Tuesday, August 15, 2017

White Sox trade Tyler Clippard to the Houston Astros; Dylan Covey comes off DL

Tyler Clippard
Tyler Clippard, we hardly knew ye.

The White Sox on Sunday night traded the veteran reliever to the Houston Astros in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations.

Clippard spent less than a month with the Sox. He was acquired from the New York Yankees, along with three minor-leaguers, on July 19 as part of a seven-player deal that also involved David Robertson, Todd Frazier and Tommy Kahnle.

The 32-year-old right-hander made only 11 appearances with the Sox, but it might have been enough to turn his season around. He was doing poorly with the Yankees -- a 4.95 ERA in 40 appearances -- but he was much better with the Sox, going 1-1 with a 1.80 ERA and two saves over 10 innings in those 11 outings.

Clippard was unscored upon in each of his final eight games with the Sox, and two of those came against Houston. Perhaps the Astros were impressed enough to pull the trigger on the move to acquire Clippard, who already has joined his new team and worked a scoreless inning Monday night against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

It's unclear at this point what the Sox will get in return. Perhaps it is contingent on how Clippard performs for the Astros. If he continues to pitch well, maybe the Sox will acquire a midlevel prospect of some sort out of the Houston organization. If he reverts to the poor form he showed in New York, perhaps the Sox only get cash.

That's my speculation; I noticed the language describing the deal said a player to be named later OR cash considerations. The "or" is the crucial word, and it leaves open the possibility that the terms of the trade will be finalized at the end of the season.

In the meantime, Clippard's departure creates another hole in the Sox bullpen. It will be filled by right-hander Dylan Covey, who was activated from the 10-day disabled list.

Covey made eight starts at the start of the season for the Sox and went 0-4 with an 8.12 ERA before going on the DL with an oblique strain. He hasn't pitched since May 23, and he'll no doubt be working out of the bullpen this time, with all the spots in the Sox starting rotation set (for now).

The Rule 5 pick pretty much needs to remain on the active roster for the remainder of the year, or else he would have to be offered back to the Oakland Athletics. As long as Covey is healthy, he'll be on the roster and taking his lumps when he does get the opportunity to pitch.

I wouldn't be particularly concerned about the possibility of losing Covey to Oakland, but from the Sox's perspective, I'm sure they are trying to retain as much pitching depth as possible as they go through this painful rebuilding process.

Monday, August 14, 2017

White Sox lose two of three to Kansas City Royals

Reynaldo Lopez
Hey, that winning streak was fun while it lasted, wasn't it? It reached four when the White Sox beat the Kansas City Royals on Friday night, but reality set in over the weekend as Kansas City prevailed in the final two games of the three-game series.

The Sox (45-70) finished their six-game homestand with a 4-2 record, which was a pleasant surprise despite some weekend ugliness. Here's a look back at this latest series.

Friday, Aug. 11
White Sox 6, Royals 3 -- Reynaldo Lopez finally got his opportunity, and he started his Sox career in electrifying fashion. He struck out five of the first eight hitters he faced, and turned in six quality innings.

The rookie right-hander allowed two solo home runs to Kansas City third baseman Mike Moustakas, but he kept the Royals off the board otherwise. He struck out six and walked three in receiving a no-decision.

The game was tied at 2 heading into the bottom of the seventh, when the Sox broke it open with a four-spot. Tim Anderson's two-run homer capped the rally, which also featured a go-ahead RBI triple by Adam Engel. The center fielder became the first Sox player to collect two triples in a game since Alejandro De Aza in 2011.

Aaron Bummer worked two scoreless innings of relief to pick up his first major league win.

Saturday, Aug. 12
Royals 5, White Sox 4 -- Hey, a quality start by James Shields!

Sure, Shields put the Sox in a 3-0 hole after two innings, but he didn't give up anything else over a six-inning outing. And the Sox got him off the hook, eventually rallying to take a 4-3 lead on Leury Garcia's two-run single in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Alas, the lead did not stick.

Reliever Chris Beck did what he does best -- walk people. Bummer relieved after Beck walked Lorenzo Cain to start the the eighth inning, and the rookie left-hander took the loss this time -- serving up a two-run homer to former Sox outfielder Melky Cabrera.

It stunk to see the four-game winning streak come to an end, but this game was an entertaining, back-and-forth contest. You can live with losses such as this one during a rebuilding season.

Sunday, Aug. 13
Royals 14, White Sox 6 -- In contrast, Sunday's loss was not one you could live with. It was a parade of terrible pitching that started with Derek Holland and continued with Mike Pelfrey, Beck, Greg Infante and Brad Goldberg.

Holland (6-12) allowed seven earned runs and didn't make it out of the third inning. Those who followed him weren't much better. Sox pitchers combined to give up 16 hits and walk nine batters in a boring game that took 3 hours, 38 minutes to play.

A fan seated behind me at Sunday's game pointed out that Holland is only here to "eat innings," which is true enough. I would be fine with that if Holland would, you know, actually eat some innings. It's ridiculous for him to get bombed like that and overexpose an inexperienced Sox bullpen. That's been a season-long complaint of mine: veteran innings-eaters failing to eat innings.

There were some positives offensively. Anderson continued his improved hitting with his 13th home run of the season. And rookie Nick Delmonico extended his hitting streak to 10 games, going 1 for 3 with a double and an RBI. Delmonico stung the ball into the right-center field gap three times. He was robbed of a double by Cain in the fifth inning, and robbed of a home run by Alex Gordon in the ninth inning.

Still too early to say whether Delmonico is going to stick in the majors, but he's been having consistent at-bats since he was called up from Triple-A Charlotte.

Friday, August 11, 2017

As we all expected, White Sox sweep Astros

Tim Anderson
The title of this blog entry is intended as sarcasm. So, please, no comments from Astros fans claiming that I'm being disrespectful.

The White Sox entered this week having lost 20 of their past 23 games. The Houston Astros were coming to town with the best record in the American League at 71-40, and their most accomplished pitcher, Dallas Keuchel, was scheduled to pitch Game 1 of the three-game series.

It wasn't looking good.

So, naturally, the Sox rocked Keuchel for eight runs, knocked him out early in an 8-5 victory Tuesday and set the stage for what ultimately would become a three-game series sweep for the South Siders, their first since they swept the Kansas City Royals from April 24 to 26.

Go figure.

We almost never see a Sox starting pitcher make it through eight innings, but stunningly, we saw it happen two nights in a row against a very good Houston lineup. Miguel Gonzalez (6-10) tossed eight innings of one-run ball in a 7-1 Sox victory Wednesday night. That game featured a two-run homer and an RBI double from Tim Anderson.

On Thursday night, left-hander Carlos Rodon continued his encouraging resurgence by throwing eight-innings of two-run ball. He did not get a decision in the Sox's 3-2, 11-inning victory, but he once again pitched deep into a game with an economy of pitches (98), and he walked nobody for the second consecutive outing.

In his past three games -- all against first-place teams (Indians, Red Sox, Astros), Rodon has tossed 22.1 innings and allowed only five runs on 21 hits. That will pencil out to a 2.01 ERA. He has struck out 24 and walked only two in that same span, reducing his season ERA from 6.29 to 4.24.

And, oh yeah, I've buried the lead a little bit here. I didn't mention that everyone's talking about Yoan Moncada after his performance Thursday night. His home run off Houston closer Ken Giles tied the game at 2 in the bottom of the ninth, and then his RBI single in the bottom of the 11th off Francis Martes scored Leury Garcia with the winning run.

Moncada, the Sox's top-ranked prospect, started slowly after being called up from Triple-A Charlotte. But we've seen him come on offensively in the past two series against Boston and Houston. He was 5 for 14 with three walks against the Red Sox, and 4 for 9 with three walks, a home run and a double against the Astros.

During that span, Moncada has raised his batting average from .105 to .213. His on-base percentage is a very respectable .377. The walks have been there all along. The hits are starting to come more frequently.

As for Anderson, he was 0 for 5 with three strikeouts Thursday, but before that, he was on a seven-game hitting streak that saw him go 11 for 31 (.355 average) with three doubles, a triple and two home runs. The solid contact and extra-base hits have suddenly returned to Anderson's game.

The wins over the Astros are nice, but let's be honest, they are inconsequential in the big picture with the Sox sitting at 44-68 overall. What really matters is some better play from some young guys who are supposed to be forming the future core of the team, and that's Rodon, Moncada and Anderson.

Now, we'll get a look at Reynaldo Lopez, who is being called up to make his first start in a Sox uniform Friday against Kansas City. Even if he does poorly, I'd rather see what he can do than watch any more starts from James Shields or Mike Pelfrey.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Rare good news: Two strong outings in a row for Carlos Rodon

Carlos Rodon
The White Sox (41-66) have lost four games in a row and 18 out of their past 21 after their 3-2, 11-inning loss to the Boston Red Sox on Friday night.

Now for some rare good news: Carlos Rodon has pitched really well in his past two starts, including his best outing of the season Friday at Fenway Park.

Here are the recent pitching lines for Rodon:

July 30 vs. Cleveland: 6.2 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 9 Ks, 2 BBs
Aug. 4 at Boston: 7.2 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 11 Ks, 0 BBs
Total: 14.1 IP, 12 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 20 Ks, 2 BBs

That 10-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio is what I like about Rodon this week. The fastball command is there. The velocity is consistently about 97 mph. The slider is working. He's getting swings and misses, and he's getting outs in a reasonable number of pitches. No walks against Boston; that's what you have to do to give yourself a chance to win. The 11 strikeouts Friday ties a career high.

And it isn't as if these outings have come against crummy teams, either. The Indians lead the AL Central. The Red Sox lead the AL East. Both are likely playoff teams. The Indians rank fourth in the AL in runs scored; the Red Sox rank fifth.

These were good performances against good teams. Too bad Rodon received two no-decisions for his effort. At least the Sox won the game against Cleveland, but it wasn't happening Friday night in Boston. Mitch Moreland hit a walk-off homer off Aaron Bummer (0-2) in the bottom of the 11th to secure the win for the Red Sox.

The beat goes on in terms of the tanking for draft position, but since Rodon is one of the few on the current roster who is supposedly part of the long-term plan, it's nice to see him picking it up out there.

'Why Todd Frazier can't hit anymore'

Todd Frazier (21)
One of the mildly interesting things about blogging on Google: You can look at the analytics and find out how people are hitting your website.

For example, somebody hit this blog this week by Googling the phrase "Why Todd Frazier can't hit anymore."

I chuckled to myself, knowing it was probably a frustrated New York Yankees fan who is just now finding out what White Sox fans already know -- Frazier is in severe decline and pretty darn close to being done at age 31.

Since the seven-player trade between the Sox and Yankees on July 19, Frazier has appeared in 14 games for New York and made 53 plate appearances. He has a grand total of one extra-base hit. (It was a homer.) That's not what you were hoping for, is it Yankee fans?

Frazier has compiled a slash line of .182/.321/.250 with the Yankees. I know, the usual caveats about small sample sizes apply, but I hate to tell you New York folks that this really isn't unusual for Frazier. His slash line for the season is .204/.327/.407, so while I think Frazier still will hit a few home runs between now and the end of the season, if you're waiting for more consistent production, none is forthcoming.

This isn't really a slump for Frazier. Rather, it's a continuation of struggles that have occurred ever since the veteran third baseman moved from the National League to the American League. He's slashing .218/.311/.444 since he was traded to the White Sox from the Cincinnati Reds before the start of the 2016 season.

Last year, I looked by Frazier's .225 batting average to some extent, because he clubbed 40 home runs and drove in 98 runs for the Sox. Sure, he didn't have a lot of hits, but at least there were some big hits, and there was some decent run production.

This year, I didn't feel as though many of the 16 home runs Frazier hit for the Sox mattered much, and obviously, he will not be reaching the 40-homer plateau this season.

It's too bad Frazier stinks now. I've heard good things about the kind of guy he is, and my impressions of him from SoxFest the past couple years were positive. They say he's good in the clubhouse, and I have no reason to doubt that's true.

However, Frazier's on-field performance was disappointing during his tenure with the Sox, and I expect that to continue in New York.

I saw the Yankees held him out of the lineup Thursday in their 5-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians. Probably smart, because Frazier can't hit Corey Kluber worth a damn anyway (2 for 23 lifetime). But the sad reality is Frazier can't hit most guys anymore, and it's for the best that the Sox have moved on from him.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

It was 'Sickly Lineup Wednesday' at Guaranteed Rate Field

J.A. Happ
We have entered what I believe will be the darkest days of White Sox's rebuild -- from now until the end of the 2017 season. The roster is depleted through both trades and injuries, and the South Siders will be outmanned in every game they play for the rest of the year.

That's going to be true even against other also-rans such as the Toronto Blue Jays, who took two out of three from the Sox this week at Guaranteed Rate Field. The Jays beat the Sox, 5-1, on Wednesday, and it would have been embarrassing for Toronto had it not won.

Take a look at the sickly Sox lineup trotted out there against Toronto starter J.A. Happ:

1. Tim Anderson, SS
2. Tyler Saladino, 3B
3. Jose Abreu, 1B
4. Kevan Smith, C
5. Nick Delmonico, LF
6. Leury Garcia, RF
7. Yolmer Sanchez, 2B
8. Alen Hanson, DH
9. Adam Engel, CF

Kevan Smith as cleanup hitter? Oh boy. You can't blame Sox manager Rick Renteria. He had only 10 healthy position players for this game. The only guy not in his lineup was the other catcher on the roster, Omar Narvaez.

Second baseman Yoan Moncada is day to day with a right quad bruise suffered in a nasty collision Monday night with right fielder Willy Garcia. That incident sent Garcia to the seven-day concussion list. The Sox already were minus their All-Star right fielder, Avisail Garcia. And Matt Davidson, who had two game-winning hits in as many days Sunday and Monday, also is day to day with a bruised right wrist after being hit by a pitch Tuesday night.

The Sox players who were not traded already have their work cut out for them trying to stay competitive in games, and the job has been made that much harder by this recent rash of injuries.

Happ (4-8) had been struggling coming into Wednesday, but he mostly cruised against this short-handed Sox lineup. He went seven innings, allowing one run. He struck out 10 and walked one for his first win since July 4. In his previous three games, he had 10 strikeouts *combined* in 17 innings.

But the Sox racked up 14 strikeouts against Happ and four Toronto relievers, and there was one stretch where 10 Sox batters in a row did not put the ball in play -- it was nothing but strikeouts and walks.

There's really not a whole helluva lot to analyze or talk about with this team at the moment. They are depleted. They are going to lose and lose a lot. There's no point in getting upset about it. As fans, we'll just have to wear it in the short run.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Weekend in review: White Sox lose two of three to Indians; Melky Cabrera traded to Royals

The view from the Guaranteed Rate Club on Sunday
Hey, at least the White Sox won one out of three over the weekend against the first-place Cleveland Indians. At this point, could we have expected better? I don't think so.

I made it out to two of the three games, and fortunately, the one that was a real snooze was the one I did not attend, a 9-3 loss Friday night.

The Sox also lost Saturday, 5-4, but I enjoyed having dinner at the Stadium Club before the game, and I got a sweet 1917 Sox replica jersey for my trouble. And it wasn't a terrible game to watch. The Sox were in it the whole way, even though they blew it in stupid fashion -- with the score tied at 4 in the top of the ninth and the bases loaded with two outs, Sox reliever Gregory Infante plunked Cleveland's Brandon Guyer to force in the winning run.

Still, I've seen enough 10-2 losses this year that losing 5-4 doesn't seem so bad anymore. It's all a matter of perspective.

And, on Sunday, my friend and I were named StubHub fans of the game or some damn thing, and we had our seats upgraded to the Guaranteed Rate Club right below the press box behind home plate. We got all we could eat and drink for free, plus a free T-shirt, in exchange for our willingness to be on the Jumbotron and smile and wave for the camera during a mid-inning promotion for StubHub, which we learned is the official fan-to-fan ticket marketplace of Major League Baseball or whatever.

In any case, that deal was way too good to pass up, and we gleefully took advantage of it. As an added bonus, Carlos Rodon pitched 6.2 innings of one-run ball, and Matt Davidson hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning to lift the Sox to a 3-1 victory over the Indians.

We'll take it.

Cabrera dealt to Kansas City for two prospects

When I got to the ballpark Sunday, I looked at the Sox lineup on the scoreboard and noticed Leury Garcia was leading off and playing left field. Garcia was just coming off the disabled list, so I knew immediately another roster move had taken place.

I also noticed that Melky Cabrera was not in the lineup, so I checked my phone and learned the veteran outfielder had been traded to the Kansas City Royals for pitching prospects A.J. Puckett and Andre Davis.

Cabrera is a defensive liability, so I doubt the Royals are too excited about him patrolling the spacious outfield at Kauffman Stadium. But, the soon-to-be-33-year-old does have a little something left with the bat. He's hitting .295/.336/.436 with 13 home runs and 56 RBIs this year, and his high-contact, gap-to-gap approach should fit in that Kansas City lineup.

The Royals enter Monday's play as the second wild card team in the American League, and they sit two games back of Cleveland in the AL Central. In his final game with the Sox on Saturday, Cabrera got four hits off Cleveland ace Corey Kluber. Perhaps that was what the Royals needed to see to finalize the deal. Cabrera can get hits off good pitchers.

As for the prospects coming back, Puckett, 22, is a right-hander who was the Royals' second-round pick in the 2016 draft. He was 9-7 with a 3.90 ERA with 98 strikeouts in 108.1 innings and 20 starts with Class-A Wilmington. His fastball sits at 92-93, and his best pitch is reportedly a changeup.

Davis, a 23-year-old left-hander, was 5-4 with a 4.83 ERA with 87 strikeouts in 85.2 innings and 18 starts with Class-A Lexington.

Puckett is likely the better of the two prospects, and we'll see how he does in the Winston-Salem rotation that already features Dane Dunning and Alec Hansen.

Cabrera is owed $5.1 million for the rest of this season, and given the money involved, it's not a big surprise the return in this trade did not involve elite prospects. But these two guys are at least somewhat interesting, so it's OK. The Sox will be paying half of the remaining dollars owed to Cabrera.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Backtracking a little bit: Avisail Garcia is injured

Avisail Garcia
Amid all the trade news and excessive hype surrounding a noncompetitive Crosstown Classic, I failed to comment on this bit of news: The White Sox's lone All-Star, right fielder Avisail Garcia, went on the disabled list this week with a strained ligament in his right thumb.

We can't say Garcia's absence was the reason the Sox lost, 6-3, to the Cubs on Thursday. His replacement in right field, Willy Garcia, went 1 for 3 with a solo home run off Jon Lester to provide one of the few positives from the game and that series overall.

The bigger issue is we're once again starting to wonder who the real Avisail Garcia is. He had a torrid first two months, but he's been badly regressing in recent weeks. He was in a 1-for-30 slump leading up to his appearance in the All-Star Game.

Immediately after the break, it looked as if he might be emerging from the slump. He went 5 for 13 with a pair of home runs in a three-game set against the Seattle Mariners. His swing seemed to be getting back to where it was at the start of the season.

Alas, Garcia went right back into the slump once Seattle left town. He was 3 for 24 with not a single extra-base hit in the six games before he went onto the disabled list.

Here are Garcia's splits by month:

April: .368/.409/.621, 5 HRs, 20 RBIs
May: .301/.345/.485, 3 HRs, 17 RBIs
June: .293/.340/.444, 3 HRs, 14 RBIs
July: .216/.259/.333, 2 HRs, 3 RBIs

The July decline in production sticks out like, well, a sore thumb. Could these struggles be the result of a nagging injury? Absolutely. Could these struggles be the return of the old, disappointing Avi? Unfortunately, yes. It's hard to tell.

For me, it's hard to pencil Garcia in as one of the core players to lead the way during the Sox rebuilding phase because he has a habit of ending up on the disabled list. This is his fourth full year in the big leagues, and only once has he played in more than 120 games. He still could surpass that plateau this year -- we'll see how long this injury sidelines him. The Sox say two weeks, but based on their track record of fibbing about injuries, that could mean two months. At that point, the season would be almost over.

The question is, what do you do with Avi? Do you hope he gets healthy, hope he finishes up strong, then trade him as a "sell high" guy this offseason before he regresses or gets hurt again? Do you believe the April, May and June Avi is the real Avi and extend his contract, believing he's a significant piece of the outfield puzzle going forward? Or, do you do nothing, and just allow him to be the placeholder right fielder during the rebuild and then move on from him when (hopefully) one of the prospects is ready to replace him?

Thursday, July 27, 2017

White Sox trade reliever Dan Jennings to Rays

Dan Jennings
There is only one relief pitcher remaining with the team from the White Sox Opening Day roster after left-hander Dan Jennings was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday in exchange for Triple-A first baseman Casey Gillaspie.

Yes, Gillaspie is the younger brother of former Sox third baseman Conor Gillaspie.

Casey Gillaspie, a 24-year-old switch-hitter, began the season ranked as the No. 74 prospect in the game, according to Baseball America. He was a Midwest League All-Star in 2015 and a Southern League All-Star in 2016, but he has fallen on hard times this season at Triple-A Durham.

Gillaspie has slumped to a .227/.296/.357 slash line with nine home runs and 44 RBIs in 95 games for Durham. The struggles are a little bit surprising because Gillaspie hit .307 in 47 Triple-A games after being promoted to Durham late in the 2016 season. That's how he got that respectable ranking on the prospects list.

Is the slump this year an anomaly? Possibly. Gillaspie had hit at every level until this year, so we can't count out the possibility that he'll regain his form. He's a former first-round draft pick, so he's obviously got some talent.

And, really, it's not a bad gamble for the Sox, who are parting with a league-average reliever in Jennings. The left-hander is 3-1 with a 3.45 ERA in 48 appearances this season, and he's certainly a respectable bullpen arm. However, Jennings doesn't have much value on the roster to the Sox, who are obviously on their way to finishing well up the track.

Do you really need decent-to-good bullpen arms when there are so few leads to protect? Not really.

For the record, Jake Petricka is the last man standing from the Opening Day bullpen. He's often injured, and thus has little value in a trade. That's probably the one thing that's keeping him in Chicago.

James Shields is pitching? I'd rather watch 'Alf'

Wednesday night's White Sox game provoked a text conversation among my friends and I where we asked the question, "Could Alf hit a home run if he had a chance to face James Shields"?

Or better yet, could the 1980s TV sitcom character pitch well enough to earn a spot in the Sox bullpen?

Why Alf, you ask?

Well, reruns of that program air in syndication on MeTV at 8:30 p.m. weeknights in the Chicago area. And 8:30 p.m. is about the time when the average Sox game goes to hell, and fans start reaching for the remote control to find something else to watch.

So, flipping channels, you might find yourself watching "Alf." Did you know that when Alf gets the hiccups, the only two cures for him are cat juice and spinach?

Ah, that crazy Alf! You never know what he's going to do next.

Would Shields pitch better if we provided him with some cat juice and spinach before his next start?

The erstwhile right-hander got pummeled again Wednesday in an 8-3 loss to the Cubs. He made it through three innings unscathed, but he gave up a run in the fourth and four more runs in the fifth without recording an out. Shields, an alleged "innings eater," once again lasted only four innings and left a depleted Sox bullpen with five innings to cover. Alf eats more cats than Shields eats innings. It's a miracle the Sox only lost by five.

In his past four starts, Shields is 0-2 with an ERA of 9.00. This is not a new trend. Since he was acquired by the Sox in the middle of the 2016 season, he has gone 6-15 with 6.49 ERA in 32 starts.

How much longer do we need to put up with this? Shields profiles as a relief pitcher at this stage of his career. He can only get through a batting order one time before he implodes. Why do we think he's getting knocked out in the fourth or fifth inning every time he goes to the mound?

Thank goodness the "Alf" reruns come on about the time the fourth inning starts.

In all seriousness, it's time to remove Shields from the rotation and replace him with Reynaldo Lopez, who has nothing left to prove at the Triple-A level.

Lopez fanned 10 more hitters in his latest start Wednesday with the Charlotte Knights. He has compiled a 1.96 ERA with 49 strikeouts in 36.2 innings over his past six starts.

It's time to make a change. The Sox have a prospect who is forcing the issue. If Lopez is on the mound, I won't be switching over to watch "Alf," I promise.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

White Sox trade reliever Anthony Swarzak to Brewers

Anthony Swarzak
The White Sox continued to trade veterans players as part of their rebuilding process Wednesday, sending relief pitcher Anthony Swarzak to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for Triple-A outfielder Ryan Cordell.

I've been more critical of Rick Hahn than most people, but this actually was a pretty good piece of GM'ing.

Swarzak was a nonroster free-agent signing in the spring. He made the club out of camp and has surprised everyone with a career-best season. He's 4-3 with a 2.23 ERA and 1.034 WHIP in 41 appearances this year, plus his first career save in Monday's win over the Cubs.

The right-hander went from being an afterthought at the start of the season to being a reliever who can be trusted in high-leverage situations.

Will that last?

Probably not. Swarzak's career ERA is 4.31. His career WHIP is 1.345. He's pitching well above career norms at age 31, and he's a free agent at the end of the season. He has "sell high, sell now" written all over him. That's what the Sox did.

I'm not going to sit here and tout Cordell as some sort of future All-Star, but he's close to major league ready, and could be useful in some role.

The 25-year-old was an 11th-round pick of the Texas Rangers in 2013. He joined the Milwaukee organization last year as part of the Jonathon Lucroy deal. He was hitting .284/.349/.506 with 10 homers and 45 RBIs in 68 games with Triple-A Colorado Springs this year.

In the minor leagues, Cordell has played all three outfield spots, as well as some first base and third base. Unlike a lot of the other recent Sox acquisitions, we could see him on the big club this year -- especially if veteran left fielder Melky Cabrera is the next to go as part of this sell-off.

The bottom line is this: When your GM turns a journeyman reliever such as Swarzak into a position player that has a chance to be useful, you can't complain. Sometimes, the small deals are just as crucial as the big ones.

We'll see how Cordell works out.

In the meantime, the Sox have activated right-hander Jake Petricka from the 10-day disabled list to take Swarzak's place on the 25-man roster.

Not sure what to make of Carlos Rodon's crazy day ...

Carlos Rodon
White Sox left-hander Carlos Rodon on Tuesday became the first pitcher in major league history to strike out 11 batters in a start that lasted only four innings.

Congratulations to Rodon on becoming an answer to a trivia question.

His performance in a 7-2 loss to the Cubs was baffling. He obviously possessed enough stuff to generate plenty of swings and misses. Normally, when a guy strikes out 11, you're looking at a dominant outing, if not a victory.

Not so here.

Rodon faced 22 hitters -- only eight of which put the ball in play. (He also walked three.) But seven of those eight balls in play resulted in Cubs hits, and four of those seven hits went for extra bases. The biggest of those was a three-run home run by Cubs catcher Willson Contreras in the bottom of the first inning. The North Siders led from that point forward.

It's almost as if Rodon has become a three-outcome pitcher: It's either a strikeout, a walk or a cannon shot. Weird.

The other thing about Rodon's day: He collected his first major league hit: a two-out, two-run double in the top of the second inning off John Lackey. The Sox were 1 for 13 with runners in scoring position in the loss, and Rodon's hit was the "1."

It could have been a different game. The Sox hitters blew chance after chance after chance.

Bases loaded in the fifth after Lackey hit three batters in the inning. No runs.

Second and third with nobody out in the sixth inning. No runs.

First and third with nobody out in the eighth inning. No runs.

There was nothing doing in the clutch for the Sox in this game. Maybe they would have lost anyway because, well, they did give up seven runs. But things would have been far more interesting with even average offensive execution.

As for Rodon, he's the one remaining starting pitcher who is supposed to be a piece of the future. He's got to start being more efficient with his pitches. It shouldn't be taking him 30 pitches to get through the first inning. He shouldn't be piling up 98 pitches to get through four innings.

The Sox need him to be a six- or seven-inning pitcher, not a four- or five-inning pitcher like some of the retread veterans in the rotation. If he needs to pitch to contact more, so be it.

I read this morning that Rodon is averaging 4.24 pitches per hitter. That's up from 3.90 in 2016. (League average is 3.88).

In fairness to Rodon, he hasn't pitched much this year. He's been hurt. This was only his fifth start of the season. Hopefully, the lack of command is a sign of rust.

The Sox are clearly bottoming out right now in their rebuilding phase, and it would be nice to see a few signs of progress from some younger players who are expected to become cornerstones. Rodon is one of those guys. The team needs more from him, both now and in the future.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Surprisingly, Miguel Gonzalez baffles Cubs in crosstown opener

I apologize for previously including Miguel Gonzalez on my list of washed-up White Sox veterans.

Unlike starting rotation mates James Shields, Mike Pelfrey and Derek Holland, Gonzalez occasionally comes up with a well-pitched ballgame against a good team.

The right-hander came off the disabled list July 18 and fired six innings of one-run ball in a 1-0 loss to Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers, and he backed that up with another strong outing Monday -- pitching 7.1 innings of one-run ball in a 3-1 victory over the Cubs in the first game of the 2017 Crosstown Classic at Wrigley Field.

With the win, the Sox (39-57) broke a nine-game losing streak and collected their first victory since the All-Star break. Gonzalez (5-9) also became the first Sox pitcher in 30 games to have an outing of seven innings or more.

It wasn't easy.

The key moment came in the bottom of the seventh inning with the Sox leading 2-1. The Cubs loaded the bases with two outs for Anthony Rizzo, and with the Sox bullpen depleted because of trades, manager Rick Renteria had little choice but to stick with Gonzalez.

With the wind blowing in at Wrigley, Rizzo flew out to the warning track in center field to end the threat.

The conditions did not stop the Sox from hitting a pair of home runs. Rookie center fielder Adam Engel's drive in the top of the sixth inning off Cubs reliever Justin Grimm (1-1) got into the left-center field bleachers to give the Sox the lead for good at 2-1.

Matt Davidson added a 476-foot solo shot off Koji Uehara in the top of the eighth inning to complete the scoring. That one was going to be a home run on any day, at any park, in any conditions.

Sox reliever Anthony Swarzak picked up his first save in 226 career relief appearances. He retired the first two hitters in the bottom of the ninth before Kris Bryant reached on an infield single and Rizzo walked. Willson Contreras came to the plate representing the winning run, but Swarzak overmatched him with two blazing fastballs right on the black of the outside corner, the second of which was strike three called.

Contreras didn't think they were strikes, arguing with home plate umpire Angel Hernandez and breaking his bat in frustration after the out was recorded. Alas, they were strikes. Those pitches looked good to me, and good to K zone on the Comcast SportsNet Chicago broadcast, too.

Hey Willson, now it's your turn to cry.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

White Sox prospect Yoan Moncada makes long-awaited debut

Yoan Moncada didn't get a hit in his White Sox debut, but he didn't make a fool out of himself either. He also didn't save the slumping Sox from getting run over by the Los Angeles Dodgers, who collected their 11th consecutive win and 31st win in their past 35 games with a 9-1, rain-shortened victory.

Moncada went 0 for 2 with a walk, and it was a well-earned walk. After quickly falling behind 0-and-2 in his first at-bat, he ended up seeing nine pitches before taking his base against Dodgers starter Kenta Maeda.

In the fourth inning, Moncada just missed extra bases with a line drive down the right-field line that landed foul. He ended up grounding out to first base. In his third and final at-bat, he lined out to center field on a 2-0 pitch.

Nothing wrong with those ABs. The first hit will come soon enough.

We can't say there was nothing wrong with Carlos Rodon's performance. The left-hander didn't make it out of the fourth inning and gave up four home runs, resulting in five Los Angeles runs. Yuck.

Relievers Chris Beck and David Holmberg provided little relief, combining to allow four runs in the sixth inning. The rains came in the eighth inning, and mercifully, the game was called.

Looking for positives? Hey, Melky Cabrera continues to swing the bat well. He hit a solo home run in the first inning for the only Sox run. He's probably hoping some team in contention is eager to acquire his services.

The folks who are gung-ho about the rebuild have been chatting about how the "fun starts today" with Moncada's call-up. Not really. This game wasn't fun. The Sox are 38-54, and it's hard to fathom them getting much more than 25 wins out of the remaining 70 games.

Does Moncada give us one other player to watch and talk about? You bet. Say what you will about rebuilding, but nothing changes the fact that this is hard to watch, and there are several dark days still in front of the Sox from now until the end of the season.

White Sox trade Todd Frazier, David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle to Yankees

David Robertson
The seven-player trade between the White Sox and the New York Yankees was a foregone conclusion by the time it was announced late Tuesday night.

Todd Frazier was seen giving teammates goodbye hugs before the Sox played the Los Angeles Dodgers, and neither David Robertson nor Tommy Kahnle were summoned from the bullpen in the high-leverage relief situations that arose in the Sox's 1-0 loss.

After the game, it was announced that Frazier, Robertson and Kahnle were dealt to the Yankees in exchange for outfielders Blake Rutherford and Tito Polo and pitchers Ian Clarkin and Tyler Clippard.

Here's a summary for each of the players the Sox received:

Rutherford: This is the best prospect in the deal. He was the Yankees' first-round draft pick in 2016, and he's ranked 36th on Baseball America's midseason top-100 prospect rankings. He was hitting .281/.342/.391 at Class-A Charleston with 20 doubles, two home runs and 30 RBIs in 304 at-bats.

Clarkin: The 22-year-old left-hander has been frequently injured since he was drafted out of high school in 2013, but he's managed to stay healthy enough to post a 2.61 ERA over 72.1 innings for Class-A Tampa this season.

Polo: The 22-year-old outfielder has split time between Class-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton this year, and has hit .298/.358/.446. He's also got 25 stolen bases in 31 attempts.

Clippard: The 32-year-old veteran reliever is 1-5 with a 4.95 ERA in 40 appearances with the Yankees this year. He's got an expiring contract, and the Sox will use him to close games in Robertson's absence, on the rare occasion where they actually have a lead going into the ninth inning. Hey, somebody has gotta pitch.

This deal is almost like two trades in one. The way I see it, Robertson and Kahnle were traded for the three prospects. Robertson is owed about $20 million until his contract is up at the end of the 2018 season. The Yankees are taking all that salary on, so he alone wouldn't have been enough to net a top-50 prospect such as Rutherford. Throw Kahnle into the deal, and now the Yankees add two quality pieces to their bullpen, and they are willing to part with a better quality young player.

The other part of the deal is basically Frazier for Clippard. Two underperforming veterans on expiring contracts. Basically, you have each team saying to the other, "Go ahead and take this guy, and maybe he'll do better for you than he did for us."

Clippard takes Robertson's spot on the roster. The leaves two other openings. One is going to relief pitcher Brad Goldberg. The other is going to some young infield prospect named Yoan Moncada. You might have heard of him.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Baseball America updates list of top White Sox prospects

With the Jose Quintana trade in the past and the White Sox getting swept at home by the Seattle Mariners over the weekend, the 2017 season is starting to feel even more rebuild-y.

I'm not one to get overly enthusiastic about prospects, but if you're so inclined, Baseball America has updated its list of top-10 Sox prospects:

1. Yoan Moncada, 2B
2. Eloy Jimenez, OF
3. Michael Kopech, RHP
4. Luis Robert, OF
5. Reynaldo Lopez, RHP
6. Lucas Giolito, RHP
7. Dylan Cease, RHP
8. Jake Burger, 3B
9. Dane Dunning, RHP
10. Alec Hansen, RHP

Of note, only Hansen was a member of the Sox organization before last December. Moncada and Kopech were acquired in the Chris Sale deal. Jimenez and Cease were acquired in the Quintana deal. Robert was an international free agent signing earlier this spring. Lopez, Giolito and Dunning all were acquired in the Adam Eaton deal. Burger was the Sox's No. 1 pick in the June draft.

There have been some changes since December. Here's how the list looked then:

1. Moncada, 2B/3B
2. Giolito, RHP
3. Lopez, RHP
4. Zack Collins, C
5. Kopech, RHP
6. Zack Burdi, RHP
7. Luis Alexander Basabe, OF
8. Carson Fulmer, RHP
9. Spencer Adams, RHP
10. Dunning, RHP

Burdi fell off the list because he had Tommy John surgery and is out until 2019. Collins has seen his stock fall with the .216/.366/.414 slash line he's posted at Class-A Winston-Salem this season.

Fulmer has had a bad season, too. The former first-round draft pick is 1-5 with a 7.90 ERA over the past two months at Triple-A Charlotte. He was 5-1 with a 2.72 ERA in April, but not much has gone right since. It might be time to abandon the "Fulmer is a starter" experiment and move him to the role a lot of people believe is his future: high-leverage reliever.

Adams and Basabe dropped off the list, as well, but I don't know that I ever saw them as anything more than midlevel prospects anyway. It stands to reason they would drop on these lists with the Sox adding Jimenez, Robert and Burger in recent months.

Friday, July 14, 2017

White Sox reliever Nate Jones done for the season

Nate Jones
Lost amid all the Jose Quintana trade discussions Thursday was this bit of news: White Sox reliever Nate Jones will miss the rest of the 2017 season after having elbow surgery earlier this week.

Jones is arguably the Sox's best reliever, so this is a big loss. The right-hander was one of the top setup men in the game last season, when he went 5-3 with a 2.71 ERA, 0.892 WHIP and 80 strikeouts over 70.2 innings covering 71 appearances.

The elbow injury, which required nerve repositioning surgery (!?), limited Jones to 11 appearances this season. He hasn't pitched since April 28.

This makes three relief pitchers from the 2015-16 Sox bullpen who are out for the season after elbow surgeries. Zach Putnam and Zach Duke, who is now with the St. Louis Cardinals organization, are the other two. A fourth reliever, Jake Petricka, is on the disabled list with a strained right elbow. I hate to speculate, but I will anyway: You can't help but wonder if Petricka is the next guy on his way to the operating table.

I never agreed with the way former Sox manager Robin Ventura used his bullpen. He was beholden to lefty-righty matchups. He ran his guys into the ground, sometimes using four or five relievers just to get through one inning.

I don't think it's a coincidence that these four men are experiencing elbow problems right now.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

White Sox trade Jose Quintana to Cubs for four prospects

Jose Quintana
Shock and disbelief are reverberating throughout Chicago, after the White Sox traded left-handed pitcher Jose Quintana to the crosstown Cubs on Thursday.

I'm probably not as stunned as some people are. If you watched any of the Sox-Rockies series over the weekend, you might have heard Ken Harrelson and Steve Stone talking about how it would be "crazy" for the Sox not to entertain trade offers from the Cubs.

Harrelson, for better or for worse, has long been regarded as a mouthpiece for Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf. Listen carefully to the oracle, and you might be able to read the tea leaves. If Harrelson is talking about a potential Sox-Cubs deal, then you shouldn't be shocked when one occurs.

Let's take a look at the four guys the Sox acquired:

  • Eloy Jimenez, OF -- The best prospect in the Cubs' system, the 20-year-old outfielder is ranked as the No. 5 prospect in the game, according to Baseball America. Jimenez, who was on the World roster for the Futures Game, was hitting 271/.351/.490 with eight home runs and 32 RBI in 42 games with Class-A Myrtle Beach this season. 
  • Dylan Cease, RHP -- The sixth-round pick of the Cubs in 2014, Cease was regarded as the best pitching prospect in the North Siders' system. He is ranked as the No. 83 prospect in the game, according to Baseball America. In 13 starts with Class-A South Bend, Cease had a 2.79 ERA and 1.258 WHIP with 74 strikeouts.
  • Matt Rose, 1B-3B -- The 22-year-old was an 11th-round pick in 2015. Rose had a .227/.281/.481 slash line with 14 home runs and 38 RBIs in 65 games at Myrtle Beach this season.
  • Bryant Flete, IF-OF -- The 24-year-old has played both infield and outfield positions. He was slashing .305/.355/.425 with six home runs and 37 RBIs in 70 games at Myrtle Beach.
People who know me will probably not be surprised that I'm less than enthusiastic about this trade. I'm not going to say that Sox general manager Rick Hahn did not acquire good prospects in this deal -- he did. He said he was looking to get the top two prospects out of an organization in a Quintana trade, and the Cubs clearly met his asking price.

That said, while Jimenez and Cease are high-quality prospects, neither is close to MLB-ready. Both still need significant development time in the minor leagues, and the Sox are going to have to coach these guys up in order for them to reach their potential.

Based upon what you've seen over the past 10 or 15 years, what have the Sox done to earn our faith as fans that they can develop this talent? Very little in my estimation, and that's why I'm less than excited about this haul, just as I wasn't overly enthused about the haul the Sox get in the Chris Sale and Adam Eaton trades.

It's nice to have a highly regarded farm system, but that doesn't amount to a hill of beans if the Sox do not handle these prospects correctly. I will continue to be skeptical until I see results at the major league level, and I think we all understand that it will be a few years before we can make any firm judgments on that.

As I've said before, it's not the rebuild itself that offends me. It's the actors in charge of the rebuild who concern me. The fan base seems to be in favor of this trade, and frankly, I've surprised by the lack of skepticism among Sox fans these days.

In the past, we as a fan base have always been willing to ask tough questions, to not just take things on faith or face value. In this rebuild, we are putting a lot of faith in the same people who brought us Jeff Keppinger, Adam LaRoche, James Shields and assorted other bums.

We can only hope their judgment of young talent, and their development of that young talent, is much better than their judgment on which veteran players to pursue in trades and in free agency. 

Monday, July 3, 2017

2017 White Sox reach season's halfway point

Jose Quintana
The White Sox took two out of three games from the Texas Rangers at Guaranteed Rate Field over the weekend, which puts their record at 36-45 at the halfway point of the season.

Projected out over the full 162 games, they would finish 72-90. That sounds about right given the preseason expectations.

I've always said the 2013 Sox are the worst team I've cheered for in my lifetime -- and that club had the 63-99 record to prove it. This year's team only needs to go 28-53 the second half to top that, and that seems doable, even though some productive veterans are likely to be traded before July is over.

That said, this season has a more painful feel to it than that 2013 campaign, and I think I've finally put my finger on why: The losses this season are as ugly as they come. Perhaps they aren't frequent as they were in 2013, but the brand of baseball is a little bit worse -- especially when it comes to pitching.

You go back and look at the numbers from 2013, and the Sox had three starting pitchers with ERAs below 4 -- Chris Sale (3.07), Jose Quintana (3.51) and Hector Santiago (3.56). The Sox also had Jake Peavy on the team for half the season before he was dealt to the Boston Red Sox, and his ERA (4.28 ERA) was no worse than league average.

So, for most of the year, the 2013 Sox had four men in their rotation who could give you a competitive outing. Now, that team couldn't hit worth a damn; they lost 99 games for a reason. But when you went to the park to watch the 2013 Sox, they would typically lose 4-1 and you'd be outta there in two and a half hours.

This year is a different scene, because starting pitching is the biggest weakness for this club. James Shields, of all people, is the only pitcher with an ERA below 4 (3.98), and he's made only six starts this season. Quintana is having a down year (4.45 ERA), and you've got retread veterans Derek Holland (4.52), Mike Pelfrey (4.13) and Miguel Gonzalez (5.15 ERA) hanging around the rotation.

A typical Sox loss this season is characterized by a short outing from a post-peak veteran starter, followed by a parade of middle relievers who struggle to throw strikes, and are lucky to be in the major leagues. By the end of the day, Sox pitchers have thrown about 200 pitches to get through nine innings, and three and a half hours later, you're walking out of the ballpark with a 10-2 loss or a 10-4 loss.

Linked are the box scores to the past two games I've personally attended. Frankly, I'd rather see some decent pitching and have the Sox get beat in a hurry than watch some of these long, drawn-out messes where five or six relievers are used.

I'm one of those fans who stays to the end no matter what, no matter how painful, so I guess the one positive to blowout losses is I can get out of the parking lot much faster when the game is over. (Most people scram early.) But, I can't say that I'm enjoying the baseball I've been seeing this year.

Friday, June 30, 2017

White Sox likely to have more representation in Futures Game than All-Star Game

Yoan Moncada
White Sox fans will have a reason to watch this year's Futures Game. The rosters were announced Thursday for the annual midsummer showcase, and three Sox prospects made the list: second baseman Yoan Moncada, pitcher Michael Kopech and catcher Zack Collins.

It appears likely the Sox will have more representation in the Futures Game than they will in the All-Star Game itself, with right fielder Avisail Garcia and first baseman Jose Abreu the only two legitimate All-Star candidates on the big-league roster.

Moncada will play for the World team, and will try to defend the MVP honor he won in the Futures Game last season when he still was a member of the Boston Red Sox organization.

This season, Moncada has hit .281/.381/.454 with 10 home runs, 29 RBIs and 15 stolen bases for Triple-A Charlotte. He spent some time on the disabled list with a thumb injury about a month ago, and struggled when he first returned, but he's had a solid season overall and has lived up to the billing as the Sox's No. 1-ranked prospect.

Kopech, the fireballing right-hander who was acquired along with Moncada in the Chris Sale trade, is 4-5 with a 3.72 ERA in 15 starts at Double-A Birmingham. Kopech has demonstrated that he has the raw ability to be an elite pitcher -- he's fanned 97 hitters and allowed only 51 hits in 75 innings for the Barons. However, his control remains a work in progress. He's walked 49, and that's what has prevented him from earning a promotion to Charlotte, despite being selected to the Double-A All-Star Game, and now, Team USA in the Futures Game.

Collins also is on the Team USA roster, and his selection is a little more of a surprise. He's a had a rough season at Class-A Winston-Salem, although he has 10 home runs and leads the league with 56 walks. But his.206/.362/.399 slash line qualifies as a disappointment, and so do the 82 strikeouts in 233 at-bats. However, they say catching is the fastest path to the big leagues, and perhaps there aren't many good catching prospects out there. This is Collins' first full year in pro ball, so there's plenty of time for him to get his career on right track.

Sox salvage split with Yankees

Thanks to the rainy conditions here in Chicago, Thursday night's game didn't end until after 1 a.m. local time, but it ended happily, with the Sox picking up a 4-3 victory over the New York Yankees.

I've been critical of James Shields (2-1), so let's give credit to him for a respectable outing. He fired 6.1 innings of three-run ball and left the mound with the 4-3 lead intact. The big hit of the game came from Willy Garcia, whose two-out, two-run double in the fourth inning put the Sox ahead for good at 4-2.

The Sox bullpen combined to throw 2.2 innings of shutout ball. Closer David Robertson earned his 12th save, striking out New York slugger Aaron Judge with a man on base for the final out.

It's been a tough homestand so far, even with Thursday's win. The Sox are 2-5 with three games to come this weekend against the Texas Rangers.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Carlos Rodon extremely wild in return, but there were positives

Carlos Rodon
I'm not going to say White Sox left-hander Carlos Rodon pitched well in his first start of the 2017 season. He did not.

He walked six guys in five innings, struck out only two, and threw only 41 of his 94 pitches for strikes. The Sox lost, 12-3, to the New York Yankees on Wednesday in a game that was every bit as ugly as the final score indicates.

That said, we can take some positives out of this Rodon performance -- his first in the big leagues since last September -- in the sense that he looked like a healthy pitcher. Rodon missed the first three months of the season with bursitis in his throwing shoulder. Steve Stone always says velocity comes from the shoulder, so you can conclude that a pitcher with an injured shoulder will lack velocity on his pitches.

Rodon did not lack velocity on his fastball Wednesday night. In fact, he uncorked a couple all the way back to the screen in the first inning, which was an indication that perhaps he felt too strong in this outing. His four-seam fastball averaged 94.9 mph according to BrooksBaseball.Net and touched 97 mph. His two-seamer averaged 94.4 mph and touched 95. That's about where Rodon should be.

The problem was, he couldn't command anything. I can't recall a single time where he got a called strike on his slider in the five innings he was out there. He was essentially a one-pitch pitcher, and he had no control of that one pitch -- his fastball.

As fans, we'll have to show a little patience here. Rodon is still basically in spring training mode, and for a pitcher who has missed significant time, the feel for the breaking ball is usually the last thing that returns. Once Rodon regains the feel for his slider, and can grab a strike with it, he can win some games for the Sox -- as long as he's healthy and throwing 94 to 97 on the fastball. He's never been a precise command guy, but he doesn't have to be with the velocity and movement he has on his pitches. He does, however, need to throw more strikes.

Really, given that ball-to-strike ratio, it's borderline miraculous that Rodon made it through five innings allowing only three unearned runs. When he left the game, the Sox were trailing, 3-2. He took the loss, but he wasn't the one responsible for allowing the score to get out of hand. Reliever Jake Petricka coughed up five runs in the sixth inning. Michael Ynoa gave up four more in the ninth while only recording one out.

Poor pitching by middle relievers made the score ugly, more than anything Rodon did. The main thing I'm looking for with Rodon right now? Does he come out of this healthy, make his next start five days from now and look sharper than he did Wednesday? If so, I'm happy.

The Sox could use another starting pitcher they can rely on, with Miguel Gonzalez on the DL, James Shields looking washed-up and Mike Pelfrey being Mike Pelfrey.

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 the 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.