Showing posts with label Alexei Ramirez. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Alexei Ramirez. Show all posts

Friday, January 15, 2016

Alexei Ramirez signs one-year deal with San Diego Padres

Alexei Ramirez
After eight seasons on the South Side of Chicago, Alexei Ramirez is moving on.

The longtime White Sox shortstop agreed to a one-year contract with the San Diego Padres on Thursday. He leaves the Sox after 1,226 games; 4,999 plate appearances; 109 home runs; 542 RBIs; 135 stolen bases; and two Silver Slugger awards.

Those are respectable numbers, but it was time for Ramirez, 34, and the Sox to part ways, and I think both sides knew that when the team declined Ramirez's club option for $10 million late last year.

Ramirez is just two years removed from one of his finest seasons. In 2014, he posted a .273/.305/.408 slash line with 15 home runs and 74 RBIs. That production earned him the second of his Silver Slugger awards.

However, he regressed in 2015, finishing at .249/.285/.357 with 10 home runs and 62 RBIs. He slumped badly early in the season, contributing to a Sox swoon that caused the team to be buried with a 28-38 record by mid-June.

Here are the split stats for Ramirez from last season:

First half: .224/.249/.292, 2 HRs, 27 RBIs
Second half: .277/.325/.432, 8 HRs, 35 RBIs

Almost all the damage done by Ramirez came in the second half with the team out of the race. It smelled like a contract drive to me. No doubt, Ramirez wanted that $10 million option picked up. But the reality is, he isn't worth that money any longer, and the Sox were not wrong to head in a different direction.

That's not to say the Padres are stupid for signing Ramirez. Far from it. San Diego used four different shortstops last year, and I think it's fair to say Ramirez is an upgrade over the two players who got most of the starts at shortstop in San Diego last year -- Alexi Amarista and Clint Barmes.

Moreover, Ramirez provides an everyday reliability at a key position. He has played 154 games or more at shortstop in each of the past six seasons. Ramirez is the kind of guy who expects himself to play every day, and that's not a bad thing for a San Diego club that is looking for some short-term stability at shortstop.

The Padres recently acquired a good shortstop prospect from the Boston Red Sox in Javier Guerra. They see him as their future at that position, but he's only 20 years old and at least a year or two away. Ramirez is a good stopgap solution on a short-term deal.

As for the Sox, Tyler Saladino appears to be the heir apparent at shortstop. There is every reason to believe Saladino has a good enough glove to play the position. The bat is a question mark, and that's why the Sox could still use another offensive upgrade at corner outfield or designated hitter. Saladino is OK as a No. 9 hitter and starting shortstop, as long as there aren't glaring holes in other spots in the lineup. I think the Sox are still a move short of being able to say that at this stage.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

White Sox decline team option on Alexei Ramirez

The White Sox on Wednesday declined to pick up a $10 million option on shortstop Alexei Ramirez.

The club instead opted to buy out Ramirez's contract for $1 million. The veteran will become a free agent on Saturday, and the Sox could still bring Ramirez back in 2016 on a smaller contract.

Ramirez has spent eight years on the South Side, and he enjoyed one of his finest seasons in 2014. During that year, he hit .273 with 15 home runs and 74 RBIs and won the Silver Slugger Award. He also was a finalist for the Gold Glove.

However, Ramirez regressed in 2015, hitting just .249 with 10 home runs and 62 RBIs. His OPS dropped from .713 in 2014 to .642 this year.

Despite that regression, this move comes as a bit of a surprise, because top shortstop prospect Tim Anderson is considered to be about a year away from breaking into the big leagues. Many observers, including me, thought Ramirez would return for one more season as a stopgap, keeping the spot warm for Anderson in 2017. Instead, the Sox appear to be moving in a different direction.

The other internal option is Tyler Saladino, who is a capable defensive shortstop, but figures to struggle with the bat. Saladino hit just .225 with a .602 OPS in 254 plate appearances after the Sox called him up in July.

The list of free-agent shortstops this offseason is not a strong one. The best names out there (besides Ramirez) are Ian Desmond, Jimmy Rollins and Asdrubal Cabrera. Desmond is probably the most attractive option of that group, but he will probably get more than a one-year deal, which wouldn't make much sense for the Sox.

It's impossible to judge this move without seeing how the decision fits into the bigger picture of the offseason. There are only two conclusions we can draw today:
  1. The Sox saved themselves $9 million, which could allow them to be bigger players in free agency; and 
  2. The Sox have added shortstop to their list of offseason questions marks. 
The hot stove season is just beginning, and as always, it promises to be interesting. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

White Sox pitcher Jeff Samardzija turns in the worst performance of his career

The end of the 2015 regular season is less than three weeks away. It can't come soon enough for White Sox starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija, who is enduring a baffling terrible second half.

Samardzija turned in the worst start of his career Tuesday night as the Sox absorbed a 17-6 pounding at the hands of the Oakland Athletics.

The right-hander put the Sox in a 5-0 hole in the first inning. He failed to make it through the fourth inning -- he didn't record an out in that fourth, in fact -- an inning in which the Athletics would score 10 runs.

Samardzija's final line: 3 IP, 11 H, 10 R, 10 ER, 3 BBs, 3 Ks.

From June 7 through July 28, Samardzija posted 10 straight starts of seven innings pitched or more. His season highlight came July 9 when he threw a four-hit shutout against the best offensive team in the league, the Toronto Blue Jays.

But since Aug. 1, it has all gone very wrong. Samardzija is 1-8 with a 9.24 ERA since that date. On Tuesday, he became just the third pitcher in MLB history to allow nine or more earned runs in a game three times in the same season. The others are Jaime Navarro (1997) and Brett Tomko (2003).

Sox fans are all too familiar with Navarro, and he's unfortunately become a convenient comparison to make with Samardzija.

Navarro, like Samardzija, pitched for the Cubs before joining the Sox and had a respectable amount of success. Navarro went a combined 29-18 with a 3.62 ERA from 1995-96 on the North Side. In 1997, he moved eight miles south to the White Sox and put up poor numbers that rival those of Samardzija this season.

Navarro (1997 White Sox): 9-14, 5.79 ERA, 1.622 WHIP
Samardzija (2015 White Sox): 9-13, 5.27 ERA, 1.354 WHIP

Of course, Navarro was a free-agent acquisition who was making some bucks with the Sox, so that meant his spot in the rotation remained secure no matter how poorly he performed. From 1997-99, he made 87 starts for the South Siders, went 25-43 with a 6.06 ERA and stole $5 million a year from Jerry Reinsdorf. That was big money in late 1990s dollars.

The good news for Sox fans is the Samardzija train wreck won't continue on for three years like the Navarro disaster did. Samardzija's contract is up at the end of the season. You have to believe both the player and team are eager to move on.

Position players pitching in September

Another sign of White Sox mismanagement: Two position players pitched in Tuesday's debacle. Utility man Leury Garcia worked a scoreless eighth inning, while shortstop Alexei Ramirez pitched a scoreless ninth.

Sure, the Sox bullpen has been used a lot this week. Chris Sale lasted only three innings in a Sunday loss to the Minnesota Twins. Monday's game lasted 14 innings, and as we've chronicled, Samardzija was knocked out early Tuesday. But with the September roster expansion, a team shouldn't need to resort to risking the health of position players to eat up innings on the mound.

I'm baffled as to why the Sox didn't allow a Quad-A innings-eater such as Scott Carroll or Junior Guerra to join the roster for the last month of the year. Either of those two men could have saved the Sox some embarrassment in this latest loss.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

If the White Sox insist on keeping John Danks in the rotation, they need to give him a shorter leash

White Sox pitcher John Danks is overpaid. Everybody knows that. But this blog entry is not going to be about money. Today we are talking about Danks' poor performance, nothing more, nothing less.

The veteran left-hander had another implosion against an AL Central opponent Monday night. He gave up nine runs (five earned) on nine hits, including three home runs, over 5.1 innings in an embarrassing 13-2 loss to the Minnesota Twins on national TV. Danks getting rocked by a divisional foe is nothing new. We've chronicled those struggles here in the past.

I've heard some folks argue Danks is a "serviceable" fifth starter. Heck, I think I might have made that statement a couple times in the past. But as time goes on and I gather more information, I've come around to the opinion that this guy doesn't belong in the rotation anymore. His 5.38 ERA ranks 50th out of 53 qualifying American League pitchers. That's not serviceable. It's terrible. It's the kind of performance you can't live with if you want to think of yourself as a competitive team.

It would be one thing if the Sox didn't have other options. For instance, we can complain until we're blue in the face about the not-so-dynamic Sox catching duo of Tyler Flowers and Geovany Soto. But the reality is those two guys are the best the team has in its organization at that position right now. You can't do anything else but trot them out there until the front office addresses the issue.

But it's not that way with the fifth starter spot. White Sox farmhand Erik Johnson is pitching well at Triple-A Charlotte. He was just named International League Pitcher of the Week. He has not given up a run in any of his last three outings, striking out 28 batters and walking just four in 22 innings over that span.

Given what we know about Danks and his struggles against the AL Central, and just his struggles in general, wouldn't it be a better play to drop Johnson into the rotation for a week and see how he does? At the very least, he could give teams such as Minnesota and Detroit a different look. The Tigers and the Twins are not fooled by the offspeed pitches of Danks. They've faced him countless times, and they are probably fighting to get to the bat rack, knowing a night against Danks is a chance to pad their personal statistics. Minnesota did a good job of getting fat on Monday night, that's for sure.

If the Sox are going to insist on leaving Danks in the rotation, at the very least they need to give him a shorter leash. Minnesota hung a five-spot on him in the bottom of the fourth inning Monday night, turning a 2-1 Sox lead into a 6-2 deficit. No, it wasn't all Danks' fault. Shortstop Alexei Ramirez made a crucial error behind him that opened the door for the big inning, but the Twins scored three runs after two were out, as well. Danks had opportunities to make pitches, pick his teammate up and minimize the damage. He failed to do that.

He should have been removed after that fourth inning. A four-run deficit is not good, but it's not insurmountable. The Sox's long and middle relievers were all fresh and available to use. Manager Robin Ventura should have gone to one of them. You hope a fresh relief pitcher can keep Minnesota at six runs, and then maybe your offense can come back.

Instead, Ventura trotted the ineffective Danks out there for both the fifth and sixth innings, apparently wanting him to "eat innings." Predictable results followed -- a three-run homer by Kennys Vargas in the sixth made it 9-2. Then, the game was over.

The whole thing was disturbing and disheartening. By sending Danks back out after he had been roughed up, it felt like Ventura was conceding the game. And he can't afford to concede games to division foes right now. The Sox are 30-39, 11 games out and in last place. There has to be an urgency to win right now. You can't allow a struggling pitcher such as Danks to go out there and torpedo everything for 24 other guys. There's no rule that says Danks has to stay in for 90 to 100 pitches no matter what. When he's bad, pull him and give the team a chance to come back and win. This isn't rocket science.

On Monday night, it seemed as though Ventura was managing for tomorrow when he needed to win today. The Sox skipper is running out of tomorrows, maybe a lot faster than he realizes.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Quantifying the White Sox offensive woes

Toronto starting pitcher Drew Hutchison entered Monday night's game against the White Sox with an ERA of 6.06. Naturally, he fired a four-hit shutout in the Blue Jays' 6-0 win over the South Siders. While not feeling well.

Right now, the Sox offense is enough to make you sick to your stomach. They've lost six out of their last eight games to fall to 19-23 on the season. They've scored just 15 runs during that stretch, and have not scored more than three runs in any game during that time.

You look around the league, and you'll see that most teams have a hitter or two performing under expectations. That's baseball. Sometimes guys have slow starts, or bad years. That's just how it goes.

But the Sox? Well, they've got seven of their nine regulars performing below their career norms and below the numbers they posted in 2014. Avisail Garcia is the lone exception. For purposes of this discussion, we'll just exempt second base, because the Sox have played two rookies with little or no track record there throughout the season.

Let's take a look at the on-base plus slugging (OPS) numbers for the eight Sox regulars who do not play second base -- biggest drop-offs listed first:

Only Avisail Garcia has swung the bat well for the White Sox this year.
Melky Cabrera
2015 OPS: .558
2014 OPS: .808
Diff: -.250
Career OPS: .747

Jose Abreu
2015 OPS: .964
2014 OPS: .808
Diff: -.156
Career OPS: .929

Adam Eaton
2015 OPS: .621
2014 OPS: .763
Diff: -.142
Career OPS: .721

Adam LaRoche
2015 OPS: .682
2014 OPS: .817
Diff: -.135
Career OPS: .808

Tyler Flowers
2015 OPS: .559
2014 OPS: .693
Diff: -.134
Career OPS: .660

Alexei Ramirez
2015 OPS: .614
2014 OPS: .713
Diff: -.099
Career OPS: .715

Conor Gillaspie
2015 OPS: .683
2014 OPS: . 752
Diff: -.069
Career OPS: .714

Garcia
2015 OPS: .821
2014 OPS: .718
Diff: +.103
Career OPS: .746

So, there are basically six players in the Sox everyday lineup whose OPS is down 100 points over where it was last season. That's two-thirds of a lineup that could be characterized as severely underachieving. Remarkable.

Only Garcia is better than he was last season. Only Garcia is performing better than his career average. Everyone else is under career norms, some significantly so.

You would think these guys would eventually come back to their career levels, wouldn't you? There's no sign of that happening right now.


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Three changes the White Sox could make today that wouldn't cost a thing

Last night, we highlighted the poor defense the White Sox played in the first inning behind starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija. Pitiful glove work sadly has become the norm and not the exception for this Chicago team through the first 29 games of the season.

If you've been watching, you already know that, so I won't pain you with further examples of the problem.

Rather, I'd like to present three changes the Sox could make today that would improve the team and not cost a thing. Note that none of these suggestions involve firing any of the organization men in the dugout.
Carlos Sanchez

  • 2. Move Carlos Rodon permanently into the rotation. Hector Noesi is a two-pitch pitcher. Put him in the bullpen where he belongs.
  • 3. Have Jose Abreu and Adam LaRoche flip roles. LaRoche becomes the primary first baseman. Abreu becomes the designated hitter most days.

I've identified three major problems with this team over the course of this 12-17 start. One of them is the catching situation. Unfortunately, there are no internal solutions, other than crossing your fingers and hoping Tyler Flowers and Geovany Soto play better.

The other two problems are very correctable with the solutions already available in house. One of the two is the back of the starting rotation. It's just not working out with Noesi, who hasn't won a start since Aug. 27, 2014. Rodon is ready and able, so let him pitch. Yes, he will have his ups and downs as all young players do, but I don't think having him pitch mop-up duty in the bullpen helps his development, nor does it help the Sox win games. Putting Rodon in the rotation allows him to not only develop his pitches, it will allow him to impact winning and losing. Based on what I've seen from Rodon, he will help the Sox more than he hurts them.

The biggest flaw on this team -- and it's a fatal one if it doesn't get addressed soon -- is the infield defense. The fan base is howling. They want manager Robin Ventura fired on the grounds that he doesn't emphasize fundamentals enough, and that he doesn't hold players accountable for their poor defense.

But let's take a step back and make an honest assessment of this infield: Abreu at first base, Johnson at second base, Alexei Ramirez at shortstop, and Conor Gillaspie at third base.

I'm sorry, but three of those four men are poor defensive players. All but Ramirez, who will soon turn 34 and is starting to show some regression, are subpar with the glove. People preach about accountability, but Ventura could show these guys the Tom Emanski instructional videos and drill them on fundamentals all day and they still wouldn't be a good defensive infield.

The good news is potential solutions exist, if the Sox would be willing to give them a try. Sanchez is a good fielding second baseman, and he's hitting .369/.394/.500 in Charlotte. Why isn't he in Chicago?

LaRoche is a top-notch fielder, yet the Sox are using him as their primary DH. Why? Team brass probably has a reason. I just don't know what it is.

Make LaRoche-Sanchez-Ramirez-Gillaspie your infield, and all of sudden your defense goes from pitiful to adequate, if not slightly above average. On days Gordon Beckham plays third base in place of Gillaspie, that infield is above average defensively.

Why won't the Sox try it? The organization has an annoying habit of ignoring defense when it comes to lineup and roster decisions. With the Sox, it's offense, offense, offense. Young players are promoted in the minor leagues based upon what they do offensively. Johnson is here because he's perceived as being ready for the big leagues offensively. His slow hands and poor footwork defensively are completely ignored, because the Sox are forever searching for that offensive upside.

It's backfiring, and they are too obstinate to make a change. They ought to reconsider before the season swirls completely down the drain.

Miserable first inning typical of White Sox malaise

This isn't a newsflash, but the White Sox stink on the road.

Sure, they had a nice 4-2 homestand, taking two out of three from both the Detroit Tigers and the Cincinnati Reds, but it's naive to think the Sox's early-season struggles are over until they can resemble a major league team while playing away from the comfortable environs of U.S. Cellular Field.

The Sox fell to 2-12 on the road Monday with a 10-7 loss to the NL Central cellar-dwelling Milwaukee Brewers, and the South Siders wasted no time reminding fans just how bad a team they are. The first inning of this game was disgraceful.  Let's take a moment to review the sad timeline:
  • Milwaukee leadoff hitter Gerardo Parra hit a grounder toward second baseman Micah Johnson, whose lame attempt to backhand the ball was a failure. The ball deflected off Johnson's glove for a "single." The play should have been made. It was not.
  • Parra successfully stole second base, and catcher Geovany Soto's throw was nowhere near the bag. Parra had a good enough jump that he probably would have been safe regardless, but Soto still looked like a fool with his lame toss.
  • Ryan Braun, the second Milwaukee hitter of the game, hit a weak grounder to shortstop that Alexei Ramirez kicked for an error. The play should have been made. It was not. Runners on first and third, no outs.
  • Adam Lind, the third Milwaukee hitter of the game, hit what should have been a double-play ball to Johnson, who was too slow to field it and too slow to get the ball to Ramirez. The Sox did force Braun out at second base, but Lind was needlessly safe at first. The play should have been made. It was not.
  • Sox pitcher Jeff Samardzija hangs a slider to Milwaukee cleanup hitter Carlos Gomez, who homers to put the Brewers up 3-0.
Amazing, isn't it? Four batters into the first inning, and the Sox had already made a handful of glaring miscues. Is it any wonder this team is 12-17?

Samardzija eventually dug the team a 6-0 hole, and to the Sox's credit, they did battle back against inferior Milwaukee pitching to tie the game at 7-7 in the eighth inning.

Alas, reliever Zach Duke had his first bad outing of the year. He gave up three runs, including home runs by Elian Herrera and Khris Davis, in the bottom of the eighth inning. That Milwaukee rally sealed the Sox's fate. It was a fate they deserved after another night on the road of pitiful defense and subpar starting pitching.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Jose Abreu says White Sox need to play better, then White Sox beat Indians

It would be meathead-ish to say the White Sox's 6-0 win over the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday afternoon had anything to do with first baseman Jose Abreu's pregame comments.

Nevertheless, it was nice to hear the best player on the team speak up and acknowledge it hasn't been going well for the Sox in the early going, and that things need to improve soon.

"We have to be more a unit, like a team -- the players, the coaches, everybody. Because we need to start playing well … better," said Abreu through interpreter and White Sox Spanish-language broadcaster Billy Russo, according to an article on whitesox.com.

Abreu's comments came after the Sox hadn't done much offensively the first two games of the series against Cleveland, especially early in games. In Monday's opener, they rallied to win, 4-3, with four runs in the bottom of the ninth inning. On Tuesday, they managed to get the tying run to the plate in the eighth inning, but no comeback was forthcoming in a 6-2 loss.

Abreu correctly noted the Sox were having better at-bats late in games, but of course, what's really needed is a good approach on a consistent basis.

"We have to start the game with that mentality and that fierceness to try to create opportunities, not just wait until the ninth inning to see what happens," Abreu said. "But I think that we are OK. I hope so. I am very confident that we will be OK at the end of the season."

They will be OK at the end of the season if they play like they did Wednesday. Abreu backed those comments up by going 2-for-4 with three RBIs in the victory. He hit a solo home run in the first inning to give the Sox an early lead, and his two-run double in the seventh capped a three-run rally that put the game away.

Cleveland's Corey Kluber, the 2014 AL Cy Young winner, gave up a career-high 13 hits and was touched up for all six runs.

Meanwhile, Jeff Samardzija picked up his first win in a Sox uniform with a workmanlike six shutout innings. Samardzija did not have his best stuff, but he pitched out of jams in four of his six innings.

  • The Indians had runners on first and third with one out in the second inning. They did not score.
  • The Indians loaded the bases in the third inning. They did not score.
  • The Indians had runners at first and second with two outs in the fourth. They did not score.
  • The Indians got a leadoff double in the sixth inning. They could not score, despite Samardzija being over 100 pitches at the start of the inning.
Eight of the nine Sox starters had at least one hit. Adam Eaton, Melky Cabrera, Abreu, Adam LaRoche, Alexei Ramirez and Micah Johnson had two hits each.

This win was as good as any the 6-8 Sox have had to this point in the season.



Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Was Monday's comeback win a slumpbuster for the White Sox?

If you watched Monday's game between the White Sox and the Cleveland Indians, you know it was looking like another lifeless loss for the South Siders.

The Sox were limited to no runs on four hits over the first eight innings by the combination of Cleveland starter Trevor Bauer and two relievers, and the Indians took a seemingly comfortable 3-0 lead into the ninth.

But it all unraveled from there for closer Cody Allen and the Tribe, as the Sox rallied for a 4-3 win. Chicago had six hits in the ninth inning, and it benefited from a tactical error by Indians manager Terry Francona and just poor pitching by Allen.

The key play came with one out and runners on second and third in the bottom of the ninth, when Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez sent a deep drive into center field. Francona had started Mike Aviles, an infielder by trade, in center field and inexplicably allowed him to remain in the game late, despite his regular center fielder (Michael Bourn) presumably being available off the bench.

I think Bourn makes the catch on Ramirez's ball for the second out of the inning, but he wasn't out there. Aviles was, and he took an odd route to the ball and seemingly didn't know where the wall was. He pulled up short, and the ball hit the base of the fence for a two-run double that brought the Sox within a run at 3-2.

Allen would completely implode from there, failing to record another out. Tyler Flowers, Gordon Beckham, Adam Eaton and Melky Cabrera delivered four consecutive singles, with Beckham's hit tying the game and Cabrera's winning it.

The victory improved the Sox record to 5-7, which strangely sounds a lot better than 4-8, although it's only a one-game difference. The question is whether a come-from-behind win like this can get the Sox going for the first time this year.

Well, it depends a lot on Tuesday night's starting pitcher, Hector Noesi. Quite a few Sox fans had hoped Saturday's 12-3 thumping of the Detroit Tigers was the slumpbuster Chicago was looking for. Unfortunately, any "momentum" from that victory dissipated quickly when Jose Quintana gave up a grand slam to Yoenis Cespedes in the first inning Sunday. The Tigers waxed the Sox, 9-1, in that game and put any thoughts of  Chicago building on Saturday's win to rest.

After the inspired rally on Monday, the Sox are once again in position to potentially get something started. If they get a good outing from Noesi on Tuesday, maybe they will. But the joy of Monday's win won't mean a thing if Noesi goes out and gives up four or five runs early in the game.

The Sox need their starting pitcher to put up some zeroes early, and if they can score in the early innings against Indians starter Carlos Carrasco, then maybe things will start to snowball their way.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Weekend thoughts: Chris Sale, bullpen, late-game managerial tactics

The White Sox won't go 0-162 after all, after they picked up a pair of weekend victories over the Minnesota Twins. The Sox rallied from a 4-0 deficit Saturday to win, 5-4, and backed that up with a 6-2 win Sunday. Here are a few takeaways from what we saw in these two games:

1. Chris Sale looks healthy. The Sox ace was facing major league hitters for the first time this year after missing most of the spring with an avulsion fracture in his foot, but there were few signs of rust as he picked up the victory in Sunday's game.

The left-hander allowed one run on five hits over six innings. He struck out eight, walked just one and threw 72 of his 98 pitches for strikes. His 98th and final pitch registered 98 mph on the radar gun. The velocity and command of his fastball were both present, and his changeup was working well, too.

The exciting thing about Sale is there is still another level he can get to from here. His slider was ineffective Sunday. He threw it only 10 times, and by my unofficial count, three of the five hits he allowed came on that pitch. When a pitcher misses time with injury, usually the last thing to come back to him is the feel for his breaking pitch. That was the only component missing for Sale in this start.

Fortunately, his overpowering fastball and effective change were more than enough against a light-hitting Twins team. Sale's next start is against the Detroit Tigers, so he'll likely need the slider a little more against a better offensive team.

2. One of the better parts of this weekend for me as a Sox fan was seeing newly acquired relievers David Robertson and Zach Duke do the jobs they were signed to do.

Duke worked a scoreless eighth Saturday to keep the game tied at 4-4. After the Sox scored a run in the bottom half of the inning to take a 5-4 lead, Robertson struck out all three hitters he faced in the ninth inning to earn his first save with the Sox.

Robertson overpowered the 7-8-9 hitters in the Minnesota lineup. It was an example of a dominant closer dominating hitters he should be dominating, so from that perspective the achievement probably shouldn't be celebrated that much.

But from the perspective of Sox fans, we've watched our alleged "closers" fail to throw strikes to punch-and-judy hitters and walk their way into trouble one too many times over the past few seasons. It was a refreshing change to watch Robertson go right at guys and protect a one-run lead without forcing fans to gnaw their fingernails down to their bloody stubs.

Duke also worked the eighth inning on Sunday. The defense behind him was poor -- he was forced to get five outs in the inning -- but he limited the damage to just one run. Duke left the mound with a 3-2 lead. The Sox scored three in the bottom of the eighth, and Robertson once again retired the side in order in the ninth in a non-save situation.

3. Speaking of the bottom of the eighth inning Sunday, the Sox took advantage of what I thought was a rookie mistake by new Twins manager Paul Molitor.

Minnesota relief pitcher Aaron Thompson had a pretty good series for himself. Thompson retired all four batters he faced Saturday. He retired all four batters he faced Sunday, too. He posted a 1-2-3 seventh inning and struck out Sox DH Adam LaRoche to start the eighth inning.

But I guess the left-handed Thompson was doing too good of a job. Molitor apparently didn't want him to face Avisail Garcia with one out and nobody on base in a 3-2 game, so he brought in right-hander Blaine Boyer.

Boyer faced four hitters -- all right-handed -- and he gave up a single to Garcia, an RBI single to Alexei Ramirez, a two-run homer to Gordon Beckham and a single to Tyler Flowers. All four were line drives.

Did I mention Boyer was the same guy who blew the game for the Twins on Saturday? Boyer is terrible, but Molitor wanted his righty-vs.-righty matchups, and he got them.

Personally, I felt like doing cartwheels when Molitor removed the effective Thompson from the game. It's always amazing to me when managers remove a left-handed pitcher who is throwing the ball well for no other reason than the fact that a right-handed hitter is stepping to home plate.

It's just silly, lazy managing, and it worked out nicely for the Sox in this case.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Opening Day at U.S. Cellular Field




Opening Day at U.S. Cellular Field is always one of my favorite days of the year.  The long, cold winter is over. A new season has begun, and it's a chance to celebrate that renewal with good friends and take in a ballgame. (See photos)


Too bad the White Sox missed the memo that this was supposed to be a happy occasion. I've been to the Sox home opener every year since 2010, and this is the first year I've seen them lose. Until Friday's 6-0 defeat at the hands of the Minnesota Twins, the Sox had won their home opener every year since 2007.

I guess it was inevitable that they'd drop one eventually, but this loss was pretty galling. The festive, sellout crowd that was present at the start of the game had thinned out to just us diehards by the time the game ended. The Sox looked terrible, and the loss dropped them to 0-4 -- the first time they've started a season with four consecutive losses since 1995.

Even though the Sox have been struggling, I did not expect their bats to be silenced by Minnesota left-hander Tommy Milone, a soft-tosser who reminded me a little bit of Bruce Chen. Milone worked 7.2 shutout innings and allowed just two hits -- a bunt single by Micah Johnson in the third and two-out double to Tyler Flowers in the eighth. The Sox did not have a runner reach third base until the ninth inning.

The Sox have scored one run or fewer in three of their first four games, and obviously, that doesn't lend itself to success. Look at some of these bad starts from hitters you expect to perform:

Adam Eaton: 2 for 16
Melky Cabrera: 2 for 16
Jose Abreu: 3 for 14
Avisail Garcia: 3 for 11 with all three hits coming in the same game
Adam LaRoche: 1 for 14 with 8 strikeouts
Alexei Ramirez: 1 for 12

These are all guys with a track record, but none of them are swinging the bat well right now. You just have to cross your fingers and hope they start hitting the way they have in the past.

But perhaps the most ridiculous thing I've seen from the Sox is their terrible baserunning. I know they want to be aggressive, but they've crossed the line to criminal stupidity. After Johnson's bunt single Friday, he was picked off second base -- the second time he's been picked off already this year. The final out of the game, somewhat fittingly, came on a bad baserunning play by Eaton. He tried to score from third on a shallow pop to left off Abreu's bat. He was tagged out while getting tangled up at the plate with Minnesota catcher Kurt Suzuki, and for what? Even if he's safe, it's 6-1. Why risk injury by making a reckless play like that in 6-0 game in the ninth?

It's time for the Sox to pull in the reins on their new "aggressive" baserunning strategy. So far, it's resulted in no stolen bases, and by my count, six gift outs for the opposition, including the two today. When you're not swinging the bats well, the problem is compounded when you waste outs on the basepaths.

And, oh, by the way, starting pitcher Hector Noesi stunk Friday. He walked six, threw two wild pitches and committed a balk in just 4.2 innings pitched. It's a miracle the Twins only scored two runs off him after they loaded the bases three times in the first five innings. Against a better hitting team, I believe Noesi would have been shelled today. Throughout the offseason, Sox brass was bullish on Noesi and insisted he would be improved for this season. Count me among the skeptics.

Reliever Zach Putnam also allowed three runs in the ninth inning Friday, increasing my suspicion that he was a one-year wonder in 2014.

It's too bad the play on the field had to be so bad for Opening Day. After that, you wonder how many of the 38,000-some in attendance on Friday will want to return. I'm going back to the ballpark tomorrow, but perhaps I'm just a glutton for punishment.



Thursday, April 9, 2015

Same old story for White Sox in Kansas City

White Sox left-hander John Danks is 4-1 with a 1.95 ERA in 11 career starts in Kansas City. In fact, he's 7-1 with a 2.64 ERA in 17 lifetime starts against the Royals.

Unforunately, that one loss was Thursday, as the Royals defeated the White Sox, 4-1, to complete a three-game sweep. Not even Danks' track record of success in Kansas City could prevent the South Siders from sliding to an 0-3 start to the 2015 season.

Like most Sox pitchers, Danks did not have a good spring, and he was shelled by Triple-A hitters in each of his final two exhibition outings. In that context, I think most Sox fans would have been delighted if he had gotten through six innings Thursday and kept his team in the game.

He was one strike away from doing that, but a high changeup to Salvador Perez with two outs in the bottom of the sixth got hammered over the left-field fence, increasing a 2-0 Kansas City lead to 4-0. At that point, the sweep was inevitable.

The two teams traded HBPs throughout the series, and the only reason the Sox got on the board in this game was because Kansas City starter Edinson Volquez was apparently trying to settle the score in that regard in the seventh inning.

Volquez beaned Adam LaRoche with two outs and nobody on base. After a walk to Avisail Garcia, the HBP came around to score on an RBI single by Alexei Ramirez.

If Volquez was trying to send a message, I think he was wasting his time. The Royals sent a much louder message by outplaying the Sox in every facet. They outscored the Sox 21-7 in the series, and the scoreboard was an accurate reflection of the play.

The Royals have now won 14 of the last 17 head-to-head matchups with the Sox, and that's something that's going to have to change if the Sox are to contend in the AL Central this year.

The Sox will now limp home for a three-game weekend series against the Minnesota Twins. If there's a silver lining here, it's that the Twins also are 0-3. Minnesota got outscored 22-1 in its three-game series loss to the Detroit Tigers. We'll find out Friday which team is playing worse, the Twins or the Sox.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

White Sox give fans an Opening Day to forget

Opening Day of the baseball season is supposed to be about new beginnings and new hope. Unfortunately for the White Sox and their fans, Opening Day 2015 proved to be way too reminiscent of 2014.

The Kansas City Royals won 13 of 19 meetings against the White Sox on their way to the American League pennant last season, and they continued their mastery of the South Siders on Monday with an easy 10-1 victory.

You would like to think with all the acquisitions the Sox made over the offseason things would be different now, but at least for one day, the faces have changed but the results remained the same.

Starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija pitched poorly in his Sox debut. His fastball command was erratic at best. His offspeed pitches weren't working at all, and the result was five Kansas City runs on six hits over six-plus innings. Samardzija walked three and hit two batters, and he struck out just one. There wasn't anything good to say about his outing, other than the fact that the Sox were still in the game -- down 4-1 -- when he left the mound in the seventh inning. It could have been worse.

Relievers Dan Jennings and Kyle Drabek also struggled. By the time that seventh inning was over, Kansas City held a 9-1 lead. A 3-run homer by Alex Rios (off Drabek) was the highlight of the frame for the Royals, but in many ways, all five of those runs were gifts.

First off, Samardzija and Jennings each walked a batter to give the Royals two baserunners with nobody out. But it looked like Jennings had a chance to get out of the inning, as he got Lorenzo Cain to ground out and struck out Eric Hosmer. But with runners on second and third and two outs, Sox manager Robin Ventura needlessly ordered an intentional walk of Kendrys Morales.

Ventura wanted the left-handed Jennings to face the left-handed hitting Alex Gordon, but as we discussed when Jennings was acquired, he's not a lefty specialist. He actually gets right-handed hitters out at a better clip than lefties, so giving the Royals a third walk and a third baserunner in the inning was foolish move.

Still, Jennings made the pitch he needed to make to get out of the inning, but a weak grounder by Gordon somehow eluded both Alexei Ramirez and Micah Johnson and squirted into center field for a two-run single and a 6-1 Kansas City lead. It was a play Johnson should have made, but the play is at least partially Ramirez's fault because he jumped in front of the Sox rookie and perhaps screened him from seeing the ball.

The inning should have been over with the Royals still leading 4-1. Instead, it continued and Rios hit his home run to end any doubt on how this afternoon would end.

The Sox looked bad in all aspects, and it was hard not to feel like there wasn't some carryover from a poor ending to spring training. The South Siders had lost their last two exhibition games, a 10-2 drubbing against Arizona and a silly 10-2 loss to the Triple-A Charlotte Knights. Ventura had warned his team that enough was enough, and that the sloppy play needed to end.

That warning went unheeded, and similar results ensued in the opener in Kansas City. There were three silver linings from this game. 1) Jose Abreu homered, ending needless worries about his lack of power during spring training; 2) Johnson got his first big-league hit out of the way; and 3) it only counts as one loss and there's another game on Wednesday.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Catching up on White Sox roster moves, other news

The White Sox have almost finalized their 25-man roster for Opening Day with a flurry of roster moves over the past 48 hours, so let's get updated on the comings and goings.

Micah Johnson vs. Carlos Sanchez: Surprise! Both candidates for the starting second base job made the team, according to manager Robin Ventura. However, Ventura has yet to name his second baseman for the April 6 opener in Kansas City. Having both these two guys on the roster is likely a temporary situation. The team will open the year with 11 pitchers. When Chris Sale comes off the disabled list -- presumably on April 12 -- one of Johnson or Sanchez will be sent to the minors.

J.B. Shuck: Thanks to his .339/.391/.441 slash line this spring, Shuck has made the roster as a fourth outfielder. He also has stolen five bases during Cactus League play, and he might be the best defensive corner outfielder on the roster coming into the season.

Geovany Soto: The former Cub has secured the backup catching position, perhaps sealing his spot by throwing out 3 of 4 potential base stealers during a Tuesday game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. And, Soto would have thrown out 4 of 4 had shortstop Alexei Ramirez not missed a tag on Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig. Soto's .281/.439/.469 slash line didn't hurt his cause, either. He clearly distinguished himself over the other catching candidates.

Matt Albers: The veteran reliever made the 25-man roster despite allowing seven runs over his last three outings. He did start the spring strong with four consecutive scoreless innings, so perhaps that left an impression. Albers had a 3.14 ERA in 56 games for the Cleveland Indians in his last healthy season (2013), so perhaps the Sox believe with renewed health he can return to the form he showed two years ago.

Carlos Rodon: The heralded pitching prospect is headed back to Triple-A Charlotte, as expected, but he left one final good impression Tuesday with 5.1 innings of one-run ball against the Dodgers. The lefty finished the spring with a team-best 21 strikeouts in 17.2 innings and a 3.06 ERA. It won't be a surprise if we see him on the South Side before the 2015 season is over.

Jesse Crain and Brad Penny: The two pitchers were each paid $100,000 retention bonuses to stay with the organization, under rules governing minor league contracts. Both players will remain in the White Sox system with a June 1 opt-out clause, should they not reach the majors before then. Crain is still working his way back from shoulder problems that cost him the entire 2014 season.

Sale update: The White Sox ace struck out 13 Cincinnati Reds minor leaguers in a six-inning outing on Wednesday. He will have one more outing at extended spring training Monday before a likely return to the rotation April 12.

With that, I think we're all set on the news and notes. For now. There is still one more spot in the Sox bullpen to be claimed. I think it's going to Kyle Drabek. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

White Sox announce early lineup for SoxFest 2015

White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu and shortstop Alexei Ramirez are among the current players scheduled to attend SoxFest 2015 at the Hilton Chicago from Jan. 23-25.

In a news release and an email to fans, the team released a list of eight players who are expected to appear at the annual convention. Joining Abreu and Ramirez will be outfielders Adam Eaton and Avisail Garcia, catcher Tyler Flowers, third baseman Conor Gillaspie and pitchers Jose Quintana and Jake Petricka.

Sox manager Robin Ventura, pitching coach Don Cooper and hitting coach Todd Steverson also are scheduled to attend.

That's a good list. Chris Sale is probably the only current player fans care to see who isn't on there.

The Sox have said former players from the 2005 World Series championship team will be at SoxFest this year for a 10-year anniversary celebration. Unfortunately, we've yet to hear exactly which players will be back in Chicago.

Maybe the team just hasn't gotten those former players to commit yet, but in the interest of selling hotel packages and weekend passes, you would think the Sox would want to release that list of names sooner rather than later.

Call me crazy, but I think Jermaine Dye, Joe Crede, Aaron Rowand, Scott Podsednik and the newly retired Paul Konerko, et al, would sell more SoxFest passes than any of the current players would.

We'll stay tuned to see if there's any more news on this in the coming weeks.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Max Scherzer outduels Chris Sale in marquee pitching matchup

There aren't many hitters in the American League who routinely get the best of White Sox ace Chris Sale. Detroit Tigers 1B/DH Victor Martinez can count himself among the few.

Martinez hit a solo home run off Sale in the top of the fifth inning Thursday night at U.S. Cellular Field, and that proved to be the game-winning hit as the Tigers avoided a sweep with a 4-0 win over Chicago.

Martinez is now 13 for 25 (.520) with two home runs in his career against Sale.

The much-anticipated pitching matchup between Sale and reigning Cy Young award winner Max Scherzer did not disappoint.

As we've noted, Justin Verlander is no longer the Detroit ace. Scherzer is, and he delivered the first complete-game shutout of his career (179 starts) on Thursday. The right-hander limited the Sox to just three hits, while striking out eight and walking three. Only twice did Chicago have two baserunners in the same inning. The Sox' best scoring chance came in the fourth when they had runners at second and third with two outs after Conor Gillaspie reached on an error and Alexei Ramirez doubled. However, Scherzer (8-2) retired Dayan Viciedo on a flyout to avoid any damage.

Sale (5-1) once again pitched extremely well. He simply got outpitched in suffering his first loss of the season. He allowed only one run on five hits over seven innings. He struck out 10 hitters (all swinging) and walked none.

Unfortunately for the Sox, Sale had thrown 116 pitches through seven innings and had to be removed from the game. The Tigers scored two runs in the eighth off reliever Jake Petricka and another run in the ninth off Daniel Webb.

But on this night, all Scherzer needed was one run, and the Sox missed a chance to get out the brooms against Detroit for the first time since 2008.

Yes, you read that right. The last time the Sox swept a three-game series against Detroit: April 4-6, 2008. Six years is a long time to go without a sweep against a team you play 18 times every year.

Suffice to say it will be easier for the Sox to beat Detroit once Martinez and his .327 lifetime average against Chicago retire. 

Friday, May 30, 2014

White Sox All-Star possibilities -- there actually are some for a change

If you've recently been to a White Sox game and paid attention to the left field scoreboard, you know the team always runs an advertisement encouraging fans to vote their favorite "White Sox stars" into the All-Star Game. The advertisement always includes a list of Sox players who appear on this year's ballot.

The list always elicits a bit of a chuckle, as if anyone in their right mind would ever attempt to vote Alejandro De Aza into the All-Star Game. And last year, it would have been embarrassing to say you voted for any of the Sox' position players. None deserved the honor, and none were selected. Pitchers Chris Sale and Jesse Crain represented the club at the 2013 event.

This year is different, though. There actually are three Sox position players worth All-Star consideration. I'd go as far as saying one of them deserves your vote. Here's a list of Sox players who might make the trip to Minneapolis for the July 15 midsummer classic:

1. Alexei Ramirez - He has been the best shortstop in the American League this year. Based on merit, he deserves to start. Too bad he won't. In case you've been in a coma the past few months, New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter is retiring at the end of the season. The 39-year-old isn't the player he used to be, but there's no doubt the fans will give the future Hall of Famer the starting nod based on sentiment.

But, Ramirez is an easy choice for the next guy in line at shortstop. Entering Friday's play, he's tied for second in the league with a .327 batting average. His OPS is a career-high .843. He's got seven home runs, 36 RBIs and 10 stolen bases. After a poor defensive season last year, he's returned to form this season with just four errors to go along with a host of spectacular plays.

If he you believe in advanced metrics, Ramirez ranks eighth in the AL in offensive WAR, seventh in defensive WAR and fifth in the league in overall WAR. And, oh yeah, he's started all 55 White Sox games at shortstop.

He's the White Sox' MVP this year. He's got my vote.

2. Jose Abreu - The slugging first baseman has been on the disabled list for nearly two weeks, yet he still ranks third in the AL in home runs (15), fourth in RBIs (42), fourth in extra base hits (27) and 10th in total bases (103). The Sox' lineup looks different this year when Abreu is in it. He's a guy that pitchers fear every time he steps in the batters box, and the Sox haven't had that element since Jim Thome left the team.

First base is a crowded position in the American League, though. Toronto's Edwin Encarnacion has had a monster month of May and probably deserves to start, although Detroit's Miguel Cabrera will get the nod based upon his past track record. Albert Pujols (14 home runs) has regained his power stroke this year, and Brandon Moss has had a fine season for Oakland.

There's no shortage of competition among first basemen, so Abreu will need to get back in the lineup soon to have a shot at being selected. Reports indicate he will come off the disabled list the first day he is eligible -- June 2. If Abreu jumps back in and continues hitting like he did the first six or seven weeks of the season, he's got a great chance.

3. Conor Gillaspie - Bet you never thought you'd see Gillaspie's name on a list like this. I'm not going to tell you to vote for Gillaspie to start, because Oakland's Josh Donaldson is the best third baseman in the American League -- both offensively and defensively. In fact, Donaldson is an MVP candidate to this point in the season because he is the best player on a first-place team.

That said, it's hard to ignore Gillaspie's .352/.394/.461 slash line, especially since third base isn't among the stronger positions in the American League. Gillaspie had a two-week stint on the disabled list earlier this year, which means he doesn't have quite enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title. But, if he did, he'd be leading the league in hitting right now.

I'm not convinced Gillaspie is going to keep up the pace. Nothing about his track record suggests he will. However, if he stays hot for another couple weeks, he might find himself in Minnesota on July 15.

4. Sale -- The fans don't get to vote for pitchers, and I think Sale is a longshot to be chosen this year because he missed a whole month with an arm injury. But, he's been his usual dominant self when healthy -- 4-0 with a 1.73 ERA in six starts.

If "this one counts," as they say about the All-Star Game now, Sale is one of the pitchers who would give the American League the best opportunity to win. Left-handed hitters are batting .000 against him this season. I could see him being added to the All-Star roster just for the sake of being used as a situational left-hander in the late innings.

That said, I won't be upset if Sale doesn't get chosen this year. Coming off an arm injury, I just assume he not waste any of his bullets in the All-Star Game. As we've said in the past, he's the most important player in the Sox organization, and the team needs him healthy to compete.

Friday, May 2, 2014

White Sox can't be disappointed with their April performance

I know a 14-15 record isn't the stuff that championship dreams are made of, but if you're a realistic White Sox fan, you have to be pleased with the way the team has hung in there through the first month of the season.

The Sox spent most of April playing against playoff teams from last season (Boston, Detroit, Cleveland, Tampa Bay), plus a couple other teams that contended in the American League in 2013 (Kansas City, Texas). They endured injuries to key players such as Chris Sale, Avisail Garcia and Nate Jones, yet they stayed afloat against that difficult schedule.

Surprisingly, the South Siders enter May leading the American League in runs scored (154) and hits (275). They are second in the league in batting average (.269), slugging percentage (.431) and OPS (.764). They rank third in doubles (58), triples (6) and  home runs (32). And perhaps the greatest surprise of them all is the Sox managed to get all 16 of their scheduled April home games in without a single postponement.

As the calendar turns to May, here's a look back at the month that was:

The Great News

1. Jose Abreu looks like the real deal: a .270/.336/.617 slash line with 10 home runs, 8 doubles and 32 RBIs. As we've mentioned before, he won't produce like that every month, but there is plenty of reason to believe Abreu is a legitimate middle-of-the-order hitter.

2. Adam Eaton has played like the center fielder and leadoff hitter the Sox have been seeking for several years. Eaton has posted a .364 OBP with 20 runs scored in his first 24 games, and he's saved his pitchers some headaches with some outstanding plays in the outfield.

3. Tyler Flowers, for a change, isn't playing like a stiff. No way he hits .354 all year, but I'd be happy with .254. Flowers has changed his approach. In the past, most of the few hits he had went for extra bases. This year, not so. He's got 29 hits, 26 of which are singles. Last year, Flowers did not collect his 26th single of the season until July 25. Flowers looks to content to just try to get on base and turn the lineup over. Works for me.

The Good News

1. Alexei Ramirez is a different player than he was in 2013. We've talked previously about his hitting (.351/.375/.535). This was by far the best offensive April of his career. But perhaps more importantly, Ramirez has started playing good defense again. He committed only one error in April, after piling up 22 errors last year.

2. Dayan Viciedo has stepped up offensively to fill the void left by Garcia's absence. His slash is .348/.410/.528 with a team-best 11 doubles. Can you remember the last time Viciedo drew 10 walks in a month? That's probably never happened. A more patient approach at the plate has paid dividends. We stop short of putting Viciedo's performance in the "great" category because he's been a butcher in right field. It's fortunate the Sox have Eaton to patrol center field, because the corner outfield spots are weak points for the Sox defensively.

3. Adam Dunn is playing well enough that the Sox might be able to get out from underneath his contract with a midseason trade. Dunn is slashing .269/.402/.513 with five home runs and four doubles. Keep that up for another couple months and some team might want Dunn's bat for the stretch drive.

The Bad News

1.Sale is on the disabled list. The ace went 3-0 with a 2.30 ERA in four starts before being sidelined with a flexor strain in his pitching arm. I'm still not happy with the Sox for allowing Sale to throw 127 pitches on a cold night April 17 against Boston. He hasn't been on the mound since. It goes without saying the Sox can't hang in the race if Sale isn't healthy.

2. Garcia has lost a full year of development due to the torn labrum in his left shoulder. Garcia is a big part of the Sox's rebuilding plan. This was to be the 22-year-old's first full year in the big leagues, but now he faces a lengthy rehab process. It's uncertain what kind of player he will be when he returns. This is the sort of injury that can rob a hitter of some power. It's a concern, no question.

3. The bullpen remains unsettled a month into the season. Matt Lindstrom has been up and down as a closer, and I wouldn't expect him to remain in that role the whole season. The Sox would probably like a younger pitcher, such as Daniel Webb, to step up and grab that role, but it hasn't happened yet. Jones' DL stint isn't helping matters. Left-handed relief has been a weakness, as Donnie Veal was designated for assignment and veteran Scott Downs has struggled. After a rough start, Ronald Belisario has settled down and allowed only one unearned run over his last five outings covering eight innings.

The Ugly News

1. The Sox gambled that Felipe Paulino was healthy enough to be a serviceable veteran arm in their rotation. The gamble is looking like a fail right now as Paulino got lit up for 23 earned runs on 35 hits in 18.1 innings over four starts. Paulino is now on the disabled list with a swollen 11.29 ERA.

2. Walks. The Sox have issued 130 of them, more than any other team in the American League. I hate walks. They are my biggest pet peeve in baseball. There is no defense for the walk. Sure, if you throw the ball over the plate, the batter might hit it hard, but at least you give the defense a chance to make a play. Walks are just a free 90 feet, and they breathe life into the opposition's offense. The Sox have to throw more strikes and get ahead of more hitters.

3. Alejandro De Aza. He hit three home runs the first three games of the season, but that's about the lone bright spot. The .185/.255/.359 slash represents one of the worst months the left fielder has had since joining the Sox. With any luck, he'll heat up with the weather. His bat has been a sore spot.

So, what will May hold? Well, the Sox have 10 games in the next 16 days against the Cubs (9-17), the Diamondbacks (9-22) and the Astros (9-19). Those are three of the four worst teams in baseball entering Friday's play. If the Sox can win six or seven of those 10 games, they can stay in the AL Central race at least until June. If the Sox lose to those teams, well, that obviously would be a disappointment.