Showing posts with label Jake Petricka. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jake Petricka. Show all posts

Thursday, April 6, 2017

White Sox sign Mike Pelfrey, place Jake Petricka on disabled list

Mike Pelfrey
The White Sox on Wednesday signed veteran right-hander Mike Pelfrey to a minor-league deal.

Pelfrey, 33, joined the Detroit Tigers before the 2016 season on a two-year deal worth $16 million. That didn't work out so well, as Pelfrey went 4-10 with a 5.07 ERA in 24 games (22 starts) in 119 innings.

The Tigers released Pelfrey last week.

This is a pitcher whose good years are in the deep past. Pelfrey's best season was 2010 with the New York Mets, when he went 15-9 with a 3.66 ERA in 34 games (33 starts).

Since 2013, Pelfrey has made 86 starts with the Minnesota Twins and Tigers, going 15-37 with a 4.97 ERA, along with a 1.593 WHIP.

Yes, he is terrible, and this is the kind of signing that a rebuilding team makes. Pelfrey is going to Charlotte, but we'll probably see him called up if Jose Quintana is traded, or if Carlos Rodon's arm injury persists, or if someone else in the current major-league rotation succumbs to injury.

Pelfrey is an insurance policy against having to rush a prospect to the big leagues unnecessarily. He is roster filler, and if he is making starts on the South Side of Chicago, most of those games will probably not end well for the Sox.

Petricka to DL; Kahnle recalled

The Sox have placed relief pitcher Jake Petricka on the 10-day disabled list with strained lat.

Petricka, 28, was limited to nine appearances in 2016 because of a torn labrum in his hip that required surgery. He appeared in Tuesday's season-opener, in which he tossed a scoreless inning with one strikeout and two walks.

Right-hander Tommy Kahnle takes Petricka's place on the roster. Kahnle had a 2.69 ERA in in 23 relief appearances with the Sox last year.

As we've always said about Kahnle, he'll never stick until he learns to command his high-90s fastball. It's great that he had 25 strikeouts in 27.1 innings last year. It's good that he allowed only 21 hits. Too bad he walked 20. That's the problem. It's surprising his ERA was so low when he put that many runners on base.

Hopefully, before year's end, the Sox will have players more interesting than Kahnle (and Pelfrey) who are ready to be called up from the minors.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

How might the White Sox pitching staff look when the season starts?

Jose Quintana -- still here
White Sox pitchers and catchers will have their first full workouts Feb. 14 in Glendale, Arizona. It's closer than we think, so let's take a look at how the pitching staff might shake out given the current roster construction.

We'll assume there are no trades between now and Opening Day -- a big assumption, because general manager Rick Hahn made it clear at SoxFest that he's still open to making moves before the season starts.

For a rebuilding club, the Sox look surprisingly set on the pitching side of things. The five projected starting pitchers right now are pretty obvious:

1. Jose Quintana
2. Carlos Rodon
3. Miguel Gonzalez
4. James Shields
5. Derek Holland

In anyone gets injured or traded, Rule 5 draft pick Dylan Covey might get the first shot at taking a spot. The other roster contenders would be two of the three players acquired in the Adam Eaton trade -- Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez. However, Hahn indicated a preference to have all the recently acquired prospects start the season in the minor leagues, so we probably will not see Giolito or Lopez in Chicago until later in the 2017 season.

I look for prospects Carson Fulmer and Tyler Danish to potentially get some starts during spring training, but both players are ticketed for the Triple-A rotation in Charlotte when the season starts.

Let's assume the Sox will carry 12 pitchers -- most teams do -- so that means there are seven spots in the bullpen. There isn't a lot of mystery with five out of the seven:
David Robertson -- also still here

1. David Robertson
2. Nate Jones
3. Dan Jennings
4. Jake Petricka
5. Zach Putnam
6. ????
7. ????

Contenders for the last two spots include a quartet of right-handers we saw in Chicago in 2016: Tommy Kahnle, Michael Ynoa, Juan Minaya and Chris Beck.

I'm guessing one of the four makes the club, with Kahnle having the inside track. Unlike the rest of that crew, he had a strong finish to 2016 -- a 0.87 ERA over his final 11 appearances with 11 strikeouts in 10.1 IP.

Why would only one of the four make the team? Well, I'm thinking the Sox want a second left-hander in the bullpen. Jennings is the only left-handed roster lock as a relief pitcher. The door is open for waiver claim Giovanni Soto, who last pitched in the majors with Cleveland in 2015. The 25-year-old's left-handedness is an advantage for him as he battles Ynoa, Minaya and Beck for a roster spot.

But what of the non-roster invitees, you ask? Are there any pitchers that could surprise and make the roster out of spring training?

I'd say keep an eye on the non-rostered lefties, a list that includes Matt Purke, Aaron Bummer, Brian Clark, Jace Fry, David Holmberg and Cory Luebke.

Purke is a familiar name to Sox fans, although his 12 big league outings last season were pretty bad. I'll be interested to see what Bummer has after amateur scouting director Nick Hostetler spoke highly of him at SoxFest. Bummer is hard thrower who missed the 2015 season with Tommy John surgery, and he has fewer than 40 professional innings under his belt. It seems unlikely he'll compete for a roster spot given his inexperience, but he might be the most intriguing name in this group.

Clark is more advanced, having thrown 56 innings across 37 games between Birmingham and Charlotte last year. Fry missed the 2016 season with Tommy John surgery, and has thrown only 61 professional innings. Holmberg has worked mostly as a starter in his career. He made 28 starts between Birmingham and Charlotte last year, and has 167 career starts in the minors. Luebke is a 31-year-old former San Diego Padres prospect who underwent two Tommy John surgeries and missed three seasons from 2013-15.

From that list of six, we'll see if any emerge as a worthy challenger. Personally, I wouldn't count on it. Of course, when do you ever count on non-roster invitees?

Non-rostered right-handed pitchers in camp include Blake Smith, who made five September appearances with the Sox last year; 31-year-old veteran Anthony Swarzak, who had 26 relief appearances with the New York Yankees last year; and 20-year-old prospect Spencer Adams, who split time between Winston-Salem and Birmingham in 2016.

And, oh yeah, Michael Kopech and Zack Burdi are going to be in camp as non-roster players. Heard anything about them lately? How's that for burying the lead?

In all seriousness, Kopech is probably ticketed for High-A Winston-Salem when the season starts, while Burdi will be headed to the Charlotte bullpen, in hopes of one day becoming the White Sox closer.

Neither of these two hyped prospects are going to make the club, but they will generate headlines each and every time they take the mound this spring.

Friday, January 13, 2017

White Sox avoid arbitration with Todd Frazier, Dan Jennings, Jake Petricka

Todd Frazier
The White Sox on Friday avoided arbitration with three players, agreeing to one-year contracts with third baseman Todd Frazier and relief pitchers Dan Jennings and Jake Petricka.

Frazier's deal is worth $12 million. He is coming off a season where he led the team in home runs (40) and stolen bases (15) despite a disappointing .225/.302/.464 slash line. He also ranked second on the Sox with 98 RBIs.

Coming into the offseason, Frazier, 30, was a good bet to be traded before Opening Day -- and maybe he still will be. However, there have been few rumors involving Frazier, and there still are several right-handed power-hitting free agents who remain unsigned (Mike Napoli, Mark Trumbo, Jose Bautista). Until those guys come off the market, there might not be much interest in Frazier -- especially since he is coming off a down season in terms of batting average.

He could eventually be traded for prospects as part of the rebuilding plan. Or maybe he won't be. Essentially, he's the Sox's third baseman until he's not. (How's that for insight?)

Jennings, 29, is coming off one of his better seasons -- a career-high 64 appearances with a 4-3 record and 2.08 ERA. His contract will pay him $1.4 million.

Petricka, 28, appeared in only nine games in 2016 before undergoing season-ending hip surgery. His deal is worth $825,000.

Although the Sox are rebuilding, they might enter the 2017 season with a bullpen that looks very similar to the one from last year. Closer David Robertson, set-up man Nate Jones, Jennings, Petricka and Zach Putnam all remain on the roster.

The only two guys gone from last season are Matt Albers, who was too ineffective to be retained, and Zach Duke, who was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in July.

Right now, the projected bullpen includes the five guys listed above, plus Tommy Kahnle. After that, the Sox still need a second left-hander to go along with Jennings. As it stands, the next-best left-handed option in the organization is 25-year-old Giovanni Soto, a waiver pickup who last pitched in the big leagues with the Cleveland Indians in 2015.

Given that Robertson, Petricka and Putnam are all coming off surgery, we might not see too many changes in the bullpen this offseason -- just because the Sox need to hold onto as much veteran depth as possible to get through 2017. One thing a rebuilding team does not want is for prospects to be forced into big-league duty prematurely because of injuries to veteran stopgaps.

Friday, November 4, 2016

White Sox decline option on Matt Albers, among other roster moves


So long, Matt Albers. We'll always have this photo of me with your jersey at SoxFest.

The first day after the conclusion of the World Series often brings a flurry of minor roster moves around the league, and the White Sox made a handful on Thursday.

Most notably, they declined a $3 million option on Albers for the 2017 season, instead exercising a $250,000 buyout.

Albers, 33, went 2-6 with a 6.31 ERA in 58 appearances this year. He was unscored upon in April, but was absolutely terrible for the rest of the season. Now, he's a free agent, and it wouldn't surprise me if he's spent his last day in the big leagues.

The Sox also reinstated third baseman Matt Davidson (broken foot) and relief pitcher Jake Petricka (hip surgery) from the 60-day disabled list. Outfielder J.B. Shuck was outrighted to Triple-A Charlotte, and relief pitcher Daniel Webb was given his release.

Somewhat strangely, the whitesox.com article on the moves indicates the Sox's 40-man roster now sits at 37 players. By my count, the Sox added two players to the roster (Davidson and Petricka), while subtracting three (Albers, Shuck and Webb).

That should mean the roster is at 39 players ... hmmmm ...

Worth noting: The Sox have a five-day window to negotiate exclusively with potential free agents Alex Avila and Justin Morneau. Perhaps the team has already decided they have no interest in talking to those two players, and their names will be officially subtracted from the 40-man roster when they become free agents in five days. That would take the roster count down to 37.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Carlos Rodon's disappointing first half ends with a dud; Alex Avila heads back to DL; Chris Sale an All-Star

Carlos Rodon
Carlos Rodon is far from the worst player on the White Sox, but he might be the most disappointing.

Many people, including me, thought the young left-hander was poised for a breakout season after a strong finish to his rookie campaign in 2015. Instead, the first half of this year has represented a step backward.

Rodon was shelled in a 9-0 loss to the New York Yankees on Tuesday night at U.S. Cellular Field. He lasted only five innings, giving up a season-high six runs (five earned) on a season-high 12 hits. He struck out just three and walked two. The only inning in which he did not allow a run was the first, and he was fortunate to escape a bases-loaded situation in that inning.

Right now, Rodon is consistently behind in counts. He cannot throw either of his offspeed pitches for strikes consistently. Opposing hitters know the fastball is the only pitch Rodon can get over the plate, and they are feasting on it.

Rodon is going to continue to struggle until he can establish either his slider or his changeup as a pitch that hitters have to honor. In the meantime, his record is 2-7. He hasn't won since May 22. His ERA is up to 4.50, and the Sox are just 5-11 in the 16 games he has started.

Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka silenced the Sox bats Tuesday, so Rodon would have had to have been awful good to have a chance to win this game. However, it's hard for a pitcher to claim non-support when he fails to pitch into the seventh inning and fails to keep his team within striking distance of the opposition.

Avila headed back to disabled list

Sox catcher Alex Avila left Tuesday's game after the fifth inning with a right hamstring strain. Reports after the game indicated Avila is headed back to the 15-day disabled list. This is the same injury that caused Avila to be disabled in late April and into early May.

Avila will have plenty of company on the disabled list, as he joins teammates Austin Jackson, Justin Morneau, Zach Putnam, Jake Petricka, Daniel Webb and Matt Davidson on an increasingly crowded shelf.

The Sox will have to dip into their minor leagues for another catcher before Wednesday's series finale against the Yankees. Kevan Smith (back injury) remains on the DL at Triple-A Charlotte (sensing a theme here?), and the only other catcher on the 40-man roster is recently acquired Alfredo Gonzalez, who is currently in Birmingham and has never played about Double-A.

Omar Narvaez, who was in big league camp during spring training, has been getting the majority of the playing time recently at Charlotte and is another possibility.

Sale headed to All-Star Game

On a brighter note, Sox ace Chris Sale was chosen to represent the American League in the All-Star Game for the fifth consecutive season.

Sale leads the league with 14 wins against just two losses in his 17 starts. He also leads the league in innings pitched (120) and WHIP (0.98) and ranks third with a 2.93 ERA.

It would be surprising if Sale does not get the nod to start the game, although American League manager Ned Yost has not yet announced his decision.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Erik Johnson's stay in the White Sox rotation a short one

Erik Johnson is back in Charlotte.
Erik Johnson's audition for the fifth spot in the White Sox starting rotation did not go well Thursday night, as he suffered a 7-3 loss to the Boston Red Sox.

Johnson needed 81 pitches to get through the first three innings, and he was fortunate to get through five innings. He allowed four runs on eight hits, walking three and striking out six. He did retire seven of the last eight hitters he faced, and ended up throwing 108 pitches.

Still, he was optioned back to Triple-A Charlotte after the game.

The Sox (19-10) still have a four-game lead in the American League Central despite losing two out of three to Boston. They'll look to get back on track this weekend with a three-game set against the Minnesota Twins.

Mat Latos, Chris Sale and Jose Quintana are lined up to pitch in this series. Carlos Rodon will get the opener of a three-game series that starts Monday in Texas, but then the Sox will need a fifth starter again for Tuesday's game against the Rangers.

The guess here is Miguel Gonzalez will get his second opportunity to try to secure the spot. The right-hander allowed five runs on 11 hits in 5.1 innings against the Toronto Blue Jays on April 25, a game the Sox eventually won, 7-5.

Gonzalez most recently pitched Wednesday for Triple-A Charlotte, which would put him in line to pitch Tuesday. He's 1-0 with a 2.65 ERA in four starts for the Knights. He's thrown only 17 innings, however, as one of those four starts was cut short when he was struck with a line drive in the first inning.

In other pitching news, Sox reliever Jake Petricka has been placed on the 15-day disabled list with a hip problem. Right-hander Tommy Kahnle has taken that spot in the bullpen.

With Johnson's demotion, veteran right-hander Scott Carroll has been recalled to take a spot in the bullpen, according to a tweet by CSNChicago's Dan Hayes. The Sox bullpen has worked seven innings the past two games, and Carroll is the kind of pitcher who can provide multiple innings in relief, if necessary.

The Sox also are sending catcher Alex Avila on a rehab assignment. Avila has been on the disabled list since straining his hamstring April 23.

Friday, April 29, 2016

John Danks torpedoes another White Sox winning streak

John Danks is 0-4 in four starts.
From April 9 to 15, the White Sox won five games in a row. John Danks put a stop to that by getting shelled in Tampa Bay on April 16.

The Sox won six games in a row this week. Danks put a stop to that Thursday by getting shelled in Baltimore.

The veteran left-hander was staked to an early 2-0 lead on Todd Frazier's first-inning home run, but it was all downhill from there as the Orioles clobbered the South Siders, 10-2.

Danks lasted five-plus innings, allowing six runs on nine hits. He struck out four and walked two, one of which was a four-pitch free pass to Baltimore's No. 9 hitter, Caleb Joseph, in the third inning. That walk started a four-run Orioles rally that featured back-to-back home runs by Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo. By the time the fourth inning rolled around, the Sox were facing a 5-2 deficit.

Baltimore broke it open with five in the sixth. Jake Petricka, providing no relief, gave up a grand slam to Manny Machado, but realistically, the game was lost early when Danks let it get away from him.

The Sox are 16-7 through 23 games, but Danks is 0-4. His ERA has swelled to 7.25. His WHIP sits at an unsightly 1.746.

Danks' woes have created the first crisis for the Sox in this 2016 season. As we've stated before, we can't attribute this slow start to a small sample size, because Danks finished last year on a struggling note. If you combine his final 10 starts of 2015 with his first four starts of this year, you come up with an ugly 1-11 record and a 5.13 ERA.

"It's been a pretty miserable April," Danks said in this MLB.com article. "I'm just not throwing enough strikes, just not throwing enough quality strikes. There's been games where I can full on eliminate a pitch, because it doesn't have a chance."

If you can believe it, Danks' velocity is down from last year. His average fastball velocity is 87.90 mph through four starts this season. That's only six miles an hour quicker than his changeup, which sits at 81.16 on average. They say you want an average variance of 9 to 11 mph between those two pitches, so Danks' reduced velocity is really killing him. It's hard to tell the difference between the fastball and the change. To the hitters' eye, it all looks the same. Danks is easy pickings for a hard-hitting team such as the Orioles right now.

By way of comparison, his fastball velocity in 2015 averaged 89.86. Danks had 15 starts, most of them toward the end of last year, where his fastball averaged 90 mph. If he touches 90 with his four-seamer, that's at least enough to give him a fighting chance with the 81 mph changeup. Right now, those lost three ticks on his fastball have put him in a situation where he needs to be pinpoint with his command, and he has been anything but pinpoint.

The Sox have to be thinking about making a change at the back of the rotation at this point. We've already seen Miguel Gonzalez come up for a spot start. Other viable options from Triple-A Charlotte include Erik Johnson and Jacob Turner.

General manager Rick Hahn has addressed several problems on this team since the end of last season -- a new third baseman, a new catching duo, a new second baseman, a new shortstop, an upgraded outfield defense. The Sox have the look of a contender, and they've come too far to show too much patience with Danks.

I'd be inclined to make a change now, but at most Danks should get no more than two more starts to pull himself together. It's hard to sustain winning streaks when you've got one starting pitcher who is putting you in a three-, four-, or five-run hole in the early innings more often than not.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Carlos Rodon's implosion costs J.B. Shuck his roster spot

Carlos Rodon was knocked out early Monday.
White Sox left-hander Carlos Rodon pitched terrible Monday night.

He fell behind eight of the nine hitters he faced. He could not command any of his three pitches. Here was the result: Single, strikeout, walk, walk, single, single, single, single, single.

The Los Angeles Angels scored five runs during an interminable top of the first inning and went on to beat the Sox, 7-0. The South Siders have now dropped three in a row to fall to 8-5 on the season.

Rodon's final line: 0.1 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 K, 2 BB

It was the quickest non-injury-related exit for a Sox starting pitcher since Aug. 28, 2003, when Neal Cotts got cuffed around by the New York Yankees.

For Rodon, it's only one loss, but this defeat could have repercussions for the Sox throughout the remainder of this seven-game, weeklong homestand. The bullpen had to throw 8.2 innings Monday night, and the Sox don't have another off day until May 2.

We can't say the bullpen did a poor job. Jake Petricka allowed a run over 2.2 innings and was reasonably economical, needing 33 pitches to record eight outs. Zach Putnam was even better, firing three shutout innings on 34 pitches. Dan Jennings needed 49 pitches to get through two innings of one-run ball. Zach Duke also pitched and worked a scoreless inning.

The end result is Petricka, Putnam and Jennings all are likely unavailable to the Sox on Tuesday night, and without a roster move, there would be no long reliever in place should Mat Latos struggle or get injured in his scheduled start.

So, the Sox were forced to make a roster move. Through no fault of his own, outfielder J.B. Shuck was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte after Monday's game. That makes room for right-hander Erik Johnson, who was recalled Tuesday.

Johnson has a 4.22 ERA with 12 strikeouts and three walks in 10.2 innings over his first two starts in Charlotte. He is stretched out to be a starter, so he can give the Sox multiple innings in Tuesday's game should the need arise.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

White Sox get gift-wrapped win on Opening Day

Chris Sale got the win in Monday's season opener.
White Sox manager Robin Ventura said his team's 4-3 win over the Oakland A's on Monday night "wasn't pretty."

In fact, I'd say Oakland gifted the game to the Sox, who were no doubt happy to accept the charitable donation on Opening Day.

The Sox scored all four of their runs on four hits in the third inning, but two costly Oakland errors (and one egregious misread in the outfield) aided the South Siders' cause.

A's starter Rich Hill walked Austin Jackson with one out, and then made an errant pickoff throw that allowed Jackson to advance to third. Oakland center fielder Billy Burns then misplayed a drive off the bat of Adam Eaton into an RBI triple that produced the first Sox run of the season.

Jimmy Rollins singled to score Eaton, and Jose Abreu doubled to give the Sox runners at second and third with one out. Hill rallied to strike out Todd Frazier, and appeared to be on his way to limiting the Sox to just two runs when Melky Cabrera hit a routine grounder to shortstop. However, Oakland shortstop Marcus Semien's throw was high and wide of the bag, and first baseman Mark Canha missed the ball. Rollins scored easily, and Abreu hustled home to make it 4-0.

That's all the Sox would need, but that doesn't mean it wasn't interesting. Ace Chris Sale handed three runs right back to the A's in the bottom of the third inning. It was an odd performance for Sale, who struck out eight over seven innings and got the win. He was his dominant self in every inning but the third:

Sale in the third inning: 1 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 2 Ks, 34 pitches
Sale in all other innings: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 Ks, 70 pitches

The Sox bullpen closed this one out, but not without some drama. Despite having better options available, Ventura used Jake Petricka to start the bottom of the eighth inning, and Petricka walked the leadoff batter, Jed Lowrie. Zach Duke was then summoned to face left-handed hitting Josh Reddick, and he retired him on a comebacker. Finally, Nate Jones came on to retire two hitters with the tying run in scoring position. Jones struck out Khris Davis on a nasty slider to end the frame, leaving fans to wonder why Jones didn't start the eighth inning in the first place.

Closer David Robertson walked the speedy Coco Crisp to lead off the bottom of the ninth, but retired the next three hitters to earn the save. Brett Lawrie made a nice play on a grounder by Yonder Alonso to secure the final out.

Offensively, the Sox knocked Hill out early, but then could not score in 6.1 innings against the Oakland bullpen. Two baserunners were picked off (Eaton in the first, Lawrie in the ninth), and two hitters (Cabrera and Dioner Navarro) popped out on bunt attempts.

By no means was this a clean win for the Sox, but it's a win nonetheless. A year ago, the Sox started the season 0-4, so it's probably a mistake for Sox fans to complain too loudly today as they woke up to a 1-0 record.

Friday, January 22, 2016

White Sox bring back Matt Albers on one-year deal

Matt Albers
The White Sox moved to increase their bullpen depth on Thursday, re-signing veteran reliever Matt Albers on a one-year deal worth $2.25 million. The contract includes a $3 million club option for 2017.

It's a pleasant surprise to see Albers, 33, back in a Sox uniform. He pitched so well the second half of last season that it was reasonable to believe he would get a better contract than the Sox would be willing to offer him.

In 30 games, Albers went 2-0 with 1.21 ERA. He was unscored upon in his final 20 appearances of the season, and his 1.14 second-half ERA was best among all American League relievers.

Albers is unlikely to pitch at that same high level again, but his approach helps him survive in a hitters' park such as U.S. Cellular Field. He attacks the strike zone -- he walked only nine in 37.1 IP last year -- and he keeps the ball low and produces a lot of ground ball outs. He allowed only three home runs in 2015, which is a positive for a guy who figures to pitch in the seventh and eighth innings. If healthy, Albers should be a useful reliever for the Sox.

Barring unforeseen injuries, the Sox appear to be heading toward spring training with a settled bullpen situation. We'll assume they're going with five right-handers and two left-handers. The five righties would closer David Robertson, Nate Jones, Albers, Jake Petricka and Zach Putnam. The two lefties would be Zach Duke and Dan Jennings.

The other good thing about Albers' return: We get another summer of jokes about his portly stature. Albers is listed at 225 pounds, and that's probably being kind.

If you're out at the ballpark this year, I'll be the guy whose yelling, "HEY HEY HEY! IT'S FAT ALBERS!" as Albers jogs in from the bullpen:


Na, Na, Na, gonna have a good time!

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.

Monday, April 27, 2015

White Sox finally beat Royals -- twice in a day

It was anything but business as usual Sunday at U.S. Cellular Field. First off, the White Sox beat the Kansas City Royals not once, but twice -- a rare sight indeed. Secondly, relief pitcher David Robertson threw both the first pitch of the afternoon and the last.

The closer became the first White Sox pitcher to earn both a win and a save on the same day since Bob Howry accomplished the feat in a doubleheader on Aug. 21, 1999.

After Saturday's rainout, the two clubs had to complete Friday's suspended contest, which was tied at 2-2 after eight innings when the showers came.

John Danks got his first win of the season Sunday.
The game resumed in the top of the ninth inning Sunday, and that put Robertson in the unusual position of "starting" the game on the mound. He worked a scoreless inning, pitching over an error by first baseman Jose Abreu, and earned a 3-2 win when the Sox scored a run in the bottom of the inning on a single by Avisail Garcia.

The Sox took the regularly scheduled game, 5-3, as John Danks (1-2) improved his career record against Kansas City to 8-1. Danks walked off the mound in the sixth inning trailing 3-0, but his teammates rallied for five runs in the bottom of the sixth to give him the lead.

The combination of relievers Jake Petricka, Zach Duke and Robertson made it stand up, as the trio combined for three scoreless innings. Melky Cabrera made one of the best catches of the season in the eighth inning for the Sox, robbing Eric Hosmer of a game-tying home run for the final out of the inning.

Robertson wasn't as dominant in his second outing of the day. He gave up two singles, but also fanned two batters to earn his third save of the season.

When these two teams meet, typically it's the Royals who capitalize on mistakes by the Sox to win close games. That script was flipped on Sunday, as it was Kansas City that made the costly miscues.

In the completion of the suspended game, Royals reliever Kelvin Herrera walked Cabrera with two outs and then uncorked a wild pitch to move the runner into scoring position. Herrera's wildness came back to bite him when Garcia's bloop to left-center field fell in and Cabrera came home to plate the winning run.

Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas booted a grounder off Abreu's bat in the sixth inning of the second game, allowing the Sox to score their first run. From there, the South Siders strung together four more singles to surge ahead -- the biggest hit was a two-out, two-run single by Conor Gillaspie that put the Sox ahead 4-3 and sent Kansas City starter Edinson Volquez (2-2) to the showers.

It's been a long time coming for the Sox to win a series against the Royals. Coming into Sunday, they had lost 15 of the last 18 head-to-head meetings. Will this be the day that marks the end of Kansas City's domination of the Sox? We'll find out later in the season. The two teams have 13 more games to play, but they don't meet again until a doubleheader on July 17 in Chicago.

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 9, 2015

Zach Putnam: Can the White Sox trust him?

Zach Putnam was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise miserable 2014 White Sox bullpen. We're not going to take that away from him.

The right-hander went 5-3 with a 1.98 ERA and allowed only 39 hits in 54.2 innings for the 2014 Sox. He totaled six saves, and most impressively, he stranded a team-record 89 percent (26 of 29) of his inherited runners last year. That's a solid season by any standard, especially for a pitcher who had been picked up off the scrap heap and didn't make the roster at the start of the year.

But despite the good numbers Putnam put up last season, I haven't yet been able to shake the idea that his 2014 performance was an aberration. After all, Putnam is a 26-year-old on his fourth organization. The other three teams he was with before he joined the Sox -- Cleveland, Colorado and the Cubs -- didn't give him many opportunities at the major league level, and he didn't do anything with the handful of chances he received.

In parts of three seasons with those three teams, Putnam appeared in 15 games, worked a total of 12.2 innings and posted a 8.53 ERA. You might say he profiles as a journeyman.

For the first time in his career, Putnam reported to camp this February with his major league roster spot secure based on his previous year's performance. He did not perform well in Cactus League play. He posted a 9.35 ERA and gave up four home runs in just 8.2 innings, increasing my suspicions that maybe last year was simply a career year for him.

People talk about sinkers not sinking and split-finger pitches not moving in the dry air of Arizona, and I'm sure that had some impact on Putnam's poor spring. However, it's no excuse for the flat sinker Putnam threw to Lorenzo Cain in the eighth inning Wednesday night in Kansas City. Or was that a splitter? Heck, it had so little movement on it that I don't even know what pitch it was.

What is clear is that, whatever it was, Cain crushed it over the left-field wall for a two-run homer that broke a 5-5 tie and lifted the Royals to a 7-5 victory over the White Sox.

The South Siders are now 0-2 with the loss. I'm not panicked tonight by any means, but I am asking myself whether the Sox can continue to trust Putnam with an eighth-inning role. When I look at his stuff and career profile, those 54.2 good innings from a year ago just aren't enough to convince me that he should be a high-leverage reliever on team that believes itself to be a contender.

It's worth noting that perhaps the Sox don't have any better options right now. They spent $46 million to bring in David Robertson to close games. OK, great, but with Jake Petricka and Nate Jones both on the disabled list, who is the best choice to be the right-handed setup man?

You're choosing among Putnam, Javy Guerra and Matt Albers. I can't say any of those options inspire me, and that's one of the holes on this Sox roster right now. The team needs somebody to step up and join left-hander Zach Duke as part of the bridge between the starting staff and Robertson.

The Sox are giving Putnam first crack at that job, but I can't get past the sinking feeling that Putnam is going to pitch himself out of that role and cost the Sox some more games in the process.

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.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

White Sox agree to four-year deal with closer David Robertson

The White Sox moved late Monday night to shore up a glaring weakness, agreeing to terms on a four-year, $46 million contract with closer David Robertson, multiple sources said.

Robertson, 29, took over the closer's role in New York last year from Mariano Rivera and went 4-5 with a 3.08 ERA and 39 saves for the Yankees. He has a 2.81 career ERA in seven seasons.

The Sox were a disaster in the bullpen in 2014, so while this move might be an overpay, it is something the South Siders absolutely had to do.

Their closer by committee approach last year totaled just 36 saves, which was better than only five major league teams. Their 4.28 bullpen ERA ranked 28th out of the 30 teams in baseball. Only the Colorado Rockies and Houston Astros were worse. A big move was necessary. The signing of Robertson qualifies.

What's to like about Robertson? He strikes people out.

For his career, Robertson has struck out 12.0 batters per nine innings pitched. As the New York closer last season, he fanned 96 men in 64.1 innings pitched. That's a rate of 13.4 strikeouts per nine innings. He struck out more than 37 percent of the batters he faced in 2014. If opposing batters can't put the ball in play, they can't get hits. That's a trait you like in any closer.

About the only concern I have with Robertson: He gave up seven home runs last year. That's a little high, but considering what the Sox had last year in the bullpen, I'll take my chances.

You figure Robertson, left-hander Zach Duke and right-hander Jake Petricka now make up the back end of the Sox' bullpen. I wouldn't be surprised if we see another relief pitcher or two added before the offseason is over. The Sox are believed to be targeting Park Ridge native Luke Gregerson, who has pitched previously with the San Diego Padres and Oakland Athletics.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

White Sox announce early lineup for SoxFest 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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