Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Mark Buehrle's jersey retirement a highlight of 2017 season

Former Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle, with his wife and children
White Sox great Mark Buehrle's jersey retirement ceremony Saturday moved at a quick pace -- much like the games Buehrle used to pitch on the South Side of Chicago. The ceremony was over in less than a half-hour, but it was a fitting tribute for a man who was deserving of the honor.

Buehrle warned us that his speech would be short and sweet, and it was. He opened by telling the nearly 40,000 fans who had gathered, "I should be on the mound, not standing here in front of this mic talking to you guys." That drew a loud round of applause from the crowd -- Buehrle looked as if he was in better shape than he was in the final days of his career in Toronto, and it's not far-fetched to believe he would fare better on the mound right now than James Shields does these days.

Buehrle didn't mention many people by name in his speech, probably because he didn't want to leave anybody out. He acknowledged each of the groups in attendance -- his family, including his wife, children and parents; coaches, staff and former teammates; extended family and friends; and finally, the fans of Chicago.

Other speakers included pitching coach Don Cooper, Hall of Famer Frank Thomas and White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf. Other former teammates in attendance included Joe Crede, Jon Garland, Scott Podsednik, Cliff Politte, Jim Thome, John Danks and Ross Gload. Ex-managers Jerry Manuel and Ozzie Guillen also were on hand.

Thomas' speech was a highlight, and he concluded with perhaps the best line of the afternoon when he turned to Buehrle and said, "Congratulations. Stop being modest. You’re one of the greatest pitchers that ever toed this rubber in Comiskey Park, ever.”

Indeed, the Big Hurt is correct.

Who is the pitcher with the most wins in the history of the ballpark? It's Buehrle with 90. Who is only pitcher to throw multiple no-hitters in the history of the ballpark? It's Buehrle. Who is the only pitcher to throw a perfect game in that ballpark? It's Buehrle. Add in the 2005 World Series championship, the three Gold Glove awards and the four All-Star appearances, and the victory in the 2005 All-Star Game, and that's why No. 56 is up on the stadium wall.

The Sox, of course, had a video montage paying tribute to Buehrle's career. The left-field scoreboard today is a mishmash of social media and other assorted crap, but for a brief moment during the tribute, they made the scoreboard look like it did the day of Buehrle's perfect game, July 23, 2009, when he was one out away with Tampa Bay's Jason Bartlett at the plate.

As we remember, Buehrle finished the job by retiring Bartlett on a routine grounder to short. I still find it eerie that the Sox had five runs on six hits on No. 56's perfect day. That coincidence never gets old for me.

It was also cool that the Sox found the kid who had the ball from Buehrle's famous between-the-legs-flip play from Opening Day 2010. Buehrle was presented with that ball as part of the ceremony. The play is still the greatest defensive play I've ever seen a pitcher make. If you haven't seen it, or don't remember it, click the link. It's incredible.

And, of course, no Sox ceremony would be complete without Reinsdorf taking a subtle dig at the fans. During his speech, he pointed out to Buehrle that there normally are not 40,000 people in the ballpark, as there were on Saturday.

Yeah, no kidding, Jerry, your current team stinks.

We were reminded of that quickly when the ceremony ended and the game started. Two batters in, Shields and the Sox trailed 2-0, and fans were chanting for Buehrle to come on the mound and pitch.

Predictably, the 2017 Sox squandered the festive atmosphere, losing 10-2 to fellow last-place team Oakland. In case you were wondering, the Sox are 9-17 in the past 26 games in which they have drawn more than 30,000 fans.

The game took three hours, 22 minutes to play. It was an anti-Buehrle kind of game on Buehrle's day, which is unfortunate, but it served as a good reminder that we need to cherish the good times of the past while we suffer through the present-day problems with the organization.

One of the great things about Saturday: Seeing Buehrle and all those former players took me back to a different and better time and place, when Sox baseball was fun, and you could count on the team being serious about winning.

Hopefully, those days will return with a next generation of players -- sometime before we die.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Here's why David Robertson has plenty of trade value

David Robertson
For all the trade talk swirling around White Sox starting pitcher Jose Quintana, it's possible closer David Robertson will be more coveted by pennant contenders when we hit July's trading deadline.

Robertson, 32, is having a good season that will mostly go unnoticed because he pitches for a losing team. The right-hander is 3-2 with a 3.20 ERA, with 11 saves in 12 opportunities, a 0.868 WHIP and 37 strikeouts in 25.1 innings.

A closer look at Robertson's numbers reveals that he's been at his best in save situations this year. Check out his splits for save situations and non-save situations:

Save situations: 1-0, 1.35 ERA, 21 Ks, 4 BBs, 13.1 IP, opponents slash of .091/.167/.182
Non-save situations: 2-2, 5.25 ERA, 16 Ks, 2 BBs, 12.0 IP, opponents slash of .217/.294/.391

The cliches about closers being much better in save situations seem to apply with Robertson this year. This thought occurred to me when I considered the two appearances Robertson has made in the past week.

He pitched Thursday in a 5-2 Sox win over the Baltimore Orioles, and he was not sharp. He entered with a 5-1 lead in the ninth -- a non-save situation -- gave up a solo home run to Welington Castillo and needed 31 pitches to navigate a laborious inning. Even though Baltimore never got the tying run to the plate, it was somewhat irritating to watch.

Contrast that with Robertson's performance Saturday, when he closed out a 5-2 Sox win over the Toronto Blue Jays. This was a save situation. Toronto's 3-4-5 hitters were due, and Robertson carved them up on 14 pitches. He got Jose Bautista to fly out, struck out Kendrys Morales swinging and struck out Justin Smoak looking.

The Blue Jays had no chance.

I realize that by writing this blog entry, I have likely ensured that Robertson will blow a save the next time he steps on the mound. But in the bigger picture, Robertson has proven this season that he can still shut the door on the opposition in high-leverage spots.

Some team out there has to want a reliever who is holding opponents to an .091 batting average in save situations, right?

Monday, June 19, 2017

James Shields returns from DL; Miguel Gonzalez goes on DL

The White Sox had an overall good week -- they went 5-2 against two teams from the AL East, taking three of four at home against the Baltimore Orioles and winning two of three on the road against the Toronto Blue Jays.

However, the Sox (31-37) can't seem to shake their season-long problem of pitching injuries. Right-hander James Shields came off the disabled list to make his first start since April 16 on Sunday, but he was merely taking the spot of Miguel Gonzalez, who went on the 10-day disabled list with shoulder inflammation.

Now we know the reason Gonzalez has been so terrible lately. The right-hander has a 10.34 ERA in three June starts, and longer term, he's 1-8 with a 7.32 ERA over his past nine games. His season ERA is 5.49, well above his career norm of 3.97.

As for Shields, he was mediocre in receiving a no-decision in Sunday's 7-3 loss to the Blue Jays. And, honestly, mediocrity is all we expect from the 35-year-old declining veteran. He went 5.2 innings, allowing three earned runs on seven hits with three strikeouts and one walk.

Shields was one out away from getting through six innings with a 3-1 lead, but he couldn't close the deal. He easily retired the first two batters of the inning, but Troy Tulowitzki reached on a scratch infield single that hit the third-base bag. Shields then hung a slider to Russell Martin, who hit a game-tying two-run homer that hit the top of the wall and bounced over in right-center field.

That was Shields' final pitch of the day, and the Sox bullpen -- which has been solid most of the year -- was not solid on this day. Anthony Swarzak (3-2) gave up a single and a triple that allowed the Jays to take a 4-3 lead into the seventh inning.

Swarzak, Dan Jennings and Michael Ynoa combined to give up three runs in the bottom of the seventh as the Jays broke it open and salvaged the finale of the series.

Jennings was brought in to force switch-hitter Kendrys Morales to turn around and hit from the right side, and boy, did that move fail. Morales hit a two-run blast that hasn't landed yet. I've said it before this year, and I'll make the point again: Jennings is overused, having appeared in 32 of the Sox's 68 games. As we go along, his performance gets worse and worse.

The problem is that Jennings is the only left-hander in the bullpen, so he gets summoned to pitch to left-handed hitters on a frequent basis. Injuries have forced David Holmberg into the starting rotation, even though he is more suited to be the second lefty reliever.

Perhaps Holmberg could have kept Morales in the yard Sunday, but alas, he needs to stay in the rotation for now, with Gonzalez headed to the disabled list.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Pitching reinforcements could be coming for struggling White Sox

Jake Petricka
Up until their current road trip, the White Sox have been mostly competitive -- rarely getting blown out despite an overall losing record.

But the wear and tear of having seven pitchers on the disabled list has started to show of late. Starting pitchers have struggled to make it through more than five innings, the bullpen is taxed, and the Sox have given up 61 runs over their past eight games on their way to a 1-7 record.

At long last, the Sox are finally getting somebody back off the DL for this weekend's three-game series in Cleveland. Reliever Jake Petricka (strained lat), who hasn't pitched since the first game of the season, has been activated after pitching in three games for Triple-A Charlotte on a rehab assignment.

To make room for Petricka on the roster, right-hander Brad Goldberg was optioned back to Charlotte. Goldberg had one disastrous relief outing with the Sox and heads back to the minors with a 108.00 ERA. He was pretty much unusable, so it's much preferable to see Petricka -- who has a 3.29 ERA in 155 career big-league relief appearances -- back to work in middle relief.

While it's hard to get real excited about a post-peak James Shields (strained lat) nearing his return from the disabled list, I think we can pretty much agree that he's a reasonable bet to provide the Sox with more innings as a starting pitcher than David Holmberg.

Shields made his second rehab start for Triple-A Charlotte on Thursday, allowing two runs on four hits with five strikeouts over five innings. He got his pitch count up to 72, which means he should be no more than one start away from returning to the big leagues. Then, Holmberg can go back to being the second left-hander in the bullpen, which is a more reasonable role for his skill set.

Left-hander Carlos Rodon (biceps bursitis) also is pitching on a rehab assignment. He made his first start this year at any level Tuesday with Class-A Winston-Salem. In that outing, he allowed five runs in 3.1 innings with six strikeouts. Don't worry about the results -- his fastball touched 98 mph and he seemed to emerge healthy. He gave up a bunch of runs the second time through the batting order, which is indicative of a pitcher who has been sidelined all season and doesn't have much endurance.

Rodon is scheduled to make his second rehab start Sunday for Triple-A Charlotte. We might see him in Chicago by the end of the month, if he avoids setbacks. 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Former White Sox catchers are suddenly good hitters

Alex Avila
The Detroit Tigers have been on local TV a lot the past two weeks. The White Sox have played seven games against them since May 26, and Detroit's game against the Los Angeles Angels is the MLB Network feature today on "Thursday Afternoon Baseball."

When I watch the Tigers, I cringe every time Alex Avila steps to the plate. Of course, now that the veteran catcher doesn't play for the Sox anymore, he's rediscovered his batting stroke. Check out his numbers this year in Detroit, when compared with his numbers last year with the Sox:

2017 with Detroit: .324./440/.640, 9 HRs, 24 RBIs, 8 2Bs in 39 games
2016 with Sox: .213/.359/.373, 7 HRs, 11 RBIs, 8 2Bs in 57 games

Avila was nothing but injured and bad for the Sox in 2016. Now that he's back with Detroit, he's healthy and raking. He's already surpassed his run production totals from last year, and it's only June 8.

Doesn't that figure. And he's not alone in the category of former Sox catchers who suddenly know how to hit.

Would you believe it if I told you Tyler Flowers is hitting .350/.459/.455 with three homers and 16 RBIs in 41 games for the Atlanta Braves? Well, it's true.

Flowers has reinvented himself as a high-average, contact hitter:

2016-17 with Atlanta: .295/.389/.431
2009-15 with Sox: .223/.289/.376

This season, Flowers has struck out 27 times in 148 plate appearances, or once every 5.5 times he steps to the plate. During his time in Chicago, he struck out 464 times in 1,395 plate appearances, or once every 3.0 times he stepped to the plate.

Makes you wonder why he couldn't make these adjustments while he was with the Sox, doesn't it? If he had, he'd probably still be in Chicago.

By way of comparison, Sox catchers in 2017 are hitting .240/.316/.333 with three home runs and 18 RBIs. All three home runs and nine of those RBIs are on the disabled list (Geovany Soto). The Sox don't get much offense out of their catchers, and that remains a position of need moving forward.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Will Todd Frazier get his batting average above the Mendoza Line?

Todd Frazier (right) with Daryl Boston
There was an unintentionally humorous moment in the second inning of the White Sox game Tuesday night. Broadcaster Ken Harrelson was talking about how Todd Frazier had put on quite a display of home run power during batting practice, and how that was evidence that Frazier was feeling pretty good about his swing.

Naturally, on the next pitch from Tampa Bay starter Chris Archer, Frazier was totally fooled, made an excuse-me swing and hit a slow roller to first base for an easy out. It was an embarrassing result, and it went counter to what Harrelson had just said.

But give Hawk credit. He quickly recovered to note that Frazier "won't feel good about that swing."

That said, Frazier did make a good swing in the ninth inning, when he blasted a 430-foot solo home run to center field off Tampa Bay reliever Ryan Garton. That provided the final run in a 4-2 Sox victory that snapped a five-game losing streak.

The 1-for-4 night raised Frazier's batting average to a still unsightly .196. The Sox third baseman got off to a terrible start this year. He didn't get his first hit until the fourth game of the season, and the high-water mark for his batting average this year is .200.

He's reached that plateau twice, once May 2 and again May 20. Alas, both times Frazier couldn't sustain anything resembling a hot streak, and his average plummeted back into the .170s on both occasions.

I can't say Harrelson is wrong with his comments. Frazier has five hits in his past three games, and he has homered in two games in a row. In the ideal world, the Sox would trade Frazier in July and take an extended look at Matt Davidson at third base the second half of the season. But for that to happen, Frazier needs to sustain some sort of competence with the bat over the next six weeks.

There isn't a big market for a player who hit .225 last season and is off to a slow start this year. But, you take a look at the American League East, and you see a tight race developing that could involve three or four teams. And you see the two teams at the top, New York and Boston, having question marks at third base.

Might those two clubs see Frazier as an upgrade over Chase Headley or Pablo Sandoval, respectively? Could the Sox create somewhat of a bidding war among the two AL East powers? Possibly. All Frazier really needs to do is hit .240 with power, and he's better than those two guys.

The question is, can he still hit .240? He hasn't done it yet since he's been with the Sox, and he needs to do it soon if there's going to be any demand for him in July. If he isn't traded, he becomes a candidate for reduced playing time the second half of the year, as the Sox will need to look at younger players during a rebuilding season.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Latest statistics for notable White Sox prospects

I didn't have time Monday to break down the White Sox's three losses to the Detroit Tigers over the weekend. And really, what is there to say? They got outscored, 32-10, in the series, and got beaten in embarrassing fashion.

So, let's move on to other things that stink, such Yoan Moncada's 5-for-40 tailspin since coming off the disabled list May 26. The Sox's top prospect is 2 for 22 in June with seven strikeouts.

The combination of the injury and this slump has slowed down the drumbeat for him to be called up to the majors. That's for sure.

Since the last time we did that exercise, I've determined that none of the hitters at Birmingham are worth following. Trey Michalczewski was demoted to Class-A Winston-Salem, and Courtney Hawkins doesn't qualify as a prospect for me anymore.

I've also knocked Alex Call off the Winston-Salem list, since he is hurt and hasn't played since April.

All statistics are through games of June 5:

Charlotte Knights (26-30, 3rd place in International League South)

Moncada, 2B: .285/.366/.436, 6 HRs, 18 RBIs, 57 Ks, 24 BBs, 12 SBs, 179 ABs
Jacob May, OF:.290/.362/.427, 3 HRs, 9 RBIs, 32 Ks, 12 BBs, 4 SBs, 124 ABs
Nick Delmonico, 3B: .282/.362/.491, 9 HRs, 32 RBIs, 40 Ks, 25 BBs, 2 SBs, 216 ABs
Reynaldo Lopez, RHP: 5-2, 3.81 ERA, 59 IP, 52 H, 30 R, 25 ER, 60 Ks, 27 BBs, 1.34 WHIP
Carson Fulmer, RHP: 5-3, 4.63 ERA, 58.1 IP, 55 H, 36 R, 30 ER, 44 Ks, 27 BBs, 1.41 WHIP
Lucas Giolito, RHP: 2-5, 4.95 ERA, 56.1 IP 55 H , 33 ER, 31 ER, 57 Ks, 27 BBs, 1.46 WHIP
Zack Burdi, RHP:  0-4, 4.64 ERA, 21.1 IP, 21 H, 13 R, 11 ER, 32 Ks, 10 BBs, 1.45 WHIP, 5 saves

Birmingham Barons (19-36, 4th place in Southern League North)

Michael Kopech, RHP: 4-3, 2.93 ERA, 58.1 IP, 33 H, 22 R, 19 ER, 80 Ks, 36 BBs, 1.18 WHIP
Spencer Adams, RHP: 3-6, 3.93 ERA, 66.1 IP, 77 H, 32 R, 29 ER, 50 Ks, 7 BBs, 1.27 WHIP
Jordan Stephens, RHP: 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 6 Ks, 1 BB, 0.33 WHIP

Winston-Salem Dash (19-38, 4th place in Carolina League South)

Michalczewski, 3B: .311.343/607, 4 HRs, 12 RBIs, 16 Ks, 4 BBs, 1 SB, 61 ABs
Zack Collins, C: ..230/.392/.455, 8 HRs, 26 RBIs, 56 Ks, 43 BBs, 0 SBs, 165 ABS
Luis Alexander Basabe, CF:.224/.322/317, 2 HRs, 14 RBIs, 54 Ks, 23 BBs, 10 SBs, 182 ABs
Dane Dunning, RHP: 2-0, 4.79 ERA, 20.2 IP, 20 H, 12 R, 11 ERs, 22 Ks, 11 BBs, 1.50 WHIP

Kannapolis Intimidators (30-25, 4th place in South Atlantic League North)

Jameson Fisher, OF: .290/.376/.455, 2 HRs, 29 RBIs, 49 Ks, 22 BBs, 2 SBs, 176 ABs
Micker Adolfo, OF:.277/.332/.434, 3 HRs, 23 RBIs, 54 Ks, 6 BBs, 0 SBs, 173 ABs
Mitch Roman, 2B: .267/.323/.320, 1 HR, 23 RBIs, 43 Ks, 14 BBs, 2 SBs, 206 ABs
Alec Hansen, RHP: 5-3, 2.82 ERA, 60.2 IP, 50 H, 26 R, 19 ERs, 74 Ks, 21 BBs, 1.17 WHIP

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Two good months in a row for Avisail Garcia

Avisail Garcia
One quick point about White Sox right fielder Avisail Garcia today:

It's June 1, and he's hitting .322/.374/.547 with eight home runs, three triples, a team-best 11 doubles and a team-best 37 RBIs.

He went 2 for 4 on Wednesday in the Sox's 4-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox to cap a second consecutive month in which he hit .300 or better.

April: .368/.409/.621, 5 HRs, 2 3Bs, 3 2Bs, 20 RBIs in 93 plate apperances
May: .301/.345/.485, 3 HRs, 1 3B, 8 2Bs, 17 RBIs in 110 plate appearances

There was no way Garcia was going to sustain that 1.029 OPS he had in April, but that .301 May average and .831 May OPS is still pretty solid work. And it's well above Garcia's career norms of a .267 average and a .722 OPS.

I have to admit, I've been burned by Garcia before. I've had high hopes for him in the past, only to be let down when he goes into one of his patented lengthy slumps. But, this is the first time since he's joined the Sox that he's put together back-to-back months of this quality.

I'm still not 100 percent convinced that he's actually going to be good for a whole season, but let's give credit where credit is due: Garcia has been the most consistent and most productive hitter on the Sox through the first 52 games of the 2017 season.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Chris Sale vs. Jose Quintana: More batting practice than pitching duel

Chris Sale
The White Sox unexpectedly roughed up their former teammate, Chris Sale, on Tuesday night.

The Boston left-hander had his worst outing of the season, allowing six runs (five earned) on 10 hits with two walks. He needed 111 pitches just to get through five innings.

Yet Sale (6-2) got the win in Boston's 13-7 victory, because Sox left-hander Jose Quintana was even worse.

Quintana failed to get out of the third inning, allowing seven earned runs on 10 hits, including three home runs, over 2.2 innings. Two of the three homers were hit by a complete stiff, Boston No. 9 hitter Deven Marrero.

Marrero, a .194 hitter even after his Tuesday night outburst, had six RBIs through his first 62 plate appearances this season. He had five RBIs in two plate appearances against Quintana.

The Boston third baseman hit Quintana's final pitch of the night -- a sloppy, get-me-over 3-2 curveball -- for a three-run homer in the top of the third inning. The blast gave the Red Sox a 7-3 lead, and it was arguably the most poorly executed pitch I've seen from a Sox pitcher all season.

Just brutal.

Not that the Sox didn't fight back. They got one in the third on an RBI single by Tim Anderson and two in the fourth on a home run by Todd Frazier to cut Boston's lead to 7-6.

However, Dan Jennings failed to take advantage of a lefty-on-lefty matchup in the fifth, as Jackie Bradley took him deep for a three-run homer to put Boston ahead 10-6. The Sox didn't have another comeback in them after that.

Bradley, the No. 8 hitter in the Boston order, is hitting .214 this season. So, yeah, I'd say it was a night where the Sox were insistent on giving up three-run homers to the absolute worst hitters the Red Sox have to offer. It would be one thing if they were getting their brains beat in by Mookie Betts, who did have a solo home run Tuesday, but it was Bradley and Marrero who combined to beat the Sox.

Hard to accept.

And what the hell is wrong with Quintana, you ask? Well, all seven runs he allowed Tuesday night came with two outs. He can't extricate himself from innings; he can't get key outs when he's pitching out of the stretch. It's hard to be successful that way.

This season, opponents have a .316/.385/.611 slash line against Quintana when they have men on base. By way of comparison, opponents slashed .247/.309/.375 against Quintana with men on base last season.

Significant difference, isn't it? That's the crux of the problem: Quintana cannot execute any of his pitches from the stretch right now. His fastball command is off. His curve is hanging, and he's getting hurt -- even by poor hitters.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

White Sox off to 4-1 start on seven-game homestand

Melky Cabrera
Back to blogging after a holiday weekend. I hope everyone had a good Memorial Day, and it was a weekend that featured some good baseball from the White Sox.

The Sox are 4-1 through five games on their current seven-game homestand. They took three out of four from the Detroit Tigers, winning Friday and Sunday and splitting a straight doubleheader Saturday.

But I'd say the most surprising and rewarding win of the weekend was Monday's 5-4 victory over the Boston Red Sox in the opener of a three-game series.

The doubleheader and the injury to Dylan Covey created some chaos for the Sox's starting rotation, and left-handed reliever David Holmberg was pulled out of the bullpen to make a spot start. His mound opponent was former AL Cy Young Award winner David Price, and while Price was making his first start of the season after being on the disabled list, this was not a matchup that was favorable for the Sox.

However, Holmberg provided four credible innings. He allowed only one run through the first three before giving up two in the fourth, but you can hardly blame him if he ran out of gas. He isn't stretched out to be a starter. Still, the game was tied 3-3 after those four innings -- Melky Cabrera his a three-run homer for the Sox in the third -- and I don't think we are in any position to complain about Holmberg keeping things even against Price.

The Boston left-hander was on a 90-pitch limit, so the game was destined to come down to bullpens -- a battle that the Sox won.

Mookie Betts hit a home run off Gregory Infante in the top of the fifth, but that was the only run the Red Sox got against four Sox relievers.

The South Siders rallied from a 4-3 deficit with two runs in the bottom of the seventh off Boston's Matt Barnes. Yolmer Sanchez hit a leadoff triple and scored on a double by Kevan Smith. Two outs later, Cabrera added his fourth RBI of the day on a softly hit single up the middle that scored Smith with the go-ahead run.

Tommy Kahnle pitched a scoreless eighth, and David Robertson got three outs in the ninth for his eighth save in nine chances.

The task gets harder Tuesday for the Sox, as Boston will start Chris Sale, who still is the best pitcher in the American League. The Sox already have clinched a winning homestand, but it would be a real success if they can steal one of the next two games against the Red Sox and finish up 5-2.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Lucas Giolito throws seven-inning no-hitter; Tyler Danish recalled

Tyler Danish
It's been hard to find positives in Lucas Giolito's body of work this season. The right-hander at one point was the No. 1-ranked pitching prospect in all of baseball, and he was the biggest name acquired by the White Sox in the deal that sent outfielder Adam Eaton to the Washington Nationals.

Unfortunately, it's been so far, so bad for Giolito since he joined the Sox organization. Entering his start Thursday for the Triple-A Charlotte Knights, Giolito had compiled a 1-5 record with an ugly 6.41 ERA in eight games.

But finally, something clicked Thursday night against the Syracuse Chiefs. Giolito threw a seven-inning no-hitter in a 4-0 victory in the first game of a doubleheader. He struck out only three, and he walked three, but he also needed only 87 pitches to record the 21 outs. Fifty of those 87 pitches were strikes, and the win lowered his ERA to a somewhat less unsightly 5.44.

The no-hitter is the first in the history of BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte, which is a notorious hitters' park. It's the first no-hitter for the Knights since Andre Rienzo tossed a seven-inning gem in 2013.

The Sox have to hope this is a confidence boost and a turning point for Giolito.

Roster moves

The White Sox on Friday placed starting pitcher Dylan Covey on the 10-day disabled list with oblique soreness. In some ways, the time off might be merciful for Covey, who is 0-4 with an 8.12 ERA in eight starts.

Reliever Juan Minaya takes his place on the roster. The right-hander has a 1.23 ERA in 10 appearances and 14.2 innings at Charlotte since coming off the disabled list (abdominal strain). The addition of Minaya means the Sox are carrying nine relief pitchers for Friday's doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers.

They might need the help, since the Sox's two scheduled starting pitchers are Mike Pelfrey and Tyler Danish. If the Sox get five decent innings out of both men, that would be considered a success.

Danish was recalled Friday to be the 26th man on the roster for the doubleheader. The 22-year-old right-hander made three relief appearances for the Sox last year, but this will be his first start in the major leagues.

He was 1-3 with a 3.15 ERA in eight starts and 45.2 innings for the Knights.

If you're going out to the ol' ballpark for the doubleheader Friday, you might see some offense. Detroit is basically doing the same thing the Sox are: starting one struggling pitcher (Matt Boyd) and one minor-league call-up (Buck Farmer). Top-of-the-rotation starters are nowhere to be found in these matchups.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Jose Quintana, his trade value, and fans' and media perception of it

Jose Quintana
White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana has had his name mentioned in trade rumors for months. And he'll probably continue to have his name mentioned in trade rumors until the day he actually is dealt, whenever that may be.

In the meantime, one of the things that drives me insane about situations such as this is the constant speculation and near-daily fluctuations in what fans and media perceive Quintana's "trade value" to be.

Just last week, Quintana had his best outing of the season. He pitched eight innings of one-hit, one-run ball in an extra-inning victory over the Seattle Mariners. After that performance, Quintana had posted quality starts in five out of six appearances, going 2-2 with a 2.70 ERA over than span.

"Hey, Quintana is on a roll! His trade value is up! The Sox should be able to get a couple good prospects for him at the trade deadline!"

Then, a game such as Wednesday's happens. Quintana retired the first 10 Arizona Diamondbacks he faced. He appeared to be on his way to yet another strong outing. Unfortunately, things turned on a dime, and eight of the second 10 Arizona hitters Quintana faced got hits. He ended up allowing eight earned runs. He got knocked out in the fifth inning, and the Sox lost, 8-6.

"Oh, boy, there goes Quintana's trade value. Nobody's going to want him now that his ERA is up in the high 4s."

This morning, I saw some click bait on the Chicago Tribune's website that Quintana is "Spanish for John Danks" or some such nonsense. I didn't click on it, we're not going to link to it here, and it should be dismissed for the idiocy that it is. However, it's worth bringing up as an example to illustrate how folks -- even media members who should know better -- sway in the wind about a player's "trade value" based upon a very small sample size.

Teams that might interested in acquiring Quintana's services are not going to cross him off their list based upon this one horrible outing against the Diamondbacks, nor were they going to call Rick Hahn and offer all the crown jewels of their farm system for Quintana after his brilliant outing against the Mariners. One game just doesn't make that much of a difference.

Scouts are looking at longer-term trends, what the track record and makeup of the player is, and what kind of stuff he's been featuring as of late. Quintana's fastball command was poor against Arizona, to say the least, but there has been no downturn in velocity or movement. His assortment of offspeed pitches looks the same as it always has.

If Quintana improves his fastball command, and he has a track record of being able to do so, he'll still be a pitcher who is in demand when July rolls around. His ERA might be 4.82 right now, but his career ERA is 3.49. As long as his stuff hasn't fallen off -- and it hasn't -- he's due to trend in a positive direction toward his career norms. An acquiring team may be positioned to take advantage of that trend.

The quality of prospects the Sox would be able to acquire in a Quintana deal remains an open question. Fans and media are not privy to those trade discussions, and you can't believe much of anything you read in the rumor mill.

But it's worth noting that one good game here or one bad game there is not going to have a significant effect on Quintana's worth in the marketplace. As long as he's healthy, he's a pitcher that has value. How much value? Perhaps we'll see in July.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Ill-advised bunt attempts get in the way of potential White Sox rally

Leury Garcia
Let me preface my comments on Tuesday's 5-4 White Sox loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks with this: There is a time and place to bunt and play for one run. (For instance, the bottom of the ninth inning of a tie game.)

That said, I often see major league managers fall into the trap of giving away outs when they should not be playing for only one run. Sox manager Rick Renteria did just that in the eighth inning Tuesday, and it contributed to the Sox (20-24) dropping a winnable game.

The Diamondbacks brought Jorge De La Rosa in to protect a 5-3 lead in that eighth inning, and he fooled nobody. Jose Abreu homered to pull the Sox within a run. Todd Frazier walked and Melky Cabrera singled, and the Sox were set up with runners on first and second with nobody out.

That brought up Leury Garcia, who is not my favorite player, but the fact of the matter is he is hitting a respectable .288 this season. Thanks to a double switch, the pitcher's spot was due up after Garcia, followed by .182-hitting catcher Kevan Smith.

De La Rosa was laboring, so I liked Garcia's chances of doing something in that situation. Why give a struggling pitcher an out? And the Sox were moving toward a compromised bottom part of the batting order, so Garcia seemed as good a bet as any to come up with the hit the Sox needed. Unfortunately, Renteria called for Garcia to sacrifice bunt. After two failed attempts, he hit a weak grounder to third base. Now, that grounder did advance the runners to second and third, so it had the same effect as the bunt, but Garcia essentially gave away his at-bat. De La Rosa got an out he didn't earn, and some traction in that inning.

That brought up the pitcher's spot, and Avisail Garcia -- who did not start the game because of flu-like symptons -- was sent to the plate to pinch hit. Alas, first base was open. There was no way the Diamondbacks were going to face the .342-hitting Garcia in that situation. The intentional walk was issued, and Renteria's best option off the bench went to waste.

That brought up the right-handed hitting Smith, and gave Arizona manager Torey Lovullo a good reason to remove the left-handed De La Rosa. Lovullo did just that. He brought in right-hander J.J. Hoover. The Sox used Omar Narvaez to pinch hit for Smith, but Hoover struck him out. Then, he struck out Yolmer Sanchez to escape the bases-loaded situation and preserve Arizona's 5-4 lead.

The Sox did not mount a threat in the ninth against Arizona closer Fernando Rodney, so their best chance to score was against De La Rosa, who had nothing going for him out there. Unfortunately, Renteria did not give Leury Garcia a chance to take advantage of that. Instead, he managed the Sox into a situation where Lovullo had good reason to remove a struggling pitcher and replace him with a pitcher who had his stuff together.

Losing proposition for the Sox.

And, there was no reason for Renteria to want the game to be tied. He needed to get the lead in that spot, because the Sox are carrying 13 relievers and playing with a short bench. Starting pitcher Dylan Covey lasted only 2.1 innings in this game, and three Sox relievers already had been used by the eighth inning. Narvaez was the last position player available when he was used in the eighth.

This was not a situation where the Sox wanted to go to extra innings. They needed to win it in regulation, and by playing for the tie, they increased their odds of losing it in regulation. Lose it they did.

Frustrating loss.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Injury updates: When will Carlos Rodon pitch for the White Sox again?

Carlos Rodon
Forget about the White Sox's 5-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday night. Nothing to see there, nothing much to talk about, an inconsequential loss in a season that is expected to be full of them.

The most important news of the day was on the injury front, where left-hander Carlos Rodon met the media for the first time in a long time after throwing 60 pitches in a simulated game against minor leaguers Monday at Chase Field.

Relief pitchers Jake Petricka and Nate Jones also worked during the simulated game, but the big story is Rodon, whose recovery from left bicep bursitis has taken much longer than expected.

For Rodon, this was his fourth simulated game, and he says he considers himself to be on an every-fifth-day schedule at this point. Still, there's no timetable for his return, and general manager Rick Hahn used the phrase "in the coming weeks" when asked when Rodon might return to game action.

“He’s been out there now three or four times throwing to hitters,” Hahn told Sox beat reporters. “Each time has been a little more crisp from what I understand from the previous ones to today. Hopefully here in the coming weeks we are able to announce he’s starting a rehab assignment and we’ll have a better sense of his time frame at that point.”

Let me take an educated guess: Rodon might be back around the All-Star break. Say it's three more weeks until he heads out on a rehab assignment. Realistically, he'll probably need three or four starts in the minors before he's got enough strength and endurance to start in a big league game.

So, maybe we'll see him in July.

Why does this matter so much? For two reasons. One, the 24-year-old is seen as a cornerstone pitcher in the Sox's rebuilding plan. If he cannot get healthy and pitch effectively at some point this season, his status as a building block for the future would have to be called into question.

Secondly, his status affects the Sox's strategy at the trade deadline. With Rodon and James Shields both on the disabled list, the team's organizational pitching depth has been stretched thin. Retread veteran Mike Pelfrey and Rule 5 pick Dylan Covey don't belong in a major league rotation, but they are there because of the injuries, and because the Sox don't want to rush prized pitching prospects such as Reynaldo Lopez and Carson Fulmer into the starting rotation.

A healthy Rodon -- and a healthy Shields, for that matter -- makes it a little easier for Hahn to deal ace Jose Quintana for a package of prospects when July comes around.

If Rodon is not healthy for the second half of the season, and the Sox choose to deal Quintana, they might be faced with having to force-fit a prospect into the big league rotation before they really want to. That's a situation everyone would like to avoid, and it can be avoided if Rodon can take the ball 14 or 15 times before the 2017 season is over.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

White Sox recover to take three out of four from Seattle Mariners

Avisail Garcia
Now is the perfect time to have the Seattle Mariners come up on your schedule.

There isn't a team in the American League that has dealt with more key injuries than the Mariners. Seattle's best player, second baseman Robinson Cano (quadriceps), is on the disabled list. Eighty percent of the Mariners' starting rotation  -- Felix Hernandez (shoulder), Hisashi Iwakuma (shoulder), James Paxton (forearm) and Drew Smyly (elbow) -- also is on the disabled list.

Teams don't like to make excuses, and they often say injuries are not an excuse. The reality is a little different: If your best dudes get hurt, chances are you're gonna lose. And the Mariners lost three of four to the White Sox this weekend.

The Sox (20-22) took the final three games of the series, the last two in blowout fashion. Here's our recap of the weekend that was:

Friday, May 19
White Sox 2, Mariners 1 (10 inn.): It's well-known that Sox ace Jose Quintana has suffered from a lack of run support for years, and the same has held true this season. But, Quintana hasn't been pitching up to his capabilities as of late, as his 4.38 ERA coming into this game would attest. So, he's hasn't been quite as sympathetic of a figure as he has been in the past.

That changed in this game. It was back to business as usual for Quintana. He was brilliant over eight innings, allowing one run on only one hit. He struck out seven and walked one -- and got a no-decision. Typical.

Fortunately, while Quintana did not get the win, the Sox did. Melky Cabrera's two-out, RBI double on an 0-2 slider from Seattle's Tony Zych (2-1) plated the winning run in the top of the 10th inning.

Sox closer David Robertson (3-1) retired all six men he faced over two innings to pick up the win, which snapped a four-game losing streak for the Sox.

Saturday, May 20
White Sox 16, Mariners 1: I doubt the Sox will have a more lopsided win than this one all year. They jumped on Seattle starter Yovani Gallardo (2-4) for four runs in the first inning, highlighted by Avisail Garcia's three-run homer on a first-pitch curve ball, and never let up from there.

The South Siders pounded out 19 hits, and while we've still got three-quarters of a season left to play, it's getting harder and harder to overlook Garcia's performance. He became the first Sox player to total 12 bases in a game since Dan Johnson hit three home runs in the same game on the final day of the 2012 season. Garcia homered in each of his first two plate appearances, then added two doubles for good measure, as he finished 4 for 5 with six RBIs.

Garcia leads the Sox with 34 RBIs, and he is tied for the team lead in homers with eight.

Not even Mike Pelfrey (1-4) could lose this game. The erstwhile veteran pitched six innings of one-run ball to earn his first victory in six starts this season. If you get 16 runs of support, hey, you better win. That's about a whole month's worth of runs for Quintana, you know?

Sunday, May 21
White Sox 8, Mariners 1: Seattle called up right-hander Chris Heston to make his first start of the season, and let's just say it didn't go well. He walked the bases loaded in the first inning, and that led to a five-run outburst for the Sox.

The BABIP gods were with the South Siders in this one, as they got a couple solid base hits in the inning -- a two-run single by Yolmer Sanchez and an RBI single by Matt Davidson -- and two really cheap RBI infield singles -- one by Tim Anderson and the other by Kevan Smith.

Heston didn't deserve any luck, of course, because walking the bases loaded in the first inning is not a recipe for success.

Left-hander Derek Holland (4-3) has been the Sox's most consistent starting pitcher this season, and  he capitalized on having a 5-0 lead before he threw a single pitch with another strong outing. He went eight innings, allowing only a solo home run to Nelson Cruz. The veteran pounded the strike zone, throwing 70 of his 105 pitches for strikes, which is precisely what a pitcher should be doing with a big lead. He fanned six, walked only two and lowered his season ERA to 2.47.

Sanchez extended his hitting streak to 12 games with the first-inning single. Anderson added a solo home run in the third, his fifth of the year, and a three-hit performance raised his batting average to .264.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Better to fight back and lose than to lay down and die, right?

Tim Anderson
The White Sox trailed the Seattle Mariners, 4-0, after six innings Thursday night.

Is it wrong that I didn't get excited when they fought back to tie it up? I just figured they'd get walked off in the bottom of the ninth inning anyway, and they did, as Guillermo Heredia singled home Jarrod Dyson with the winning run to give Seattle a 5-4 victory.

The Sox (17-22) are now 0-4 on their current 10-game road trip, but we can't say the failure is for lack of trying.

The South Siders' rally from the four-run deficit started with a two-run homer by Matt Davidson in the top of the seventh. Todd Frazier and Tim Anderson hit back-to-back solo homers in the top of the eighth to even the score at 4, and get starting pitcher Dylan Covey off the hook.

We'll give Covey some credit -- he allowed four runs, but he got through six innings. That's more than we can say for Mike Pelfrey in any of his starts. Covey still gets demolished in the fifth inning, however, and Thursday was no different. Jean Segura hit a three-run homer off him in the fifth inning of this game, and opponents are hitting .538 and slugging 1.038 against Covey in the fifth.

Yuck.

But he's not the loser in this one. That would be left-handed reliever Dan Jennings (2-1), who couldn't work around two singles in the ninth. Sox killer Dyson, of course, was involved. He reached first base after his sacrifice bunt attempt resulted in a forceout at second base.

After a long at-bat and numerous throws over to first base, Carlos Ruiz hit a grounder to Frazier, who tried to start a 5-4-3 double play, only to see Dyson beat his throw to second. The Sox made the turn to first base to retire Ruiz, but that left Dyson in scoring position with two outs.

That set the table for Heredia to deliver the game-winning hit, and send the Sox to their 10 loss in their past 12 games.

But, I guess we should give the Sox some credit. It would have been easy to give away at-bats and just lose 4-0. We've seen previous Sox teams do just that. There are no moral victories in pro sports, but at least this team tries to win, even though they aren't good.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

It's a feel-bad Thursday for White Sox fans

It's a feel-bad Thursday for White Sox fans, and here are the reasons why:
  • The Sox blew an early 4-0 lead and lost, 12-8, to the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday night.
  • The enjoyable 13-9 start to the season has been more than erased by an intolerable stretch of bad ball during which the Sox have gone 4-12.
  • The Sox have lost 14 of their last 15 games in Anaheim. The only blessing is they don't have any more games in that place this season.
  • Sox starting pitchers have not won a game since May 4, and have a 6.36 ERA during that 11-game stretch.
  • No. 1 prospect Yoan Moncada is going on the 7-day DL because of a persistent sore thumb. That would explain why he was in a 2-for-14 slump in the three games leading up to the DL stint. 
  • Carson Fulmer's stretch of good pitching also ended Wednesday at Triple-A Charlotte. He got rocked for seven earned runs in 4.2 innings in a 9-2 loss to Durham.
BAH! I hate losing, so I'm going to go be pissed off now.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Soft contact costs White Sox closer David Robertson in dumb loss to Angels

David Robertson
Maybe it would have been easier if the White Sox had just lost Tuesday night's game against the Los Angeles Angels in nine innings.

Instead, they rallied for three runs in the top of the ninth to tie the game at 5 and force extra innings. Then, they took the lead in the top of the 11th inning on Tim Anderson's home run, only to lose, 7-6, on a series of dumb occurrences in the bottom half of the inning.

I can't blame Sox closer David Robertson (2-1), who pitched a clean 10th inning and still appeared to have good stuff when he came out for the 11th. But some bad luck and clownish outfield defense conspired to hand him the loss.

Robertson gave up a single to Andrelton Simmons to start the inning, and the runner advanced to second on a passed ball by catcher Omar Narvaez. But Robertson was able to cut Simmons down at third base on a sacrifice bunt attempt by Danny Espinosa.

That took the tying run out of scoring position and greatly increased Robertson's chances of closing out the game. However, it was just not meant to be.

Ben Revere followed with a bloop single over the head of second baseman Yolmer Sanchez. Somehow neither of the two Garcias in the outfield -- Leury or Avisail -- got anywhere near the ball, and Robertson was right back into trouble with runners on first and second and one out.

He continued to make decent-to-good pitches, however, and got Cameron Maybin to pop up into shallow left field.

OK, I thought it was a pop up into shallow left field, but it turned into a game-tying "double." The ball hung in the air forever, but apparently Sox left fielder Melky Cabrera "slipped" on a wet patch of grass (in Southern California?!) and shortstop Anderson couldn't quite range far enough out into left field the make the play.

What should have been an easy second out ended up tying the game at 6 and placed runners at second and third for the best player in baseball, Mike Trout. The Sox wisely put Trout on first base and took their chances with Albert Pujols.

A ground ball likely produces an inning-ending double play in that situation, but the veteran Pujols instead hit a fly ball that would have been plenty deep to score the winning run from third base regardless, but the ball clanked off the face of Sox center fielder Leury Garcia for a game-winning "single," adding injury to insult for anyone who bothered to stay up late and watch this mess.

The Sox (17-20) have now lost eight out of 10 and fell to 4-10 in May after a 13-10 April.

Have I mentioned that I'm not worried about the possibility of the Sox being "too good" to qualify as a rebuilding team?

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

White Sox manager Rick Renteria admits he stuck with Mike Pelfrey too long in loss to Angels

Mike Pelfrey
White Sox starting pitcher Mike Pelfrey has made it through the fifth inning only once in his first five starts of the season. Once the opposition begins its third time through the batting order, Pelfrey falls apart.

Case in point, Monday's 5-3 loss to the Los Angeles Angels. Pelfrey worked effectively through four innings, and the Sox (17-19) took a 3-0 lead into the fifth inning -- thanks to a two-run homer by Jose Abreu and an RBI triple by Tyler Saladino.

But in the fateful bottom of the fifth inning, Pelfrey walked both Cameron Maybin and Danny Espinosa. Then, he gave up a long fly-ball out to No. 9 hitter Martin Maldonado.

It was decision time for Sox manager Rick Renteria. Two on, two out in the bottom of the fifth, Sox up by three, Pelfrey clearly tiring, but one out away from being eligible for a win. Left-hander Dan Jennings was ready in the bullpen, and the Angels were sending their left-handed hitting leadoff batter, Kole Calhoun, to the plate.

Calhoun also represented the start of the third time through the batting order, which has been poison for Pelfrey all season.

What's your move, Rick?

He stuck with Pelfrey, and Calhoun hit a three-run homer on a 1-0 sinker to tie the game. The next hitter was the best player in baseball, Mike Trout.

Right-hander Anthony Swarzak was ready in the bullpen. What's your move, Rick?

He stuck with Pelfrey, and Trout hit a 1-2 splitter out of the park to give the Angels the lead. That's your ballgame. After the Trout homer, Pelfrey (0-4) was removed from the game. Some might say he was removed two batters too late.

Interestingly, one of the people who believes that Pelfrey was left in too long was the man who made that decision: Renteria.

“I thought Pelf gave us a nice four-plus innings,” Renteria said in postgame remarks on CSNChicago.com. “Really, he gave us enough to do what we needed to do. I had those guys out there ready to pick him up, and I didn’t. I went against my better judgment. We had (Dan Jennings) ready for Calhoun, and we had our righty (Swarzak) ready. So that’s not any of their faults but mine. At least it would have given us a better chance. I couldn’t guarantee that the outcome would have been what we wanted, but I think the matchups would have been better, and pretty much that’s it.”

Isn't that refreshing? No excuses. No blaming of the players. No "tipping of the cap" to the other team. Just an acceptance of responsibility from a manager who realizes that he left a pitcher in too long. Robin Ventura routinely made mistakes such as this as a manager, never learned from them, and never changed his ways.

That said, I can defend Renteria's decision to stick with Pelfrey. Just last week, I criticized the Sox manager for overusing Jennings in middle relief. We're in the middle of May. There's still a long season ahead, and you want Jennings and Swarzak healthy coming out of the bullpen for the duration. You can't run them out there every day just because starting pitchers are not doing their jobs.

For long-term thinking, it wasn't unreasonable to try to squeeze one more out from Pelfrey in Monday's game. But, for purposes of trying to win Monday's game, sticking with him was the wrong move.

Oh, and with those home runs by Calhoun and Trout, opposing batters are now 9 for 12 with two home runs, two doubles and a triple when they face Pelfrey for a third time in a game.

Ugly, isn't it?

Sooner or later, a starting pitcher needs to work into the sixth or seventh inning, and if he cannot do that, then he needs to not be here.