Showing posts with label Carlos Sanchez. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Carlos Sanchez. Show all posts

Friday, April 14, 2017

Surprise! White Sox win a series against defending AL champion Cleveland

Avisail Garcia -- AL's leading hitter as of April 14
We concluded yesterday's blog post by noting that White Sox manager Rick Renteria would be wise to avoid using relievers David Robertson and Nate Jones for a fourth straight game.

Well, guess what? There was never a reason to consider going to high-leverage bullpen guys in Thursday's game, as the Sox rolled to a 10-4 win over the Cleveland Indians.

The Sox (4-4) took two out of three from the defending AL champions and sent the Tribe (4-5) to their fifth loss in their past six games.

Shortstop Tim Anderson hit a home run off Cleveland starter Josh Tomlin (0-2) on the first pitch of the game, and that sparked a five-run first inning for the South Siders. The other four runs were scored after two were out. Matt Davidson hit a three-run, opposite-field homer to make it 4-0. Yolmer Sanchez doubled and scored on a single by Omar Narvaez to cap the rally.

The Sox ended up scoring nine of their 10 runs with two outs, and the trend continued in the second inning when Avisail Garcia delivered a two-run single to make it 7-1 and end Tomlin's night.

Final line for the Cleveland right-hander: 1.2 IP, 8 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 1 BB, 0 Ks, 2 HRs

It was nice to see the Sox knock Tomlin around. He had a 1.83 ERA in three starts and 19.2 IP against Chicago last year. Hey, it's a new season.

With all the early run support, you would have thought Miguel Gonzalez would have been in line for his second win. Alas, the right-hander ran up a high pitch count, walking four men in the first four innings, and he couldn't make it through the fifth after the Tribe scored two runs to cut the lead to 7-3.

Gonzalez allowed three earned runs on eight hits with five strikeouts in 4.2 innings.

Renteria, as we suggested, went to some of his secondary relievers. Anthony Swarzak, Dan Jennings and Tommy Kahnle combined for 4.1 innings of one-run relief. Swarzak (1-0) recorded five outs without allowing a run to pick up his first win as a member of the Sox.

The Sox put the game away with three more two-out runs in the eighth on singles by Jose Abreu, Cody Asche and Garcia.

Unbelievably, Garcia is leading the league in hitting with a .452 average. He also has eight RBIs. Cue the talk about small sample sizes.

The Sox will continue their nine-game road swing with a three-game weekend series in Minnesota. Here are the pitching matchups:

Friday: Dylan Covey (First appearance of 2017) vs. Adalberto Mejia (0-1, 10.80 ERA)
Saturday: Jose Quintana (0-2, 6.17 ERA) vs. Ervin Santana (2-0, 0.69 ERA)
Sunday: James Shields (1-0, 1.69 ERA) vs. Hector Santiago (1-1, 2.38 ERA)

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

White Sox pitcher James Shields will avoid 20-loss season

James Shields
For a change, struggling White Sox pitcher James Shields didn't lose Monday night.

The right-hander picked up his first victory since July 26, firing six innings of one-run ball in a 7-1 Sox win over Shields' former team, the Tampa Bay Rays.

With the victory, Shields improves to 6-18 (4-11 with the Sox) and ensures that he will not be a 20-game loser this season, regardless of the outcome of his final scheduled start Saturday against the Minnesota Twins.

Shields struggled for most of the game. Tampa Bay had multiple base runners in four of the six innings he pitched, but a couple of well-timed double plays and six strikeouts allowed Shields to pitch out of trouble.

I'm still 100 percent opposed to the idea of Shields being in the Sox's rotation for 2017. His 0-4 mark with an 11.42 ERA over six starts in August was more than enough for me to say it's time to move on. But the reality is Shields has two years left on his contract, and the Sox are probably going to trot him to the mound for 32 starts next season, so we're left with hoping the Shields of Monday night appears more often.

It didn't hurt that the Sox had another decent offensive game. Justin Morneau and Carlos Sanchez each hit two-run homers as part of an 11-hit attack. Morneau, Sanchez, Jose Abreu and Omar Narvaez had two hits each. Abreu picked up his 98th RBI, inching closer to reaching the 100-RBI mark for the third straight season. Melky Cabrera collected his 40th double Monday, becoming the first Sox hitter to reach that plateau since Jermaine Dye in 2008.

After a six-game losing streak, the Sox (75-81) have won three straight games and will send ace Chris Sale to the mound Tuesday in the second game of the four-game series with the Rays.

Monday, September 26, 2016

White Sox (temporarily) prevent Indians from clinching AL Central

Carlos Rodon
The Cleveland Indians would have the AL Central Division title wrapped up if they had won either of their last two games against the White Sox over the weekend.

Instead, the Sox surprised them with back-to-back victories and a rare series win in Cleveland. The Indians' magic number remains at 1 heading into Monday's action.

Here's a look back at the weekend in Cleveland:

Friday, September 23
Indians 10, White Sox 4: The Sox were in decent shape halfway through this game. They had a 4-2 lead headed to the bottom of the fifth inning, after a pair of two-run homers -- one by Melky Cabrera in the first inning and the other by Avisail Garcia in the fifth.

But the wheels came off for Sox starter Miguel Gonzalez (4-8) in the bottom of the fifth. The Tribe touched Gonzalez and reliever Juan Minaya up for four runs to take a 6-4 lead, and for good measure, they added four more in the sixth off the relief combination of Minaya and Dan Jennings.

Blessed with a 10-4 lead, Cleveland starter Trevor Bauer (12-8) got two outs deep in the eighth inning and picked up the win.

The Sox lost outfielder Adam Eaton for the rest of the series after he crashed into the center field wall hauling in a line drive off the bat of Cleveland catcher Roberto Perez in the fifth inning.

Saturday, September 24
White Sox 8, Indians 1: The Sox have scored a few more runs for Jose Quintana (13-11) the second half of the season, and this was the lastest example. A two-spot in the first inning gave Quintana the lead before he ever took the mound, and that had to be comforting for him, because he did not have his best stuff.

The left-hander worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the first inning, and kept the Indians to just one run in the second inning, when the Tribe left runners at second and third.

The Sox added single runs in the fifth and sixth innings -- Todd Frazier hit his 39th homer of the season in the sixth -- and then broke it open with a four-run hit parade in the eighth inning. Carlos Sanchez and Jose Abreu each had three-hit games to back Quintana, who nursed the lead through six innings.

Tommy Kahnle, Jennings, Nate Jones and David Robertson combined for three innings of scoreless relief to give the Sox just their second victory at Cleveland this season.

Sunday, September 25
White Sox 3, Indians 0: Cleveland entered the day with its magic number at 2, needing a win and a Detroit loss to clinch the division. The Tigers lost, 12-9, to Kansas City, but the Indians couldn't hold up their end of the deal.

Left-hander Carlos Rodon (8-10) turned in one of the finest performances by a Sox starting pitcher all season. He went eight shutout innings, allowing just two hits (both singles), and tied his career high with 11 strikeouts.

Frazier went 1 for 3 with a single, a walk, two stolen bases and two runs scored. Each of the two steals led directly to a run. Sanchez drove him home with a single in the fifth; Omar Narvaez knocked him in with a single in the ninth.

Those three runs were ample for Rodon, who needed just one inning of help from the bullpen. Robertson provided it with one of his most impressive performances in months. The closer earned his 36th save by striking out Cleveland's 3-4-5 hitters -- Jose Ramirez, Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana -- in succession, all on nasty curve balls.

The Sox (74-81) now come home to conclude the season. They've got four games with Tampa Bay and three with Minnesota at U.S. Cellular Field this week.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Why won't the White Sox play Justin Morneau vs. LHP?

Justin Morneau -- in younger years
The White Sox wasted more good pitching Thursday night, falling 2-1 to the Kansas City Royals.

After starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez left with an injury in the second inning, there was reason to believe this game could get out of hand. It did not, because relievers Michael Ynoa, Carson Fulmer and Tommy Kahnle combined to pitch seven innings of two-run ball.

Ynoa was particularly impressive. He worked three scoreless innings. He struck out three and did not allow a hit.

Too bad the Sox could muster only one run against Kansas City left-hander Danny Duffy, who pitched his first complete game in 97 career starts.

I guess we shouldn't be surprised given that the Sox fielded this weak lineup:

1. Adam Eaton, CF
2. Tyler Saladino, 3B
3. Melky Cabrera, LF
4. Jose Abreu, DH
5. Todd Frazier, 1B
6. Dioner Navarro, C
7. Tim Anderson, SS
8. Carlos Sanchez, 2B
9. Jason Coats, RF

Noticeable by his absence is Justin Morneau, who has turned out to be a nice addition for the Sox. The veteran is hitting .289/.337/.474 with five doubles, three home runs and nine RBIs in 21 games and 83 plate appearances since his return from the disabled list.

It's a small sample size, but that .811 OPS is better than anybody else on this team.

Given the fact that Morneau has been productive, why is manager Robin Ventura using him as a platoon player? Sure, Duffy is left-handed, and Morneau is left-handed, but what baseball universe are we living in where the light-hitting Sanchez gives the Sox a better chance to win against a pitcher such as Duffy?

Morneau has been allowed only 12 at-bats against left-handed pitching thus far, but he has four hits, including a double and a home run. For his career, he has a slash line of .253/.298/.411 against lefties. That's not world-beating, but it's respectable, and while that .710 OPS pales in comparison to his .891 career OPS against righties, Morneau is a threat every time he steps in the batter's box against either right-handers or left-handers. That's more than we can say for about half the guys listed in the lineup above.

I had one person tell me that Ventura made the right move by sitting Morneau on Thursday, because the Sox are out of the race and they need to "play the kids."

Please.

I could buy that explanation if I actually thought that was what Ventura was doing. But this is a manager who is playing J.B. Shuck over Coats. He's playing Navarro over Omar Narvaez. He's using Matt Albers in high-leverage relief situations instead of Ynoa or Fulmer.

He's not "playing the kids." He's still trying to win games with his veterans. If that's the philosophy he's taking, he needs Morneau to be the DH regardless of who is on the mound. The lineup the Sox trotted out Thursday against Duffy isn't going to cut it.

Friday, July 1, 2016

White Sox place Matt Davidson on DL, recall Carlos Sanchez

Matt Davidson
Catching up on roster moves before the White Sox (40-39) face the Houston Astros (42-37) in a three-game weekend series:

After left-hander Matt Purke contributed to the near-meltdown in the ninth inning Wednesday night against Minnesota, he was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte. Infielder Matt Davidson was called up, and he made an immediate contribution in Thursday's win over the Twins -- an RBI single and a run scored in the fourth inning.

Unfortunately, Davidson broke his right foot while running the bases sometime in that inning, and he has been placed on the 15-day disabled list.

You can't help but feel badly for Davidson, who struggled in Charlotte for two years before turning it around this season. He made the Triple-A All-Star team and earned his call-up. Now, he's looking at some extended time on the sidelines, and you hope the time off doesn't cause him to lose the good swing he's had working for him lately.

His loss, however, is Carlos Sanchez's gain. The infielder has been recalled from Charlotte to fill out the roster. Sanchez appeared in 11 games earlier this season with the Sox, hitting .154 with an RBI in 29 plate appearances. He was hitting .258/.313/.413 with six home runs and 24 RBIs for the Knights.

A few thoughts about Purke, who we may or may not see again in Chicago this year, he's an interesting case study on what happens when you stop throwing strikes.

The lefty reliever made 12 appearances with the Sox, and the first six were remarkably different than the last six. Purke's walk rate rose dramatically in his most recent outings.

First six appearances: 10 IP, 10 H, 4 ER, 5 Ks, 3 BBs, 3.60 ERA
Last six appearances: 8 IP, 10 H, 7 ER, 10 Ks, 9 BBs, 7.88 ERA

My saying is, "You walk people, you lose." In Purke's case, he walked people, and he found himself on a plane back to Charlotte.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Carlos Sanchez, Matt Davidson, Leury Garcia among latest Sox roster cuts

Carlos Sanchez
We are six days away from the start of the 2016 baseball season, and the White Sox are down to 31 players in major league camp after a series of Tuesday roster cuts.

Second baseman Carlos Sanchez, third baseman Matt Davidson, infielder Leury Garcia and relief pitcher Tommy Kahnle were optioned to Triple-A Charlotte. Outfielder Jason Coats also was reassigned to minor league camp.

Sanchez and Davidson did just about all they could this spring. Sanchez, who appeared in 120 games for the Sox last season, hit .333/.368/.593 with six doubles, two home runs in six RBIs in Cactus League play. He had two home runs in Monday's 11-7 win over the Colorado Rockies.

Davidson was the biggest surprise at camp. After two seasons of hitting around .200 at Charlotte, he showed up in Glendale and hit .413/.438/.783 with a team-high five home runs and nine RBIs.

Unfortunately for these two players, they didn't do enough last season to earn their way into the organization's plans, and they are now blocked by offseason acquisitions Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie. Both Sanchez, 23, and Davidson, 25, are still young and would be better off getting everyday at-bats in Charlotte than occupying the 25th spot on the Sox roster.

It's looking like that spot is going to go to veteran 1B/OF Travis Ishikawa, who has posted a .289/.347/.556 slash line in camp, with two home runs and nine RBIs. Ishikawa fills the need for a left-handed bat and backup option at first base after the abrupt retirement of Adam LaRoche earlier this spring.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Who takes Adam LaRoche's spot on White Sox roster?

Travis Ishikawa
Adam LaRoche hasn't officially announced his retirement yet, but we'll go ahead and assume he's played his last game with the White Sox.

What impact will this have on the roster moving forward?

For starters, it likely means a full-time role for recently signed outfielder Austin Jackson. The best guess here is Jackson is the center fielder, Adam Eaton moves to left field and Melky Cabrera replaces LaRoche as the primary DH. Here's the current projected starting nine, assuming Jimmy Rollins makes the club -- and we have no reason to believe he won't:

C: Alex Avila
1B: Jose Abreu
2B: Brett Lawrie
SS: Rollins
3B: Todd Frazier
LF: Eaton
CF: Jackson
RF: Avisail Garcia
DH: Cabrera

The four bench spots? Well, I think I have a good idea on three of them:

C: Dioner Navarro
IF: Tyler Saladino
OF: J.B. Shuck
UT: ???????????

With LaRoche out of the mix, the battle is on for the 13th and final position player spot on the roster. The Sox are now without an obvious choice for backup first baseman. Traditionally, they've had Abreu DH once or twice a week for the sake of keeping him healthy over the course of a long season. I would expect that trend to continue, but who plays first base on those days?

Frazier has 83 games of MLB experience at first base, and Avila has 24. Those two are options. Or, will the Sox consider bringing Travis Ishikawa north with the team? Ishikawa is mostly a first baseman, although he's played some games as a corner outfielder. He doesn't have much pop -- only 23 home runs in 1,050 MLB plate appearances -- but he is a left-handed hitter. Left-handedness is something the Sox are lacking in terms of position players.

Jerry Sands has gotten some playing time at first base this spring, and he has some power -- 151 home runs in eight minor-league seasons. But, the 28-year-old fits the profile of a Quad-A player, and he's an outfielder by trade. It seems unlikely the Sox will come north with six outfielders on their 25-man roster. Further, they already have plenty of right-handed hitters.

What about Carlos Sanchez? He's a good infielder and would provide defensive versatility. However, Saladino provides those things, as well, making the two redundant on the roster. I wouldn't expect Sanchez to come north unless the 37-year-old Rollins gets hurt, or the club sours on Saladino for some reason. That seems unlikely, since the Sox spoke glowingly of Saladino's defense all offseason.

Then, there's Matt Davidson. Were you ready to write him off after two bad years at Triple-A? Me too. But, he's opened some eyes this spring. He hit two home runs -- including a walk-off shot -- in Tuesday's 8-6 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. He is hitting .455/.478/1.045 with four home runs and only two strikeouts in 23 plate appearances this spring. That isn't enough to erase the woes of the past two seasons, but Davidson is suddenly worth keeping an eye on, just in case he pulls off some sort of career Lazarus act.

There also are outside-the-organization possibilities. The assorted rumors about Andre Ethier, Carlos Gonzalez and Jay Bruce become a little more plausible, with the Sox in need of a left-handed bat and suddenly having $13 million in unexpected savings.

Or, maybe they'll kick the tires on Justin Morneau, who is still a free agent and has health question marks. Wouldn't it be odd to see Morneau in a Sox uniform, given the mutual hatred that existed between him and the Sox during his Minnesota days?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Trayce Thompson: The right-handed platoon bat the Sox have been looking for?

It's no secret the White Sox are not a good hitting team, but their offensive woes are particularly acute against left-handed pitching. Here are the Sox's team hitting splits:

White Sox vs. RHP: .255/.310/.394
White Sox vs. LHP: .240/.292/.344

The team batting average and on-base percentages take a dip against left-handers, and there's a significant drop-off in slugging percentage. The Sox could use a hitter or two who hit lefties well, and right now the hope is rookie outfielder Trayce Thompson becomes one of those guys.

Thompson went 3 for 4 and finished a home run short of the cycle Tuesday against Boston lefty Wade Miley, leading the Sox to a 5-4 win over the Red Sox. Thompson's two-run double in the bottom of the seventh inning provided the winning margin.

With that performance, Thompson is hitting .522/.560/.957 in 11 games (6 starts) since he was called up. We know, of course, he will never keep up that pace, but his performance thus far against left-handed pitching is worth noting: He's 10 for 17 with two home runs and five RBIs.

It shouldn't be hard for Thompson to keep his roster spot and serve in a platoon role if he can produce above-average numbers against lefty starters.

The Sox lineup is full of guys who struggle against lefties:

Adam LaRoche vs. LHP: .163/.198/.325

Carlos Sanchez vs. LHP: .179/.225/.269

Adam Eaton vs. LHP: .227/.271/.295

Melky Cabrera vs. LHP: .230/.258/.333

Jose Abreu vs. LHP: .240/.307/.375

Even Abreu, the Sox's best hitter, is a mere mortal when he sees a left-handed pitcher. Thompson is a nice luxury for manager Robin Ventura to have, because now he can sit LaRoche on days when the opposition throws a left-handed starter. Thompson can handle any of the three spots in the outfield defensively, so Ventura has his pick of DH'ing Cabrera, Eaton or Avisail Garcia on the days Thompson plays.

We don't know yet how "real" this early hot surge from Thompson is, but it sure is refreshing to see the Sox farm system send a potentially useful position player to the major leagues.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Gordon Beckham stinks as a starting player, but plays well off the bench

White Sox infielder Gordon Beckham hit the first pitch he saw in the bottom of the 11th inning Sunday for a solo home run, lifting the South Siders to a 3-2 victory over the Texas Rangers in the rubber match of a three-game series.

Beckham entered the game in the 10th inning for defensive purposes and started a 5-2-3 double play in the top of the 11th inning that got the Sox out of a bases-loaded jam. The home run was his fourth of the season, and three of the four have come in games where Beckham has come off the bench.

There is little doubt Beckham is a more useful player in a reserve role. He can provide decent-to-excellent defense at third base, second base or shortstop, and it's clear his bat is better when he enters late in the game. His overall .220 batting average is not impressive, but check out his splits this season:

Beckham as a starter: .198/.263/.264, 1 home run
Beckham off the bench: .333/.375/.810, 3 home runs

Obviously, Sunday's home run won the game for the Sox. Beckham also came off the bench May 29 to hit a game-tying home run in the eighth inning of a game the Sox eventually won in extra innings. An eighth-inning home run on April 12 took a 4-2 Sox lead to a more comfortable 6-2 margin in an eventual victory.

With third baseman Conor Gillaspie's inconsistent performance both with the bat and the glove, Sox manager Robin Ventura has given in to the temptation of starting Beckham more often in June. It hasn't worked. Beckham has started 13 of the Sox's 19 June games, and he has hit .143 with just one extra-base hit and one RBI in those games. He gets exposed as a weak hitter playing every day. In a bench role, he can be spotted in matchups more favorable for him, and that's where he's been able to contribute to the team this year.

The Sox are having struggles at second base, as well, where Carlos Sanchez has made all the plays defensively, but has floundered to a .155 batting average. It would be easy for Ventura to be tempted to try Beckham at second base. He shouldn't give in to that one, either. For all of Sanchez's struggles, he's 22 years old and learning at the big-league level. He can still get better, and a little patience might pay dividends.

Beckham, however, is not a kid anymore. He turns 29 this year, and this is his seventh year in the big leagues. He is who he is at this point, and he's a utility player. He can do that role and do it well, so the Sox would be well-advised to leave him there.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Chris Sale vs. Corey Kluber: It lived up to the hype

Two aces took the mound Monday at U.S. Cellular Field with White Sox left-hander Chris Sale going up against Cleveland's Corey Kluber, the reigning Cy Young award winner in the American League.

Neither pitcher figured in the decision, but the matchup did not disappoint. Both pitchers were brilliant:

Kluber: 9 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 12 Ks, 1 BB
Sale: 8 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 7 Ks, 2 BBs

I guess you might give Kluber the slight edge, since he pitched one more inning than Sale and fanned five more batters. But I'm sure Sale won't mind that since the Sox extended their winning streak to six games with a 2-1 win in 10 innings.

The Sox have now won 10 of their last 13 games and have pulled their record above .500 (18-17) for the first time this season.

A game like this is usually decided by one mistake here or there. Both teams played errorless ball, but if there was a mistake made, Cleveland made it in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Sox center fielder Adam Eaton was on third base with two outs when Jose Abreu swung and missed a Kluber breaking ball that was in the dirt and deflected maybe just 10 feet away from home plate. Eaton boldly dashed for home as Cleveland catcher Roberto Perez scrambled to retrieve the ball. Both men dove for home plate and arrived at just the same time. Perez would have tagged Eaton out -- if he had held onto the ball. Instead, he dropped it in his attempt to apply the tag. Eaton scored, tying the game at 1-1.

It remained that way until the bottom of the 10th, when Carlos Sanchez delivered a two-out, game-winning single on an 0-2 pitch from Cleveland reliever Zach McCallister. Pinch runner J.B. Shuck raced around from second base to plate the decisive run.

About the only negative for the Sox: Shuck was pinch running for Avisail Garcia, who somehow tweaked his right knee while drawing a leadoff walk in that 10th inning. Garcia is hitting a team-best .338, so the Sox don't need him going on the shelf for any length of time. I imagine the Sox will be cautious and give Shuck the start in right field Tuesday for the second game of this four-game divisional set.

The pitching matchup for Tuesday won't be quite as marquee as this one was, but it will still be good. Sox lefty Jose Quintana (2-3, 4.39 ERA) will face Cleveland right-hander Trevor Bauer (2-1, 3.67 ERA). I wouldn't be stunned if that one ends up fairly low-scoring, too.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

White Sox option Micah Johnson to Triple-A Charlotte

The White Sox on Thursday optioned second baseman Micah Johnson to Triple-A Charlotte.

Johnson, who was hitting .270 with no home runs and three RBIs in 27 games, has been the weakest defensive link on a Sox team that has struggled to catch the ball.

The Sox are expected to recall second baseman Carlos Sanchez before Friday's game against the Oakland A's. Sanchez was hitting .344 with two home runs and 17 RBIs in 29 games at Charlotte.

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.

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, April 1, 2015

White Sox hope to avoid messy succession plan at second base

If you looked at the spring training stats a couple weeks ago and mentally began projecting White Sox prospect Micah Johnson for the second base job, you were among the many who thought the speedster had seized the role.

It's easy to forget that Johnson didn't begin the spring as the favorite. That would have been Carlos Sanchez, another Sox prospect who received a call-up last summer after Gordon Beckham was traded.

Something funny has happened since Johnson's hot start: Sanchez has caught up to him.

Johnson: .321/.368/.453
Sanchez: .371/.436/.371

All the caveats about spring training stats and small sample sizes apply. And we know neither guy is going to hit well above .300 all year. That's why we shouldn't be so excited for Johnson's first two weeks of spring, and why we should remember why Sanchez was favored to start the season as the second baseman.

Sanchez didn't blow anyone's doors off last year when he was called up (.250/.269/.300 in 104 PAs), but was doing good work in AAA (.293/.349/.412). That represented a solid bounce-back year for the 22-year-old when he had hit only .241/.293/.296 after being rushed to that level the season before. Sanchez has certainly shown adaptability.

Beyond optimism that Sanchez can improve the bat work he displayed in his audition, scouts agree he's much more polished defensively than Johnson, something the Sox might wish to carry with them into the season with some other defensive question marks around the diamond.

Then there's the matter of what Johnson doesn't have working in his favor.

The first is that he's not on the team's 40-man roster already. Picking Johnson over Sanchez could mean making another hard choice somewhere else.

There's the matter of Johnson's health. He did not get a call-up last year because he ended the season injured.

There's Johnson's lack of performance and experience at AAA. His overall minor league line of .294/.351/.401 is a combination of his robust AA performance (.329/.414/.466) and a forgettable one in Charlotte (.275/.314/.370 in just over 300 PAs).

Sliding a prospect into a starting role with that resume isn't something the Sox have been historically keen to do. The last time they started a season with a traditional rookie position player (traditional as in not an older Cuban) with fewer than 400 AAA plate appearances, it was Mike Caruso.

In that span if you go to fewer than 500 AAA plate appearances for a rookie given a job to start the year, you only get Brian Anderson and Chris Getz, and both hit better than Johnson has thus far at AAA.

The potential in Johnson's bat and his ability to improve on defense certainly gives him more upside than Sanchez, but realistically, all Sanchez had to do was keep the competition close to emerge with the job. And maybe he will by the end of the week.

Whichever player the Sox choose, they'd better be ready to stick by that decision.

It's easy to envision a scenario where Sanchez starts the season, and hits horribly through April and May. The Sox have had enough, but instead of proving he can hit and stay healthy, Johnson is struggling or injured at Charlotte. Then Beckham is back to start?

That's probably a better Plan C for second base than the Sox have had in a decade. It's still a far cry from where they want to be. In that worst-case scenario, no answers have been found about any players, or the future of the position.

Plan A, be it the safe decision with Sanchez or the more electrifying option of Johnson, needs to be seen through to the end. Whichever young player the Sox pick, they might need to settle for less than the ideal of watching that guy hit the ground running. It might mean living with some growing pains and resisting the temptation to return the devil they know (Beckham) to his starting role.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

White Sox manager Robin Ventura considers carrying 13 pitchers

The offseason and the start of spring training has been jovial and full of optimism for the White Sox and their fans, but here's the first thing I've heard in a while that makes my stomach a little queasy: Manager Robin Ventura is considering carrying 13 pitchers when the team comes north to start the season.

“You could take the other route where you bring an extra pitcher,” Ventura told ESPN's Doug Padilla. “With the versatility we have, we have some options on how we are going to go early in the year, with some days off and probably have some rainouts and things like that, but you want to be protected all the way around. Right now, we are pretty open to it.” 

I shudder.

You can see how this idea of roster construction got hatched. Assuming either Micah Johnson or Carlos Sanchez wins the starting second base job, the Sox will have two versatile players on their bench. Gordon Beckham can play three positions. Emilio Bonifacio can play six positions. With Bonifacio's ability to play the outfield and Beckham's ability to cover the infield positions, you can make a case that the Sox don't need a true fourth outfielder to take up the 25th spot on the roster. I understand the philosophy; I just disagree with it.

Ventura actually brought up the biggest reason for my disagreement: You have days off early in the season. In fact, the Sox have three scheduled off days before the season is even two weeks old. In addition, the weather stinks in April. It will be a huge upset if all the early-season games are played as scheduled in the upper Midwest. Is there going to be enough work for 13 pitchers? I don't think so. I don't see the Sox being in any danger of overworking their pitchers early in the season, even if they were to carry only 11 guys.

Moreover, the Sox have a solid top three in the rotation this year. Chris Sale, Jeff Samardzija and Jose Quintana are expected to get the game into the seventh or eighth inning more times than not. We already know new closer David Robertson has the last three outs in the ninth. If things go according to plan, that means most days you need middle relief to cover about 3-6 outs a day. Do you really need seven relief pitchers who are not named Robertson to cover those 3-6 middle-inning outs? Not in my world.

One of the things I like about the Bonifacio addition is his ability to come off the bench, pinch run and steal a bag in a key situation. But when you have only two other position players on your bench, you have to be cautious about using a guy in a specialized role like that. Under this "13 pitchers" scenario, Bonifacio would be the only backup outfielder on the roster, so if the manager uses him situationally, he leaves himself with no other outfield option if a game goes extra innings, and he leaves himself with no protection in the event a player gets injured. For me, that's an uncomfortable scenario.

I just don't see a lot of benefit to this, especially when the "13th pitcher" would likely be one of Daniel Webb, Maikel Cleto and Eric Surkamp. Those guys were members of the hated and despised 2014 White Sox bullpen. Don't we want to see less of them, not more?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Gordon Beckham returns to White Sox; Dayan Viciedo designated for assignment

The White Sox announced Wednesday they have agreed with infielder Gordon Beckham on a one-year, $2 million contract.

The club also designated outfielder Dayan Viciedo for assignment, after apparently failing to find any takers on the trade market.

Beckham, 28, was the Sox's first-round draft pick in 2008 and struggled with the bat throughout most of his five-plus seasons with the team. He was traded to the Los Angeles Angels on Aug. 21 and finished 2014 with a .226 average, 27 doubles, nine home runs and 44 RBIs.

We already know Beckham, a lifetime .245 hitter, isn't good enough with the bat to be an everyday second baseman. The good news is the Sox's intention seems to be to use him in a utility role.

“Adding Gordon improves the depth and flexibility of our roster,” Sox general manager Rick Hahn said in a statement. “We are thrilled to have him back. Like Emilio Bonifacio, Gordon brings the ability to play solid defense at multiple positions or play on an everyday basis should the need arise. This also gives [manager] Robin [Ventura] the ability to play matchups more effectively when setting the lineup.”

Ah, matchups.

Most of Beckham's critics probably didn't realize that even at his worst last season he could still hit left-handed pitching. Here are his slash lines from last year:

vs. LHP: .293/.349/.431
vs. RHP: .203/.242/.318

Beckham can hit lefties; Conor Gillaspie can hit righties. There's your third base platoon, Sox fans. We know Beckham is good enough defensively to play anywhere on the infield. His glove is a plus at second base, and it's no worse than average at third base. The Sox could even throw him at shortstop, his college position, in a pinch.

If fans put aside their bias, they can see this signing makes sense -- as long as Beckham is used in a utility role to maximize his strengths. If both Micah Johnson and Carlos Sanchez fail at second base this year and Beckham becomes the everyday player at that spot once more, well, that's not ideal. Cross your fingers and hope that doesn't happen.

With this move, the Sox are about to part ways with Viciedo. The 25-year-old hit .231 with 21 home runs and 58 RBIs last year. He's neither a good fielder nor a good baserunner, and his bat was simply never good enough to overcome his other weaknesses. There didn't seem to be any room for him on the Sox's 2015 roster, and apparently he has no trade value either.

Lastly, Beckham's return gives us another opportunity to cue up "Welcome Back Kotter." That's been happening a lot lately ...

Monday, January 5, 2015

White Sox sign Emilio Bonifacio to one-year contract

The White Sox have agreed to terms on a one-year contract with veteran utilityman Emilio Bonifacio, sources say.

According to reports, Bonifacio will make $3 million in 2015. The deal includes a $4 million club option for 2016 with a $1 million buyout.

Bonifacio posted a .259/.305/.345 slash line with three home runs, 24 RBIs and 26 stolen bases last season for the Cubs and the Atlanta Braves. The eight-year veteran played six different positions at different points in 2014 -- all three outfield positions and every infield position except first base.

This pickup makes sense for the Sox for a few different reasons. First, Bonifacio is an upgrade as a utility player over Leury Garcia, who was pathetic last year. Garcia hit .166 with a .192 on-base percentage in 74 games in 2014. He also struck out 48 times in 145 at-bats.

It won't take much for Bonifacio to be an improvement over Garcia's laughably poor numbers. Bonifacio is a .262 lifetime hitter. If he hits close to that level, as he did last year, the Sox will be happy with the signing.

In addition, the switch-hitting Bonifacio hits left-handed pitching much better than he hits right-handed pitching. This is key, because the Sox have been searching for someone to platoon with Conor Gillaspie at third base. Gillaspie hits righties well, but struggles against lefties.

Bonifacio's career numbers against left-handed pitching suggest he can be a reasonable complement to Gillaspie:

Career vs. LHP: .291/.341/.380
Career vs. RHP: .250/.311/.326

In 2014, Bonifacio's platoon splits were even more drastic. In fact, he destroyed left-handed pitching last year:

2014 vs. LHP: .365/.411/.548
2014 vs. RHP: .221/.266/.272

Bonifacio has played 141 career games at third base. Expect that figure to go up once he joins the Sox. You'll see him at third base against left-handed starters.

You'll also see Bonifacio as a pinch runner late in games. He has 164 career steals in his eight seasons, so he figures to be the speed guy off the bench.

Lastly, Bonifacio has played more games at second base in his career (196) than at any other infield position. The Sox intend for a couple of rookies (Carlos Sanchez, Micah Johnson) to compete for the starting job at that spot. But what if both fall flat on their faces? Now, the Sox have a player in Bonifacio who can serve as an insurance policy in case that happens.

For multiple reasons, this signing makes good sense for the Sox.

Friday, August 22, 2014

White Sox trade Gordon Beckham to Angels

Just hours after we said the White Sox should be eager to move on from Gordon Beckham, the club traded the struggling second baseman to the Los Angeles Angels for a player to be named later.

Beckham will not be a starting player with the AL West-leading Angels, who are set in the infield with Howie Kendrick at second base, Erick Aybar at shortstop and David Freese at third base.

Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said Beckham will come off the bench against left-handed pitchers and play multiple positions, according to a report in the Orange County Register.

Beckham leaves Chicago in the worst slump of his six-year career. He's hitting just .158 since July 1, a span of 163 plate appearances. A recent article on southsidesox.com indicated Beckham's .371 July OPS represented the worst month by a White Sox starting player in 46 years. 

We cited the statistics earlier today, so we won't beat a dead horse. It was time for both Beckham and the White Sox to move on. If anything, the Sox erred on the side of having too much patience with Beckham. The former first-round pick was given nearly 2,900 plate appearances with the South Siders over the past six years. If you're not a good hitter after that many at-bats, you're never going to be a good hitter.

“You want to give everybody a fair opportunity and especially a guy you have drafted and developed and especially those who have had success at the big league level,” White Sox general manager Rick Hahn told ESPN Chicago's Doug Padilla. “You want to give them the chance to fulfill and reach and extend on that potential. With Gordon having close to 2,900 plate appearances in a White Sox uniform, I think we are all very comfortable that we did give him that chance.”

Indeed they did.

Carlos Sanchez has been recalled from Triple-A Charlotte to replace Beckham on the Sox' roster. Sanchez was hitting .293 with seven home runs, 57 RBIs and 16 stolen bases in 110 games for the Knights.

I would expect Sanchez to be in the lineup at second base Friday night when the Sox open a three-game set against the New York Yankees.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

White Sox fans won't be seeing Micah Johnson in September

The Sept. 1 roster expansion is still a week and a half away, but we know we won't be seeing White Sox prospect Micah Johnson at U.S. Cellular Field next month.

Johnson, who has hit .294 between Double-A and Triple-A this year, has been shut down for the season due to a left hamstring strain that has plagued him for months.

It's unfortunate because Johnson is one of the best position prospects in the White Sox system. He's considered close to major-league ready, and he plays a position of need -- second base.

However, it's impossible to argue with this decision. It's the right move. Johnson's best asset is his speed, and he's been limited in that area for a significant portion of the season. The proof is in his stolen base numbers.

Johnson attracted a good deal of attention during the 2013 season when he stole 84 bases in 110 attempts over 131 games at three different levels. This year, Johnson has just 22 steals in 36 attempts over 102 games at two levels. He's not running as frequently, and he hasn't been as successful in the limited number of attempts he's made. That shows his legs aren't feeling good.

This is a setback for the White Sox, who have to be eager to replace incumbent second baseman Gordon Beckham at this point.

Even if you're a fan of Beckham's defense, his offense has become so poor that it's impossible to ignore. He's having the worst season of his career by any measure. His slash line is a horrible .221/.263/.336. His season OPS of .598 is well below his career mark of .680. Anytime you have an everyday player with an OPS below .600, that player needs to be replaced. I don't care how good his defense is.

Worse yet, Beckham is regressing with the bat, perhaps fading with the knowledge that his days on the South Side are numbered. His brutal July (.138/.158/.213) has been backed up with almost-as-miserable August (.190/.217/.207). Combined, his OPS has slipped below .400 since July 1.

With that knowledge at hand, the Sox should bench Beckham for the final month and put him out of his misery. Ideally, Johnson would be the guy you play in September, but that just can't happen right now.

Opportunity knocks for the Sox' two other middle infield prospects, Carlos Sanchez and Marcus Semien. Both appear to be candidates for a September recall. Johnson's injury combined with Beckham's ineptness has created an opening for at least one of these two players.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Gordon Beckham is drowning in his 'prove it' season

Time for another round of player comparison. Each of these four slash lines belongs to an everyday player in the White Sox lineup. Which would you say is the worst?

Player A: .235/.292/.328
Player B: .224/.274/.355
Player C: .235/.307/.361
Player D: .236/.287/.400

If you said B, that means you believe Gordon Beckham is the worst hitter in a Chicago lineup that has its share of weak bats.

Beckham is in the process of playing himself out of town with a painful, soul-crushing slump. He is 1 for 22 since the All-Star break. He is 6 for 66 in the month of July, posting a .091/.127/.136 slash line over that period. He has not hit a home run since June 24.

You can always tell when Beckham is in a terrible spin because White Sox TV announcer Ken "Hawk" Harrelson will always protect him by talking up Beckham's "strong arm" at second base, and by noting the number of double plays the Sox have turned on the season. If you watched the broadcast of Wednesday's 2-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals, you heard Harrelson give that speech no fewer than three times.

But no matter what way you slice it, Beckham is drowning in his "prove it" season, and it's time for the Sox to move on. I can live with fewer double plays being turned if I can have a second baseman with an OBP of more than .274. Beckham is on his way to the worst season of his mediocre (at best) career.  He's been in the big leagues for five years now, and it's folly to assume he's ever going to become more than he is. He's not a prospect anymore.

The Sox have other options, too. Marcus Semien (.241/.338/.454) hasn't exactly been tearing it up in the minor leagues, but Carlos Sanchez (.295/.355/.413) is having a nice year at Triple-A Charlotte. Prospect Micah Johnson (.303/.333/.404) is inching closer to being big-league ready, as well. Any of those three stands a decent-to-good chance of equaling or bettering Beckham's production with the bat, and all would cost less than the $4.1 million the Sox are paying this year for Beckham to hit .224.

There are plenty of trade rumors swirling around Beckham, and perhaps that has contributed to his miserable, seemingly distracted July performance. However, it's hard to tell whether trade rumors are the cause of Beckham's woes, because we've seen prolonged slumps like this from him before. I'm forced to come to the conclusion that he's just a poor hitter, and that the Sox can do better at that position. In fact, they must do better.

It's time to trade Beckham. Get whatever you can get and spend the last two months of the season taking a look at one of the infield prospects from Triple-A. The Sox are 10 games out of first in the AL Central. It's time to start looking toward next year. Beckham is part of the problem, and he's not part of the solution. Is there someone else in the organization who can help? Let's find out.

(For the record, Player A above is Tyler Flowers. Player C is Alejandro De Aza. Player D is Dayan Viciedo.)