The White Sox on Sunday optioned left-handed relief pitcher Eric Surkamp to Triple-A Charlotte. The move creates room on the 25-man roster for veteran reliever Matt Lindstrom, who has completed his rehab assignment and will rejoin Chicago in time for Tuesday night's game at San Francisco.
With Surkamp's demotion, this means the Sox will no longer have a left-handed pitcher available out of the bullpen. While this situation isn't ideal, none of the left-handed relievers the Sox have tried this season have worked out for them.
The club started the year with Scott Downs and Donnie Veal on the roster, but both men pitched their way off the team before the All-Star break. Surkamp has been given a look in that lefty role in the seven weeks since Downs was given his walking papers, but his results have been mixed at best.
Left-handed batters are hitting just .167 in 30 plate appearances against Surkamp, but here's the problem: They've also hit three home runs off him in those 30 plate appearances. The first priority for any left-handed reliever is to keep opposing left-handed hitters in the ballpark. Surkamp has not done that. A left-handed hitter has homered off him once in every 10 at-bats. That's too high of a rate.
Maybe you chalk that up to a small sample size and keep Surkamp in the bigs if it weren't for the fact that he can't get righties out at all. Right-handed hitters are posting a robust .360/.429/.400 slash line against him.
Surkamp can't retire righties, and he can't keep lefties in the yard. That's a recipe for getting sent back to Charlotte.
If you're worried about the lack of lefty relievers in the bullpen, the Sox have one right-handed relief pitcher who gets lefties out at a high rate: Javy Guerra.
Take a look at Guerra's lefty/right splits:
vs. LHB: .207/.319/.293
vs. RHB: .304/.375/.500
Left-handed hitters have clubbed just one home run off Guerra in 70 plate appearances this season. Unlike Surkamp, Guerra keeps lefties in the yard, as well as getting them out on a regular basis.
If Sox manager Robin Ventura finds himself in a situation where he needs a reliever to get a left-handed batter out in a tight situation, Guerra is the man he should summon from the bullpen.