Showing posts with label Don Cooper. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Don Cooper. Show all posts

Thursday, November 16, 2017

White Sox acquire hard-throwing right-hander Thyago Vieira

Worried about the White Sox bullpen? Of course you are. What Sox fan isn't?

It's anybody's guess which pitchers will make up the team's relief corps in 2018, but general manager Rick Hahn made a move Thursday that could pay dividends as soon as next season.

The Sox acquired right-hander Thyago Vieira from Seattle in exchange for $500,000 in international signing bonus pool money.

Vieira, 24, made one appearance with the Mariners last year and retired all three batters he faced with one strikeout Aug. 14 against the Baltimore Orioles.

He went 2-4 with a 4.00 ERA, four saves and 46 strikeouts in 41 appearances and 54 innings between Double-A Arkansas and Triple-A Tacoma in 2017. He limited right-handed hitters to a .194 average. Vieira also was selected to compete for the World Team at the All-Star Futures Game last summer.

While this pitcher's numbers might not be eye-popping, his stuff is. He has an 80-grade fastball that consistently sits between 97 and 100 mph, and tops out at 102. His second-best pitch is a 55-grade curve that showed improvement the second half of last season.

Vieira was ranked as the eighth-best prospect in the Seattle farm system. The Sox's farm system is deeper, so Vieira is now checking in as their 20th-rated prospect.

If Sox pitching coach Don Cooper can harness Vieira's control -- he's walked 4.6 men per nine innings in his minor league career -- this is a potential high-leverage reliever that the Sox acquired for nothing more than cash considerations.

Why, you ask, would Seattle be willing to give up one of its top-10 prospects and receive no players in return?

Well, the Mariners are going to make a run at signing Japanese free agent Shohei Ohtani. The additional international pool money aids them in that quest.

As for the Sox, count Vieira among the young pitchers who will contend for a roster spot when camp opens in the spring.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Lucas Giolito's first outing not 'excellent,' but respectable

Manager Rick Renteria overstated it when he called Lucas Giolito's first start with the White Sox "excellent." Nevertheless, there were several positives to take from the outing, even though Giolito and the Sox lost, 4-1, to the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night.

Here is Giolito's final line: 6 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 4 Ks, 0 BBs, 3 HRs

Notice that I bolded the no walks. The quickest way to endear yourself to me as a pitcher is to throw strikes and get after people. I was satisfied that Giolito did that. He threw 64 of his 99 pitches for strikes, which is a ratio that is above league average. The Minnesota hitters might have beaten him, sure, but he didn't give anything away.

The other thing that stood out about Giolito is that he managed to survive six innings without anything resembling his best stuff. When he's right, the curveball is an out pitch for him. Based on my observations, and the postgame comments I've read, Giolito's curveball was nearly useless in this game. He had to rely almost exclusively on a fastball-changeup combination.

Of his 99 pitches, he threw 69 fastballs, 16 changeups, 12 curves and two sliders. He could not grab any strikes with his breaking ball, so he was relying mostly on fastball command.

And, for the most part, Giolito's fastball command was good. Unfortunately, he did make a few mistakes, and he gave up three home runs, all to left-handed hitters -- Jorge Polanco, Kennys Vargas and Eddie Rosario. Those homers accounted for all four runs allowed.

That's the thing about pitching in the big leagues: You gotta have something to get hitters off your fastball. It doesn't matter how good the fastball is, if they know it's coming, you better have precise location or you're going to get hit. On those three occasions, Giolito didn't have precise location, and he got hit.

In each case, he appeared to be trying to come inside and missed out over the plate. That's a teachable moment for pitching coach Don Cooper. He can show Giolito that and say, "If you're going to miss, miss in."

Hopefully, Giolito will be able to throw his curve for strikes next time he takes the mound. If he can, he might get away with a mistake or two with the fastball, because a few curves for strikes force the opponent to honor the breaking pitch. Last night, I think the Minnesota hitters just subtracted the breaking ball from their thinking and sat on Giolito's heater, which is good (91-93 mph) but not overpowering.

Despite the loss, Giolito showed plenty to earn himself another start, and it was nice to see, especially coming on the heels of Carson Fulmer's discouraging outing Monday night.

As Sox fans, we all want to see these touted prospects jump up and earn their place on the roster. Ideally, Giolito will show well enough to be in the big-league rotation in 2018. Even if the outing Tuesday was not "excellent," let's call it a good first step.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Mark Buehrle's jersey retirement a highlight of 2017 season

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

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

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

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

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

Indeed, the Big Hurt is correct.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 15, 2016

White Sox sign pitcher Derek Holland to one-year contract

Derek  Holland
Somebody has to pitch for the 2017 White Sox, right?

One of those somebodies will be veteran left-hander Derek Holland, who agreed Wednesday to a one-year, $6 million contract with the Sox.

Holland, 30, has been plagued by knee and shoulder injuries that have limited him to 38 starts over the past three seasons combined. He went 7-9 with a 4.95 ERA in 22 starts for the Texas Rangers in 2016. He spent July and most of August on the disabled list with shoulder problems, and suffered from reduced fastball velocity when he did pitch. The Rangers declined their $11 million team option on him at the end of the season.

The left-hander's best season came for a pennant-winning Texas team in 2011, when Holland led the league in shutouts with four and went 16-5 with a 3.95 ERA. His last good season was his last healthy one -- 2013 -- when he tossed a career-high 213 innings and went 10-9 with a 3.42 ERA in 33 starts.

Holland is looking for a bounce-back year that will rebuild his value when he goes back on the open market next offseason. The Sox might be a good fit for him, because there will be an opportunity to pitch, and there is an opportunity to work with pitching coach Don Cooper, who has had some success in the past with reclamation projects.

For the club, Holland is a good fit because the Sox need veteran stopgaps until some of the younger pitchers in the system -- Carson Fulmer, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Spencer Adams, etc. -- are ready for a full-time shot in the rotation.

If Holland gets hurt again, or is a bust, oh well, it's only a one-year commitment for the club. If Holland pitches well, contending teams could come calling and the Sox could flip him for younger players at the July trade deadline.

To make room for Holland on the 40-man roster, the Sox designated left-handed reliever Matt Purke for assignment.

I guess that means we won't be hearing this song at the ballpark next season:




Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Some numbers behind Robin Ventura's pitching mismanagement

Robin Ventura
The gripes are all too familiar. We made them routinely for all the years Robin Ventura was managing the White Sox.

He left his starting pitchers in too long, and once he did go to the bullpen, he misused his relievers. He'd use the same reliever three, four days in a row, sometimes even five days out of six. (Remember Addison Reed in August 2013?) He'd used five relievers to get three outs in the seventh or eighth inning, and he was a slave to "handedness"  -- always needing to bring in a left-handed pitcher every time the opponent sent a left-handed batter to the plate.

With that in mind, an article that appeared on South Side Sox this morning interested me, because it pulled out some notes on the Sox from the 2017 Bill James Handbook. These numbers were cited in the article, and they confirmed what we suspected about Ventura all along:

  • The White Sox were one of three teams to use three different relievers 20 times on consecutive days. Those three relievers, not surprisingly, were David Robertson, Nate Jones and Dan Jennings. I complained about the overuse of Robertson and Jones at different points during the season. The Sox would have been the only team with four such relievers had they not traded Zach Duke midseason. The left-hander had 17 appearances on zero days' rest with the Sox, plus nine more such appearances once he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals. Is it any surprise Duke had Tommy John surgery and miss the 2017 season? 
  • Ventura led the American League by using relievers on consecutive days 128 times, and no other manager was even close. James also noted that Ventura led the league in "slow hooks" for the fourth consecutive year and "long outings" for a second.
Indeed, it's not an accident that Ventura presided over four straight losing seasons. We all know the front office shares in the blame, but the manager exacerbated the problems by not properly handling the pitching staff. Should we be stunned the Sox bullpen had injury problems this year? Of course not. Should we be stunned that some pitchers, most notably Robertson and Matt Albers, got worse the second half of the year? Of course not.

The question is whether anything will change in 2017, with bench coach Rick Renteria now elevated to manager, and Don Cooper still entrenched as the Sox pitching coach. These are the same guys who were Ventura's top lieutenants in 2016. Are they smart enough to see that this was a problem?

Friday, October 14, 2016

New White Sox manager Rick Renteria's coaching staff will feature familiar people

Joe McEwing
If you were hoping for significant changes to the White Sox coaching staff this offseason, prepare to be disappointed.

The only hope I have is that new manager Rick Renteria was allowed to make his own choices with regard to the coaching staff. I have no evidence one way or the other, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't suspect that these selections were made for him.

In any case, third-base coach Joe McEwing has been promoted to bench coach, taking the role vacated by Renteria when he accepted the job as manager. McEwing, 44, served as third-base coach for each of the five seasons Robin Ventura was manager. He also managed in the Sox's minor-league system for three seasons. He has been with the organization for nine years.

The McEwing move, of course, creates a need for a new third-base coach, a role that will be filled by Nick Capra, who had been serving as the team's director of player development. Capra has been in that front office role for five years, but he also has been the minor-league field coordinator, the assistant director of minor-league instruction and the minor-league hitting coordinator. Before that, he managed in the Sox's system for 10 seasons. Capra, 58, has been with the organization for 21 years.

Minor-league pitching coordinator Curt Hasler will replace Bobby Thigpen as the team's bullpen coach. Hasler, 51, has been the minor-league pitching coordinator for six years. He pitched in the Sox organization from 1987 to 1991, and he pretty much never left. He's been a pitching coach or coordinator somewhere in the organization for the past 25 years.

Don Cooper will return for his 30th year with the Sox and 16th as pitching coach. Hitting coach Todd Steverson and assistant hitting coach Greg Sparks also return. Daryl Boston remains as the first-base coach.

The organization men have been shuffled around a little bit, but basically, the gang is still all here -- except for Ventura. Typically, you'd expect bigger changes after four consecutive losing seasons, but as we've learned, that's not the Jerry Reinsdorf way.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Projected White Sox lineup for Monday's opener vs. Oakland

Robin Ventura
White Sox manager Robin Ventura said the lineup he fielded in Tuesday's 6-2 exhibition win over the Texas Rangers would likely be the one he uses Monday when the season opens against the Oakland A's.

If that's true, here is Monday's lineup:

1. Adam Eaton, RF
2. Jimmy Rollins, SS
3. Jose Abreu, 1B
4. Todd Frazier, 3B
5. Melky Cabrera, LF
6. Avisail Garcia, DH
7. Brett Lawrie, 2B
8. Austin Jackson, CF
9. Alex Avila, C

Chris Sale, P

The biggest questions were who Ventura would use at DH, and how he would align his defensive outfield. Clearly, he's going defense-first here, with the weakest defensive outfielder of the four in the lineup (Garcia) serving as the DH. As long as Jackson is playing, he's going to be in center field. That moves Eaton to a corner spot. If Garcia is the DH, that puts Eaton in right field. If Cabrera gets a DH day, expect to see Eaton in left field with Garcia in right.

The Sox broke camp in Glendale, Arizona, with a 15-13-1 Cactus League record. They hit a major-league best 49 home runs and finished with a winning spring record for the first time since 2004.

The South Siders have two exhibition games in San Diego against the Padres on Friday and Saturday before the opener in Oakland.

One thing to watch this weekend: Mat Latos is slated to start Friday after pitching coach Don Cooper said the team needs more from the right-hander, who has a 12.46 ERA in 8.2 innings this spring. Cooper is looking for Latos to be more efficient and pitch deeper into games.

Latos is scheduled to start the fourth game of the season April 7 in Oakland. He's one of the biggest question marks as the Sox head north.

Monday, March 21, 2016

White Sox option Erik Johnson to Triple-A Charlotte; Carson Fulmer opening eyes

Erik Johnson
The White Sox will have one right-handed pitcher in their Opening Day starting rotation. It just won't be Erik Johnson.

The Sox optioned Johnson to Triple-A Charlotte on Monday as one of three roster moves. Pitcher Tyler Danish and infielder Steve Lombardozzi also were assigned to minor league camp.

Johnson's demotion is a sign the club sees Mat Latos as its fifth starter going into the season, although Latos is yet to pitch in a game this spring. As for Johnson, he did nothing to distinguish himself in two starts, allowing nine runs on 10 hits in six innings.

The other rotation candidate, Jacob Turner, has made three Cactus League starts, but he has looked shaky -- allowing nine earned runs on 13 hits over 7.2 innings. He allowed two runs and lasted just two innings in a struggling performance against the Oakland A's on Sunday.

Latos seems to be the leader by default for that rotation spot.

Meanwhile, Carson Fulmer continued to impress Sunday with 3.1 scoreless innings and four strikeouts against the A's. It caught my attention on the Sox broadcast Saturday when pitching coach Don Cooper said Fulmer is further along in his development now than Carlos Rodon was at this same time last year.

Cooper reiterated the point when Scott Merkin of MLB.com asked him if Fulmer could contribute to the 2016 Sox.

"Absolutely. Why not?" Cooper said. "I believe at this point, right now, compared to last year, he's slightly ahead of where [Carlos] Rodon was."

Manager Robin Ventura also praised Fulmer in a story filed by CSNChicago.com's Dan Hayes.

“He’s jumped up there pretty high,” Ventura said. “Coop’s excited about what he’s been doing down here, making some adjustments and really putting himself on the radar for a couple of needs that might arise. He could probably fill both of those. Just an impressive young guy and is very mature and is learning very quickly as he goes along.”

This is a change from what we heard at SoxFest, when Ventura and general manager Rick Hahn tried to tamp down high fan expectations for Fulmer.

The 2015 first-round draft pick is not going to come north with the Sox, but his recent performances and the latest comments from team brass suggest his stay in the minors might not be a long one.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

White Sox reliever Jake Petricka to start season on DL, Rick Hahn confirms

With just a week remaining before the season starts, the bullpen sits atop my list of worries as a White Sox fan.

The concern grew Monday when general manager Rick Hahn confirmed right-hander Jake Petricka will start the season on the disabled list with a sore elbow.

"We don't foresee this being a long-term problem," Hahn told ESPN Chicago's Doug Padilla. "There's a decent chance he'll be activated when his 15-day period is up. However, given the short time between now and Opening Day, it did not make sense to try to rush and jam an outing or two in and force him on to the active roster."

With Petricka down to start the season, I'm still thinking there are two spots open in the Sox bullpen. I'm got David Robertson, Zach Putnam, Zach Duke, Javy Guerra and Dan Jennings as my roster locks.

Neither Matt Albers nor Maikel Cleto have pitched well enough to solidify a spot, but both might make the team now.

However, there are a few other options. Most notably, the Sox claimed Kyle Drabek off waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays. For what it's worth, Drabek was pitching reasonably well in the Grapefruit League this spring. He had allowed two runs in seven innings with seven strikeouts and three walks.

I figure Drabek, a former first-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Phillies (2006), is going to get into a couple Cactus League games before the Sox break camp. If he fares well, he might make the roster and become pitching coach Don Cooper's reclamation project for the year, much like Hector Noesi was last season.

If the Sox decide they don't want Albers or Cleto, they could keep Drabek and bring Scott Carroll north to pitch in a long relief role. I know people are sick of Carroll (1.04 spring ERA), but he's pitched better than Brad Penny this March. He's also pitched better than Cleto and Albers.

Some dude named Arcenio Leon, a 28-year-old career minor leaguer, is still hanging around camp, too. The little-known right-hander hasn't given up a run yet this spring in six innings pitched, so he might be an off-the-grid possibility.

It's a little bit nerve-wracking for Sox fans right now, because I'm looking at all these names and feeling like Robertson and Duke are the only two relievers I can trust. Indeed, it would be a plus if Petricka's injury is just a short-term problem, because he's another guy you can feel pretty good about when he's healthy.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

White Sox acquire pitcher Dan Jennings from Miami Marlins

The last time I saw Andre Rienzo pitch in person, he gave up a home run to Minnesota outfielder Oswaldo Arcia that landed on the concourse beyond the right-field bleachers at U.S. Cellular Field. That ball had to travel at least 460 feet.

White Sox fans won't have to worry about seeing such horror from Rienzo any longer, as the less-than-mediocre right-hander was traded Thursday to the Miami Marlins in exchange for left-handed relief pitcher Dan Jennings.

The Sox already added Zach Duke to be the main lefty out of their bullpen, but it never hurts to have two left-handers around to pitch in relief. Perhaps Jennings can be that second guy.

Jennings, 27, worked in 47 games last year for the Marlins. He compiled a 1.34 ERA and 1.5337 WHIP. He allowed 45 hits and struck out 38 in 40.1 IP. At one point, Jennings had a stretch of 19 consecutive appearances where he did not allow an earned run.

I don't think I'd count on Jennings to be a high-leverage reliever. He gives up a few too many hits for that. However, he's a guy who can be used in the sixth or the seventh inning. He's also the type who will probably pitch in games where the Sox are trailing, so Duke can be saved to pitch in games where the Sox are leading.

It is important for manager Robin Ventura and pitching coach Don Cooper to understand that Jennings is not a left-handed specialist, so don't use him in that way. In fact, left-handed hitters have hit more than 50 points higher than right-handed hitters against Jennings over the course of his career:

Career vs. left-handed hitters: .289/.354/.403
Career vs. right-handed hitters: .238/.322/.389

The trend of being more successful against righties also can be seen in Jennings' 2014 numbers:

2014 vs. left-handed hitters: .299/.364/.390
2014 vs. right-handed hitters: .265/.326/.398

Modern managers love to use left-handed pitchers against left-handed hitters, but Jennings is one pitcher where Ventura will need to go against the conventional wisdom. He shouldn't bring Jennings in specifically to face a left-handed hitter unless that particular hitter is especially weak against left-handed pitching.

As for Rienzo, well, the 26-year-old will not be missed on the South Side after going 4-5 with a 6.82 ERA in 18 games (11 starts) in 2014. Maybe he will benefit from a change of scenery, but he was not in the Sox' plans.

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, February 7, 2014

White Sox add relief pitcher Mitchell Boggs

Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports the White Sox have signed relief pitcher Mitchell Boggs to a one-year, $1.1 million deal.

This will be a reclamation project for pitching coach Don Cooper. Boggs was once a solid reliever for the St. Louis Cardinals. From 2010-2012, he appeared in 190 games, threw 201 innings and compiled a respectable 3.08 ERA over that span.

Boggs' best year with St. Louis was 2012, when he went 4-1 with a 2.21 ERA. That season, he allowed just 56 hits over 73.1 innings.

But something went terribly wrong for Boggs last year. His ERA ballooned up to 11.05 in 18 appearances with the Cardinals, who were forced to demote him to Triple-A. Boggs was traded midseason to the Colorado Rockies, where he had a 3.12 ERA over nine appearances and 8.2 innings.

Walks were a problem. Boggs issued 20 free passes in 23.1 innings at the major league level last year. He's going to have to get that cleaned up this spring to be effective for the White Sox.

I find no fault with this signing. It's a one-year commitment for not much money. If Boggs regains his 2012 form, he will be an asset to the Sox bullpen. If he fails, he can be released without too big of a financial hit.

Maybe Cooper has watched Boggs on film and believes the pitcher can make the necessary adjustments to be effective again.

Coop will fix 'em?