Showing posts with label Hector Noesi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hector Noesi. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Chris Sale pitches more like himself; Carlos Rodon added to White Sox rotation

And now for some rare good news White Sox fans ...

Chris Sale pitched like the ace he is Tuesday, putting a stop to the Sox's absurd seven-game road losing streak with a 4-2 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers.

Sale fired eight innings of two-run ball, allowing just three hits while striking out 11 and walking only one. This was Sale's 19th double-digit strikeout game in just his 91st career start.

We've come to expect this sort of dominance from Sale, but he's been off to a slow start this season after missing most of spring training with a broken foot. In his previous two outings, Sale had allowed 13 earned runs on 16 hits over 8.1 innings. He uncharacteristically walked seven batters over that same stretch.

On Tuesday, Sale did not issue a walk until there were two outs in the eighth, his last inning of work. The command was back, his breaking ball was better on the whole, and his velocity was in the high 90s into the late innings.

It goes without saying, but we'll say it anyway: The Sox need Sale to pitch like this regularly if they have any hope of getting back into contention in the AL Central race.

Rodon moves into rotation

The White Sox also announced Tuesday that prized prospect Carlos Rodon will make his second career start Friday in Oakland and will move into the rotation in place of Hector Noesi.

We probably haven't seen the last of Noesi starting games, as the Sox will keep a close eye on Rodon's innings count.

“There is going to be scheduled periods of breaks, there will be times when he is skipped, there will be times when he has more than the regular four or five days off,” GM Rick Hahn said in an ESPN Chicago article. “But the process of transitioning him into a starter will begin Friday in Oakland.”

That works for me. I didn't want Rodon to continue wasting away in a mop-up bullpen role. The kid is a starting pitcher, and I'm glad the Sox are going to let him start.

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.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Carlos Rodon wins his first MLB start; then John Danks posts his best outing of the season

We said going into the weekend that Carlos Rodon was in position to put pressure on the White Sox's incumbent back-end starters, if he could have a good outing against the Cincinnati Reds in his first major league start.

Rodon delivered a credible performance, going six innings. He allowed just two runs on four hits while striking out eight and walking four. He picked up the victory in an 8-2 Sox win Saturday night in the second game of a doubleheader.

Interestingly, circumstances beyond Rodon's control put some added pressure on him for the outing. The Sox's No. 5 starter, Hector Noesi, was struck by a line drive and had to leave the game in the second inning of the opener of the doubleheader. The Sox ended up running through most of their bullpen in a 10-4 loss, and that meant Rodon had to at least get through five innings and ideally six innings in the second game.

It didn't look good when Rodon walked the first two hitters he saw, but he wiggled out of a first-and-third, no-outs jam without allowing a run and settled in nicely from there.

The Sox needed three relievers to cover the last nine outs -- Jake Petricka, Zach Duke and David Robertson. Duke and Robertson were the only two Sox relievers not used in the blowout loss in the opener, so they were plenty fresh to protect the lead.

The heavy bullpen use on Saturday also put pressure on John Danks, who started Sunday's series finale. Danks had been knocked out in the third inning of his previous start, and a repeat of that performance was simply not an option. The Sox have two pitchers they typically use in long relief -- Scott Carroll, who worked 4.2 innings in Saturday's opener, and Rodon, who obviously started the second game.

That left Danks with no safety net for his start. He had to go six innings and preferably seven. He ended up responding with his best outing of the season: seven innings pitched, with just one run on six hits.

Robertson suffered his first blown save of the season, so Danks did not pick up a win, but there's a good case to be made that the Sox lefty's ability to provide both quality and quantity of innings was the biggest factor in Chicago's 4-3 victory. Only Duke and Robertson were called upon to work in relief, and after the blown save, the Sox scored winning run in the bottom of the ninth on Gordon Beckham's two-out RBI single off Cincinnati closer Aroldis Chapman.

The Sox are just 12-16 overall, but they are 10-5 at home, having taken two out of three games in each of their five home series to this point in the season. Next up, a road trip to Milwaukee and Oakland, where the Sox must do something about their miserable 2-11 record away from U.S. Cellular Field.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Carlos Rodon's start could put Hector Noesi, John Danks on notice

The White Sox failed to sweep Detroit on Thursday, as Tigers left-hander Kyle Lobstein limited the South Siders to just five hits over 7.2 innings to pick up a 4-1 victory.

Given where the Sox are in the standings, it was probably unrealistic to think they could win three straight games against a superior Detroit team. Nevertheless, it was frustrating to watch Sox hitters get mesmerized by another soft-tossing left-hander.

Lobstein's performance and pitching line Thursday reminded me a little bit of what Minnesota's Tommy Milone did to spoil the Sox home opener April 10.

Lobstein on Thursday: 7.2 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 3 Ks, 2 BBs
Milone on April 10: 7.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 7 Ks, 2 BBs

Milone has since lost his spot in the Minnesota rotation, and I don't know if Lobstein will stay in the Detroit rotation once Justin Verlander comes back from the disabled list. But, if other teams are smart, they'll throw guys like Lobstein and Milone at the Sox at every opportunity. The Sox simply cannot solve soft-tossing lefties.

In any case, up next for the Sox is a three-game interleague series against the Cincinnati Reds. It's hard to envision Chicago getting back in the AL Central race, because the back of its starting rotation is so weak.

The Reds are fortunate to not be facing any of the Sox's top three pitchers. Instead, they'll be getting a look at those back-end starters. Here are the weekend matchups;

Friday: Hector Noesi vs. Jason Marquis
Saturday: Carlos Rodon vs. Johnny Cueto
Sunday: John Danks vs. Michael Lorenzen

Without question, Saturday's game is the marquee matchup. Rodon, the Sox top prospect, will make his first start at the major league level, and he'll be going against the Reds ace. Cueto was a 20-game winner on a losing team in 2014.

Even if Rodon doesn't win, if he fares well, he could put the pressure on Noesi and Danks.

Noesi is 0-3 with a 6.75 ERA in three starts this season. He has lost each of his last six starts dating back to last year. He has yet to make it through the sixth inning in any of his appearances this year. On two occasions, he was knocked out in the fifth inning.

Danks is 1-3 with a 6.20 ERA in five starts. He was knocked out in the third inning his last time out in a 13-3 loss to Minnesota.

Combined, Danks and Noesi are 1-6 with a 6.41 ERA in eight starts. That is not competitive pitching, folks. There is no way a team can contend for a playoff spot when 40 percent of its starting rotation is performing so poorly.

There's an opportunity here for Rodon to potentially knock one of those two poor performers out of the Sox rotation. We'll see if he takes advantage.

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 20, 2015

White Sox call up top prospect Carlos Rodon, activate Jake Petricka from the disabled list

The White Sox have promoted their top prospect to the big leagues. Left-hander Carlos Rodon will be available to work out of the bullpen Monday night when the South Siders take on the Cleveland Indians at U.S. Cellular Field.

The Sox also have activated relief pitcher Jake Petricka (forearm) from the disabled list. To make room for Rodon and Petricka, relief pitcher Javy Guerra was placed on the 15-day disabled list (retroactive to April 13) with shoulder inflammation, and relief pitcher Kyle Drabek was designated for assignment.

Rodon's early call-up is a bit of a surprise. He made only two starts in Triple-A Charlotte. The first was a good one, as he struck out nine and allowed only a run on two hits in five innings against Norfolk on April 11. His second outing was just average, three runs on six hits with four strikeouts in five innings against Gwinnett on April 16.

The Sox had indicated a preference to have him work as a starter, presumably because he might eventually be called up to take the place of one of the Sox's two middling starters -- John Danks and Hector Noesi -- later in the season.

But apparently, the Sox have changed course and decided to let Rodon get his feet wet at the big-league level by using him as a reliever. It's the same philosophy they used with Mark Buehrle and Chris Sale in previous years.

Some have speculated the Sox are bringing Rodon up to try to give a slow-starting 4-7 team a jolt, but let's hope he's actually being called up because he's ready for the opportunity. I would suspect that's the case. I can't believe the Sox would rush Rodon to the big leagues for public relations reasons. The organization makes some questionable moves, but there is no way they are that stupid.

Petricka, who had 14 saves for the 2014 Sox, fired a scoreless inning in each of his two rehab outings at Triple-A Charlotte. He figures to give manager Robin Ventura another option in the seventh or eighth inning moving forward.

Guerra is unscored upon in three appearances for the Sox this season, but he's worked only 1.2 innings. Perhaps the shoulder issue was a reason for his scarce workload to this point in the year.

Drabek has not distinguished himself in three outings this season, allowing three runs on nine hits over 5.1 innings. If he clears waivers and reports to Charlotte, that's nice, but if another team does claim him, the Sox have other pitchers in their organization who can do what he does.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

White Sox juggle starting rotation for weekend series vs. Tigers

Since we last posted, the White Sox split a brief two-game series against the banged-up Cleveland Indians.

The Sox got six solid innings from starting pitcher Jose Quintana on Tuesday, and relievers Dan Jennings, Zach Duke and David Robertson combined to strike out eight batters in a 4-1 Chicago victory in the series opener.

On Wednesday, a combination of poor infield defense and lack of clutch hitting did the Sox in, as they dropped a 4-2 decision to a Cleveland club that is currently missing three regulars (Michael Brantley, Yan Gomes, Nick Swisher) from its lineup.

The series leaves the Sox with a 3-5 record, which isn't completely terrible given an 0-4 start, but it's still not an enviable position -- especially since both the Detroit Tigers (8-1) and Kansas City Royals (7-1) are off to red-hot starts in the American League's Central Division.

That makes this weekend's three-game series in Detroit more crucial for the Sox than most April series would be. The South Siders already are 4.5 games off the pace in the division, and it would be bad news if they were to go into Comerica Park and get swept.

No matter how "early" it is, it's hard to feel good if you fall 7.5 games off the division lead just two weeks into the season. That makes it important the Sox squeeze out at least one win, if not two, against the Tigers.

It won't be easy, because the Tigers have David Price, Anibal Sanchez and Shane Greene lined up to pitch the three games. Price and Sanchez are always tough, and Greene hasn't allowed a run in either of his first two starts of the season -- both Detroit victories.

Perhaps sensing the need to match up, Sox manager Robin Ventura has wisely decided to skip Hector Noesi's turn in the rotation for Friday's game. Instead, Jeff Samardzija will pitch, and I think we can all agree he gives the Sox a better chance than Noesi would against Price, the Detroit ace.

That lines up Sox ace Chris Sale to face Sanchez on Saturday. The Sox haven't announced a starter for Sunday's game yet, but they could (and probably should) go back to Quintana on regular rest for the series finale.

With Detroit playing well and the Sox struggling out of the gate, Ventura simply cannot afford to concede any games to the Tigers by putting the erratic Noesi on the mound.

One other thing to keep an eye on in this series: Detroit has stolen an AL-high 13 bases through its first nine games. Meanwhile, the Sox have surrendered a league-high 11 steals through their eight games.

The Sox had better start holding opposing runners closer this weekend.

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.

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, March 5, 2015

A reason not to fret about Chris Sale's injury: The early-season schedule

It was not good news earlier this week when the White Sox announced that ace left-hander Chris Sale would miss three weeks with an avulsion fracture in his right foot. The injury reportedly occurred at home when Sale was unloading his pickup truck, and it seems unlikely he'll be ready to start Opening Day when the Sox open the season at Kansas City.

Obviously, the Sox would like Sale to make 34 starts this season, but realistically, the team has to assume he'll miss his first two or three starts of the year as a result of this mishap.

But here's the good news: The schedule is set up as such that the Sox can get by with just four starting pitchers until April 21. There are three off-days the first 10 days of the season. Assuming Jeff Samardzija, Jose Quintana, John Danks and Hector Noesi all remain healthy and are ready to go when the bell rings in April, here's how the pitching rotation may work for the first two weeks of the season:

April 6 at Kansas City: Samardzija
April 7: Off-day
April 8 at Kansas City: Quintana
April 9 at Kansas City: Danks
April 10 vs. Minnesota: Noesi
April 11 vs. Minnesota: Samardjiza
April 12 vs. Minnesota: Quintana
April 13: Off-day
April 14 at Cleveland: Danks
April 15 at Cleveland: Noesi
April 16: Off-day
April 17 at Detroit: Samardzija
April 18 at Detroit: Quintana
April 19 at Detroit: Danks
April 20 vs. Cleveland: Noesi
April 21: vs. Cleveland: ?????

As you can see, the early-season off-days would allow the Sox to use their other four guys on regular rest during this stretch. Naturally, if Sale is ready before April 21, he's going to pitch. But it's at least somewhat comforting that the Sox aren't going to have to rush Carlos Rodon into the rotation, or force someone else who doesn't belong to start a couple games, if Sale's injury happens to linger until mid- to late April.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Jeff Samardzija, Tyler Flowers agree to one-year deals; White Sox have all arbitration-eligible players signed

The White Sox have agreed to contracts with their final two arbitration-eligible players, signing pitcher Jeff Samardzija and catcher Tyler Flowers to one-year deals.

Samardzija, 29, went a combined 7-13 with a 2.99 ERA last season with the Cubs and Oakland Athletics. He was acquired in December to be the No. 2 pitcher in the White Sox rotation behind Chris Sale. Samardzija, who is eligible for free agency next winter, will make $9.8 million in 2015.

Flowers, 28, agreed on a $2.675 million deal. The Sox starting catcher hit .241 with 15 home runs and 50 RBIs last season. He figures to be the guy behind the plate again, unless GM Rick Hahn comes up with another move in the 79 days between now and Opening Day.

The Sox previously agreed to contracts with four other arbitration-eligible players. The salaries all came in right around where MLB Trade Rumors expected them to:

Projected salary: $9.5 million
Actual salary: $9.8 million

Projected salary: $2.1 million
Actual salary: $2.675 million

Hector Noesi:
Projected salary: $1.9 million
Actual salary: $1.95 million

Dayan Viciedo:
Projected salary: $4.4 million
Actual salary: $4.4 million

Javy Guerra:
Projected salary: $1.3 million
Actual salary: $937, 500

Nate Jones:
Projected salary: $600,000
Actual salary: $660,000

Total projected salary for these six players: $19.8 million
Actual salary for these six players: $20.4225 million

Friday, January 16, 2015

White Sox avoid arbitration with Javy Guerra, Hector Noesi, Nate Jones

The White Sox avoided arbitration with three right-handed pitchers, agreeing on one-year contracts with Javy Guerra, Hector Noesi and Nate Jones.

Guerra, 29, will make $937,500. He went 2-4 with a 2.91 ERA in 42 relief appearances last season. He figures to work in middle relief again this year.

Noesi, 27, joined the Sox as a waiver claim last May and made 27 starts, going 8-12 with a 4.75 ERA. He agreed on a $1.95 million contract and will enter spring training as the odds-on favorite to claim the fifth starting spot in South Siders' rotation.

Jones, 28, appeared in only two games last season and is coming off back and Tommy John surgery. He will make $660,000 in 2015. The best-case scenario for Jones will be a midseason return.

The White Sox have two remaining arbitration-eligible players, pitcher Jeff Samardzija and catcher Tyler Flowers.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Doubleheader loss highlights White Sox' pitching holes, questionable management

From 2009 to 2012, there were many times I heard White Sox fans wish for the front office to "blow up" the team's veteran core and start a rebuilding process. My response to those comments was often along the lines of "Be careful what you wish for."

Rebuilding is a hard and oftentimes frustrating process, and Sox fans are learning that this season. It's difficult, because even in a year where you know your team is not going to make the playoffs, you'd like to at least have hope that your team can win the next game on its schedule. But during a rebuilding year, that hope is not always present. There are certain days where you just know your team has little or no chance at victory.

For me, Tuesday was one of those days. The White Sox were scheduled to take on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in a doubleheader at U.S. Cellular Field. Normally, a fan gets excited about 18 innings of baseball in a day, but one look at the pitching matchups for this twinbill was enough to make a Sox fan hold his head in despair.

The Angels, who currently lead the wild card standings in the American League, were throwing their top two pitchers -- Garrett Richards and Jered Weaver. The Sox were countering with their No. 4 and No. 5 starters, two guys who are lucky to be in the big leagues in Hector Noesi and Scott Carroll.

It was impossible to escape the nagging feeling that the Sox were destined to absorb a pounding in this doubleheader. And, indeed, both Noesi and Carroll pitched poorly. The Angels swept the twinbill by 8-4 and 7-5 scores.

Noesi was handed a 3-0 lead in the first inning after Jose Abreu connected for his 26th home run of the season, but he couldn't hold it. In fact, Noesi embarrassed himself and the team by walking seven men in 5-plus innings. He allowed five earned runs. Meanwhile, Richards settled in and gave his team eight quality innings, and the Sox never had much of a prayer -- despite the promising start.

The good news for the Sox was they only had to use two relief pitchers -- Ronald Belisario and Daniel Webb -- to eat up the last four innings of the game. Given the circumstances, it could have been worse, and the Sox' bullpen was still in relatively good shape going into the nightcap.

As expected, Carroll struggled in Game 2. He gave up three runs in the second inning to put the Sox in an early hole, and by the sixth inning, the Angels were out to a seemingly comfortable 6-2 lead. However, the Sox fought back with three runs in the bottom half of that inning. Dayan Viciedo's two-run homer cut the deficit to 6-5. The Sox had the potential tying run on third base and the potential go-ahead run on first before the Angels escaped the inning.

Weaver had entered Tuesday's contest with an 8-2 record and a lifetime 1.70 ERA against Chicago. On this day, the Sox touched him up for five runs over 5.2 innings. That's good offensive production against a quality, top-of-the-rotation pitcher.

Going into the seventh inning, the Sox trailed by just one run, and I figured they would take Carroll out of the game. None of their three best relievers -- Jake Petricka, Javy Guerra or Zach Putnam -- had pitched in Game 1. All were rested and ready.

Alas, Carroll was inexplicably allowed to start the seventh inning. No, his pitch count wasn't high. He hadn't reached 80 pitches yet. But, he hadn't been effective, and the top of the Los Angeles batting order was due up.

Naturally, Carroll walked Kole Calhoun and Mike Trout back-to-back to start the inning. Finally, Petricka was summoned from the bullpen. He allowed one inherited runner to score before extricating the Sox from a bases-loaded mess, and the damage was done. The Angels had scored an insurance run, and the good vibes from the three-run rally the Sox had the previous inning were snuffed. Los Angeles had little difficulty closing out the win from there.

You see, it's hard enough to win when you only have three legitimate major league starting pitchers on your roster. The Sox came into Tuesday on a three-game winning streak, because Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and John Danks had all won their most recent starts against the Toronto Blue Jays over the weekend.

But when Noesi, or Carroll, or Andre Rienzo take the mound, this team is asking way too much of its offense. You can't expect to be consistently competitive when you send bums like these to the mound.

The problem is made even worse when the manager and the pitching coach continually push their luck, trying to coax one more inning out of a struggling starting pitcher who hasn't earned the right to be out there. Would the Sox have won Game 2 had Carroll been pulled after six innings? Probably not, but it doesn't take a genius to see they would have had a better chance had Petricka been allowed to start his own inning in the seventh.

That's what being a manager is all about -- giving your team the best chance to win. Robin Ventura and Don Cooper should have been happy Carroll got through six innings, given the subpar stuff he was featuring. Instead, they got greedy and asked him to try to get through seven. It wasn't happening, and as a fan, bad management only adds to the frustration of having to watch a pitching staff full of gaping holes.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Robin Ventura's strict adherence to lefty-righty matchups costs White Sox in Baltimore

Anyone who has ever watched a game with me knows my biggest pet peeve in baseball is walks. I hate pitchers who walk people. I hate giving hitters a free 90 feet. Just throw the damn ball over the plate, will you?

But, a close second on that list of pet peeves is the way modern-day managers adhere strictly to lefty-righty matchups at all times. Robin Ventura's belief in lefty-righty matchups played a significant role in the White Sox' 5-4 extra-inning loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday night. Ventura is hardly the only manager in baseball guilty of this sin -- all of them do it these days -- but the bottom of the eighth inning of Wednesday's game is a good case study in why this lefty-righty stuff drives me absolutely bananas.

The Sox were leading 4-0 going into the fateful eighth inning. Starting pitcher Hector Noesi had been sailing along until that point, but he gave up back-to-back singles to start the frame. With runners on first and second, the middle of the lineup was due for Baltimore. Ventura likely didn't want Noesi to face Steve Pearce, Adam Jones or Chris Davis for a fourth time, so he correctly went to the bullpen and brought in reliever Zach Putnam.

Putnam did a fine job. He retired Pearce and Jones on fly balls to center field, and his stuff looked good. The runners were still planted at first and second with two outs, and Putnam looked poised to work out of the jam and keep the Sox ahead by four runs.

Alas, Davis is a left-handed hitter, and by golly, we can't leave the right-handed Putnam in to face a left-handed hitter, can we? No. That would be dangerous. So, Ventura summoned his washed-up lefty reliever, Scott Downs, who by the way failed to retire Davis when he faced him on Tuesday night.

The Sox are lucky Downs didn't give up a three-run homer to Davis during the course of the at-bat. He hung Davis two breaking balls. Fortunately enough, Davis fouled off both of them. Eventually, Downs walked Davis to load the bases (did I mention I hate walks?), which brought Nelson Cruz to the plate.

Cruz, a strong right-handed hitter, ranks second in the American League in home runs. You can't leave Downs in to face him, so Ventura had no choice but to go to the bullpen once more. He summoned Javy Guerra, which is probably as good a call as he could have made under the circumstances, but I trust Putnam more than Guerra. It would have been nice to have Putnam on the mound in that high-leverage spot, but he had already been relieved of his duties.

Guerra fell behind in the count and eventually served up a game-tying grand slam to Cruz. Baltimore went on to win the game in 12 innings.

I firmly believe that if Putnam had been allowed to face Davis, he would have retired him, and the Sox would have taken a four-run lead into the ninth. More than likely, the outcome of the game would have been different.

Why do managers insist on removing an effective right-handed pitcher from the game just because a left-handed hitter is at the plate? Why do managers feel they need to burn through three or four relievers in the seventh or eighth inning? To me, if you bring in enough relievers, eventually you are going to stumble on a guy who doesn't have his stuff.

Putnam had his stuff. What excuse is there for not sticking with him? There is none.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Weird injury department: Gavin Floyd breaks his elbow

I've heard a few White Sox fans suggest the team made a mistake by parting ways with veteran right-hander Gavin Floyd this past offseason.

Floyd's supporters correctly note the Sox have had a revolving door at the back end of their starting rotation. The Felipe Paulino experiment was a colossal failure. Rookie Erik Johnson couldn't find the plate and had to be sent back to Triple-A. After a two decent starts, Scott Carroll showed himself to be better suited for a long-relief role. Andre Rienzo and waiver pickup Hector Noesi have been hit or miss in their combined 19 starts. There is no question the Sox suffer from a lack of starting pitching depth.

Is Floyd better than the guys the Sox are trotting out there? When Floyd is healthy, sure, he's better, but he had Tommy John surgery last summer. He wasn't going to be ready for the start of this season, and the Sox felt they had better things to spend their money on than signing Floyd to a one-year reclamation deal. I couldn't disagree with that line of thinking.

The Atlanta Braves took a $4 million flier on Floyd, who returned to major leagues on May 6. He was pitching well for the Braves. Coming into Thursday's start against the Washington Nationals, he was 1-2 with a 2.98 ERA in eight starts.

In fact, he picked up his second win of the year Thursday after firing six innings of two-hit ball in the Braves' 3-0 win over Washington. Unfortunately for Floyd, he broke the olecranon -- the bony tip of the ulna that sticks out behind the elbow -- on his first pitch of the seventh inning.


This is a rare injury for pitchers, but it is similar to the one that ended Detroit reliever Joel Zumaya's career in 2010. At minimum, Floyd's season is over. For their $4 million, the Braves got nine pretty good starts. Maybe it was worth it to them, but it wouldn't be worth it to a rebuilding team such as the Sox.

Doctors are saying this injury is unrelated to the Tommy John surgery Floyd underwent, but one of the reasons I didn't want the Sox to re-sign Floyd was my concern that he would get hurt again.

Floyd missed some time late in 2012 with an arm problem, and then the torn elbow ligament limited him to five starts in 2013. This is a pitcher whose career is probably coming toward the end.

While Rienzo and Noesi are no great shakes, at least they are healthy and eating up innings while the Sox rebuild. Innings are something the oft-injured Floyd just can't provide right now, and the Sox do not miss him.