Showing posts with label Javy Guerra. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Javy Guerra. Show all posts

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.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

White Sox trim roster by seven; at least two jobs in bullpen still open

The White Sox are down to 44 players in camp after trimming their roster by seven on Tuesday.

Infielder Leury Garcia, first baseman Andy Wilkins and pitcher Onelki Garcia were optioned to Triple-A Charlotte. Pitching prospect Francellis Montas was optioned to Double-A Birmingham. Pitchers Logan Kensing, Nolan Sanburn and Joe Savery were assigned to minor league camp.

The most prominent player on the list, of course, is Garcia, who was on the White Sox's 25-man roster for the entirety of the 2014 campaign. He posted a horrific slash line of .166/.192/.207, prompting the Sox to sign Emilio Bonifacio and bring back Gordon Beckham over the offseason to ensure Garcia's utility services would not be essential this year.

Of the players remaining in camp, 25 are pitchers. The Sox are still carrying four catchers, nine infielders and six outfielders, as well.

What part of the roster remains unsettled at this point? You'd have to say its the bullpen, where at least two and possibly three jobs are open.

We know closer David Robertson is on the team. Jake Petricka, Zach Duke and Dan Jennings also are assured of spots.

I'm pretty sure Zach Putnam is on the team. He was the Sox's best reliever last year, going 5-3 with a 1.98 ERA in 49 appearances. Based upon that performance, you assume he'll get the benefit of the doubt despite a poor spring. But, Putnam has a 15.43 ERA and has allowed four home runs in 4.2 IP this March. That's bad enough to give anybody pause.

For the sake of argument, let's assume Putnam is on the club, and five of the seven bullpen spots are filled.

That leaves Matt Albers, Maikel Cleto, Javy Guerra and Daniel Webb competing for two jobs.

Cleto strengthened his case Tuesday with two scoreless innings in a 7-6 loss to the Colorado Rockies. Albers took a step back, allowing three runs on four hits in two-thirds of an inning. The runs were unearned, thanks to some sloppy defense from Melky Cabrera in left field, but Albers has now been scored upon in each of his last two outings after beginning the spring with four consecutive scoreless appearances.

It's worth noting Webb is the only one of these pitchers with an option remaining, so he and his 7.56 ERA remain squarely on the bubble. Guerra continues to lead this group of four with a 2.45 ERA to this point in the spring.

Here's a look at the numbers for each of these four relievers:

Guerra: 7.1 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 Ks, 3 BBs, 2.45 ERA
Cleto: 7.1 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 9 Ks, 4 BBs, 4.91 ERA
Albers: 6.1 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 2 ER, 8 Ks, 3 BBs, 2.84 ERA
Webb: 8.1 IP, 11 H, 7 ER, 7 ER, 5 Ks, 7 BBs, 7.56 ERA

I'm expecting the Sox to keep Guerra. It might go right down to the last day between Cleto and Albers.

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.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

A defense of Chris Sale in this whole 'sign-stealing' thing

White Sox ace Chris Sale is taking quite a bit of criticism for the way he handled himself during and after this whole sign-stealing, bench-clearing incident thing with Detroit designated hitter Victor Martinez on Wednesday.

The thing that amuses me most about the whole deal is the fact that few in Chicago have paid any attention to the Sox whatsoever over the past month or six weeks -- Bears obsession in this town runs deep -- but after this incident where Sale plunked Martinez and supposedly accused the Tigers of stealing signs, all the pundits have suddenly come out of the woodwork to comment on Sale's actions during Wednesday's 6-1 Detroit victory.

It's clear to me that most people did not watch this game. They were probably too busy discussing Jay Cutler's mechanics, or "breaking down" Sunday's matchup between the Bears and the Green Bay Packers. That's fine. That's where their bread is buttered, and I get that. But if you didn't see the game, let's not form our opinions based upon Sale's non-answers to the media after the game. Let's also not form our opinions based upon a few angry soundbites from Detroit manager Brad Ausmus. He's an even more biased observer than I am.

It seems that some folks have dismissed the accusations of sign-stealing as completely implausible. But something that happened in the third inning -- three innings before Sale nailed Martinez in his left shoulder with a fastball -- is enough to raise some eyebrows.

Martinez came to the plate with two on and two out in that third inning. Sale looked out toward the outfield a couple times early in the at-bat, and with the count at 2-1, catcher Tyler Flowers paid a visit to the mound. It's pretty clear what they discussed. On each of the next three pitches, Flowers set up on the inside corner, but Sale threw the ball outside.

On the 2-1 pitch, Martinez swung and missed a Sale fastball that was way off the plate. Martinez couldn't have hit that pitch with an oar. On the 2-2, Sale fired a backdoor slider that was just off the outside corner. Martinez swung and just got a piece of it, fouling it off to stay alive. The next pitch was a fastball that was high, outside and well out of the zone. Martinez swung and missed. Strike three, inning over. Sale walks off the mound and gives his now-famous tip of the cap to somebody in the outfield.

Forget about the cap-tipping for a moment. The key point here is Flowers set up inside three times in a row, and Sale threw the ball outside three times in a row. Quite obviously, they suspected someone was tipping location to the Detroit batters, and they reacted the way professional ballplayers should: They changed their strategy and got the desired result.

We don't know for sure that somebody in Detroit was trying to tip location to Martinez. What we do know is Martinez -- who has struck out just 41 times in 627 plate appearances this season -- was swinging wildly at horrible pitches like a blind man. He uncharacteristically struck himself out in a critical RBI situation, against a pitcher he has owned (15 for 29 lifetime) in the past. Isn't that interesting?

It seems likely Martinez was looking for the ball in, only to get the ball away, throughout that at-bat. Maybe he was looking for the ball in because he could sense Flowers move toward the inside corner. Or maybe, someone was signaling to him that Flowers was setting up inside, causing him to look in, only to be fooled by pitches away. It's not as implausible as Sale's critics are making it out to be. Stealing signs and stealing pitch locations has been a part of the game for decades. There are ways to combat it, and Sale and Flowers employed one such method in the third inning.

Then, Martinez comes up in the sixth inning, knowing he struck out on an outside pitch in his previous at-bat. Flowers sets up on the inside part of the plate once again, but this time Sale really is coming in with a fastball. The pitch hits Martinez, who was probably looking away. He glares at Sale. The fans boo. The Tigers say, "That's intentional!" Cry me a river.

Maybe it was intentional. Or maybe Sale figured he had Martinez looking away, so he was going to try to bust him in this particular at-bat, and the ball was just too far in. That stuff does happen, and when you're facing a guy who is 15 for 29 off you lifetime, you gotta try different things. Even if Sale did hit Martinez intentionally, so what? Again, 15 for 29. Isn't it about time Sale do something to make Martinez less comfortable in the box against him? I don't care if the Tigers' feelings were hurt. It's competitive athletics. It's not about feelings. It's about winning. If Ausmus doesn't like or respect Sale now, who cares?

And don't get me started about this lazy media narrative about the Tigers being "fired up" by the incident. First of all, the Tigers are trying to win an AL Central division title. They entered Wednesday's action with a one-game lead over the Kansas City Royals with five games to play. If they need a pitcher on a fourth-place team to do something to get them excited to play, well, they ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Secondly, the Tigers didn't win this game because Sale "fired them up." The game was tied, 1-1, when Sale left the mound. Detroit scored five runs after the Chicago ace departed. That's not a coincidence. Sale struck out 10 and allowed just the one run in this contest. Tiger hitters did next to nothing against him. Javy Guerra and Matt Lindstrom are significantly lesser pitchers than Sale. We've see throughout the course of the season that opposing teams don't need to be "fired up" to score runs against mediocre or less-than-mediocre Sox relief pitchers such as Guerra and Lindstrom. Poor pitches by those two bullpen guys were the deciding factor in the game, not "the fire and the passion."

From where I'm sitting, Sale did nothing wrong with any of the pitches he threw Wednesday. His biggest mistake was the cap-tipping thing after he struck out Martinez in the third. People get angry about antics like that -- maybe more than they should -- but the moral of the story is an athlete never wins in the court of public opinion if he makes a gesture of any sort toward the fans. I'll bet Sale received a talking-to from his manager about that. Hopefully, he doesn't make the same mistake again.

That said, I have no problem with the way Sale dealt with Martinez. If this bothers some folks so much, well, they can go back to breaking down matchups in the Bears-Packers game.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

It's better to have no left-handed relievers than bad left-handed relievers

The White Sox on Sunday optioned left-handed relief pitcher Eric Surkamp to Triple-A Charlotte. The move creates room on the 25-man roster for veteran reliever Matt Lindstrom, who has completed his rehab assignment and will rejoin Chicago in time for Tuesday night's game at San Francisco.

With Surkamp's demotion, this means the Sox will no longer have a left-handed pitcher available out of the bullpen. While this situation isn't ideal, none of the left-handed relievers the Sox have tried this season have worked out for them.

The club started the year with Scott Downs and Donnie Veal on the roster, but both men pitched their way off the team before the All-Star break. Surkamp has been given a look in that lefty role in the seven weeks since Downs was given his walking papers, but his results have been mixed at best.

Left-handed batters are hitting just .167 in 30 plate appearances against Surkamp, but here's the problem: They've also hit three home runs off him in those 30 plate appearances. The first priority for any left-handed reliever is to keep opposing left-handed hitters in the ballpark. Surkamp has not done that. A left-handed hitter has homered off him once in every 10 at-bats. That's too high of a rate.

Maybe you chalk that up to a small sample size and keep Surkamp in the bigs if it weren't for the fact that he can't get righties out at all. Right-handed hitters are posting a robust .360/.429/.400 slash line against him.

Surkamp can't retire righties, and he can't keep lefties in the yard. That's a recipe for getting sent back to Charlotte.

If you're worried about the lack of lefty relievers in the bullpen, the Sox have one right-handed relief pitcher who gets lefties out at a high rate: Javy Guerra.

Take a look at Guerra's lefty/right splits:

vs. LHB: .207/.319/.293
vs. RHB: .304/.375/.500

Left-handed hitters have clubbed just one home run off Guerra in 70 plate appearances this season. Unlike Surkamp, Guerra keeps lefties in the yard, as well as getting them out on a regular basis.

If Sox manager Robin Ventura finds himself in a situation where he needs a reliever to get a left-handed batter out in a tight situation, Guerra is the man he should summon from the bullpen.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Putting some numbers to the White Sox' bullpen dumpster fire

It's hard to believe right now, but things were looking up on the South Side of Chicago as recently as a week ago. The White Sox had just taken two out of three from the first-place Detroit Tigers. They had won six out of eight games and were threatening to reach the .500 mark for the first time since the second week of June.

Alas, Chicago's bullpen is still terrible. Every time the Sox have threatened to go on a winning streak, the relief corps has done something horrible to prevent that from happening.

In a season full of bullpen blowups, this week has taken the cake. The Sox have dropped five of their last six games, and they've been outscored by a ghastly 59-18 margin during that stretch. We all know the primary culprit is a bullpen that cannot get anybody out, but in case you were wondering just how bad it has gotten, let's put some numbers to the horror show.

Here are the August statistics for the eight relief pitchers the Sox have used so far this month. All numbers are through Aug. 7:

Jake Petricka: 3.38 ERA (1 ER in 2.2 IP), 1.500 WHIP
Maikel Cleto: 9.00 ERA (3 ER in 3 IP), 1.000 WHIP
Daniel Webb: 9.82 ERA (4 ER in 3.2 IP), 2.455 WHIP
Javy Guerra: 10.13 ERA (3 ER, 2.2 IP), 2.250 WHIP
Eric Surkamp: 13.50 ERA (4 ER, 2.2 IP), 3.000 WHIP
Taylor Thompson: 27.00 ERA (3 ER, 1 IP), 4.000 WHIP
Andre Rienzo: 34.71 ERA (9 ER, 2.1 IP), 6.429 WHIP
Ronald Belisario: 189.00 ERA (7 ER, .1 IP), 18.000 WHIP

You add all that up, and the bullpen has a collective 16.69 ERA for the month.

I've often been critical of Sox manager Robin Ventura for leaving his starting pitchers in too long. A couple times this week, I've thought to myself, "Ventura is leaving this guy in too long." But then I catch myself and realize he has nobody in bullpen who can make a key pitch, so it's hard to blame the manager for staying with a tiring or struggling starter at this stage of the game.

I don't think Petricka is throwing his best right now, but he's the only guy among this group pitching like a major leaguer. Everyone else in the bullpen is committing arson every single time they step on the mound. Fans should remember that if they are tempted to call for Ventura's head during this stretch of bad ball. A manager who has no options is going to come off looking like an idiot no matter what he does.

Right now, the only thing Ventura can do is pray his starter goes eight innings, and bring in Petricka for the ninth. Anything other than that seems like it won't end well for the White Sox.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

I'll be the jerk who says it: I don't like baseball's replay system

I always cringe when I hear commentators mention that baseball's new instant replay system is "working." Really? It works sometimes, sure, but there are other times when it is aggravating as hell.

I had one of those moments Saturday as I watched the White Sox play the Cleveland Indians. Let it be said the Sox came away with a 6-2 victory, so this isn't going to be one those sour grapes "the umpires cost us the game" blogs. However, a pair of calls went against the Sox in the bottom of the seventh inning that left me shaking my head with regard to this replay system.

The Sox were up 3-0 at the time. There was a man at first with one out. Sox reliever Zach Putnam was pitching to Cleveland catcher Yan Gomes. On a 1-2 count, Putnam bounced a splitter that Gomes swung at and missed. Strike three, right? Nope.

Gomes claimed he had foul-tipped the pitch. He sold it well, and the umpire bought the act. Replay showed he clearly swung and missed. It should have been the second out of the inning. Sox manager Robin Ventura came out to protest, but to no avail. Such calls aren't reviewable under MLB's instant replay system. The umpire's incorrect call stood, and there was nothing anybody could do about it.

The at-bat continued and Gomes hit a sinking liner to left field that Sox outfielder Dayan Viciedo scooped up off the outfield grass. Viciedo claimed he made the catch. He sold it well, and the umpires bought it. They called Gomes out. Only problem was, the call was wrong. Viciedo trapped the ball, and it should have been a base hit.

Cleveland manager Terry Francona protested the call. This one was reviewable, and admittedly, it was correctly reversed. Gomes was awarded first. The inning continued, and the Indians eventually scored a two-out run to slice the Sox lead to 3-1. Reliever Javy Guerra finally struck shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera out with the bases loaded to protect the lead.

If Gomes had been called out on strikes like he should have been, the inning would have been over two batters sooner, and the Indians would not have scored.

Here's where my frustration lies: The system "worked" on that second call when the Indians were wronged. But when the umpire made an incorrect call moments before that hurt the White Sox, the system could do nothing for them. That's irritating.

I hear all the time that the objective of the system is "to get it right." I hear all the time that "we have the technology, so let's use it." Both are noble sentiments. Who could disagree with either? But it seems to me the league only "wants to get it right" and "use the technology" in certain situations.

Why shouldn't the first call with Gomes be reviewable? We have the technology to get it right, no? As a fan, it's really frustrating when the system works for the other team and not for yours. I'm sure fans of all teams, not just the White Sox, have had a moment at some point this season where they've been completely baffled by a replay review (or non-review) that went against their team.

I don't think this system is working as well as many claim it is. As a matter of fact, I would categorize it as a disappointment. It should work better than it does.

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.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

It makes sense for a rebuilding team to take a flier on Tommy Hanson

The White Sox on Monday signed veteran right-handed pitcher Tommy Hanson to a minor league deal. The 27-year-old is expected to report to Triple-A Charlotte after a stint at extended spring training in Arizona.  

Earlier this spring, Hanson was released by the Texas Rangers after posting a 6.43 ERA over 14 innings in the Cactus League. 

Hanson, who was once a prized prospect in the Atlanta organization, finished third in the National League Rookie of the Year balloting in 2009, when he went 11-4 with a 2.89 ERA in 21 starts for the Braves. Unfortunately for him, that was his finest hour. He has seen a gradual decline in every year since, and has been plagued by shoulder problems since the 2011 season.  

He spent last year with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, finishing 4-3 with a 5.42 ERA in 15 games (13 starts).  

It always amazes me how some people become outraged about minor signings such as this one. You look around the Internet, and you can find Sox fans complaining about this move, making comments such as, "This organization is such a wreck. Why would they sign a bum like this?"  

I'll tell you why: There's no risk, and it costs next to nothing. If Hanson continues to struggle, he will be released. If he gets his act together, perhaps he can give the Sox some decent innings while they go through a transitional season.  

When a team is rebuilding like the Sox are, it's inevitable that there are some gaping holes in the roster. If there weren't gaping holes, well, then a rebuilding process wouldn't be necessary, would it?  

The Sox organization is trying to fill those holes with talented young players as quickly as possible, but high-end talent is hard to acquire and it doesn't happen overnight. In the meantime, you need some veteran guys to fill in the gaps until you can either trade for or develop somebody better.  

General manager Rick Hahn knows there isn't a lot of pitching depth in the Sox' minor leagues, so he has added several low-cost, no-risk arms in free agency or off the waiver wire. Felipe Paulino and Maikel Cleto are two such pickups currently pitching in the big leagues. Hanson will eventually join Mitchell Boggs, Eric Surkamp and Javy Guerra in Charlotte. Don't be surprised if we see one or more of those four in Chicago sometime this summer.  

No, guys like Paulino, Cleto, Hanson, Boggs, Surkamp and Guerra are not going to lead the White Sox to October glory -- not this year or any other year. But as fans, we need to understand that's not what they are here to do. If you sign five or six reclamation projects, chances are two or three will end up giving you some halfway decent innings and keep you somewhat competitive at the big-league level while the team goes through the sometimes painful rebuilding process.  

Eventually, these stopgap veterans will be replaced by younger players with more upside, but until those guys are acquired, somebody has to pitch.  

No one is fool enough to believe a guy like Hanson is a long-term solution for anything. Chances are he'll be a faint memory the next time the Sox field a contending team. But, if he comes up and starts the second end of a doubleheader, or even if he gives the team 30 innings out of the bullpen later in the year, then this signing is worthwhile.

It's all part of a process. It's all a means to an end.