snell being the type of left-handers who "could win a Cy Young in any year."

Uhhh, no, not quite.

Snell went 21-5 with a 1.89 ERA in 2018 and actually did win the Cy Young Award. Rodon's career record is 27-30 with a 3.95 ERA -- respectable given the horrible Sox teams he has played on -- but let's not kid ourselves here: Snell is a cut above Rodon, and he showed it Monday in a 5-1 Tampa Bay victory.

Snell went six innings, allowing one run on six hits. He struck out 11 and walked nobody. Jose Rondon's solo home run was all the Sox could muster offensively.

Meanwhile, Rodon gave up two runs in the first inning and two more in the second inning. By the end of the fifth inning, he was gone, having allowed 13 base runners (eight hits, five walks) through 4.2 innings. He did strike out nine. If not for that, Tampa could have scored more runs -- the Rays stranded 14 for the game.

The loss drops the Sox to 3-6 on the season and 1-3 on the opening homestand. They won the home opener Friday (with me in attendance) as Yoan Moncada's four RBIs lifted them to a 10-8 victory over the Seattle Mariners. The Sox overcame a poor start by Reynaldo Lopez.

However, they could not overcome a poor start by Lucas Giolito on Saturday, as the Mariners rolled to a 9-2 win. Nor could the Sox overcome a poor start by Ivan Nova on Sunday, as Seattle took the series with a 12-5 victory.

The Sox have been outscored 34-18 so far on the homestand. This is not good run prevention. Seattle was 9-2 entering Monday's play, so the Mariners have been hot. The Rays also are hot. They are 8-3 after beating the Sox on Monday.

The South Siders have two more games against Tampa, before going on the road to New York to face the Yankees.

This is shaping up to be an ugly week. When I walked out of Guaranteed Rate Field on Friday, the Sox were a respectable 3-3. Unfortunately, with the way they are playing, and with the quality of the opposition, they are in jeopardy of losing touch with .500 this week. The losing record likely will be permanent for the rest of the 2019 season.