Showing posts with label Leury Garcia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Leury Garcia. Show all posts

Thursday, April 27, 2017

White Sox pitcher Jose Quintana has his first win of 2017

Jose Quintana
Here's a sentence I did not think I would type at any point this season: The White Sox are tied for first place entering Thursday's games.

The South Siders completed a three-game sweep of the Kansas City Royals with a 5-2 victory Wednesday, improving their record to 11-9. The Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians also are 11-9, creating a three-way tie atop the AL Central.

Sox left-hander Jose Quintana (1-4) finally got in the win column Wednesday, as he pitched six innings of two-run ball with a season-high 10 strikeouts. It easily was Quintana's best performance so far, as he entered the outing with an uncharacteristic 6.17 ERA and 5.69 FIP in his first four starts.

In fairness to Quintana, the Sox scored only four runs combined for him in those four games, so wins would have been hard to come by even if he had pitched well.

But Wednesday, the Sox handed him a 2-0 lead on RBI doubles from Jose Abreu and Todd Frazier in the first inning. The lead eventually slipped away as the Royals nicked Quintana for single runs in the fifth and sixth innings. With the scored tied at 2, it looked as if Quintana might be destined for a no-decision.

Alas, the Royals (7-14) are in a deep slump right now -- seven losses in a row -- and they seem to be inventing ways to lose games. A really, really bad pitch by Kansas City starter Nate Karns (0-2) allowed the Sox to grab the lead back in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Karns had been fooling the Sox's right-handed hitters all day with breaking balls in the dirt. Avisail Garcia was retired on pitches down and out of the zone in each of his first two at-bats Wednesday, and in his third at-bat, he swung and missed badly at a Karns breaking pitch that was down, outside and well out of the zone to open the sequence.

You got the feeling that Karns would retire Garcia again if he just stayed with his offspeed pitch. Instead, on the 0-1 count, he thought he'd go ahead and try to sneak a middle-in fastball past Garcia. The Sox right fielder was ready, and he clubbed the pitch 451 feet to center field for a two-run homer that put Chicago ahead, 4-2. Horrible pitch selection by Karns, and even worse execution.

Quintana's day was done after six innings, but he was then in line for the win. Leury Garcia's solo home run in the seventh made it 5-2, and four Sox relievers combined to throw three scoreless innings to put away the game.

David Robertson worked the ninth inning to earn his fifth save in five chances. His ERA is down to 1.17, for all those clubs out there who are in need of bullpen help. (I'm looking at you, Washington Nationals.)

The Sox probably won't stay in first for long. Thursday is an off day, while Detroit and Cleveland are both in action. At least one of them likely will win and drop the Sox down the standings, but it's nice to be at the top -- if only for a day -- during a rebuilding season.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

One thing White Sox manager Rick Renteria did Tuesday that I liked

The White Sox pounded the Kansas City Royals for the second straight night Tuesday, totaling 14 hits in a 10-5 victory.

There were a number of good offensive performances:
  • Todd Frazier had two doubles, a sacrifice fly, three runs scored and three RBIs.
  • Leury Garcia went 3 for 4 with two RBIs and a run scored.
  • Avisail Garcia had three hits, including a double, with two runs scored and an RBI.
  • Omar Narvaez reached base four times with two singles and two walks, plus two RBIs and a run scored.
The Sox finally solved Kansas City ace Danny Duffy (2-1), scoring six runs on nine hits off the left-hander in 4.2 innings.

But all that offense aside, I really liked how Sox manager Rick Renteria kept shaky starting pitcher Dylan Covey on a short leash.

In the ideal world, Covey would be continuing his development in the minor leagues right now. But as a Rule 5 draft pick, he needs to remain on the big league roster or be offered back to the Oakland A's. So, he's serving as the Sox's No. 5 starter for now, and predictably and understandably, he's struggling.

He needed 86 pitches to get through four innings Tuesday night. There was a lot of traffic on the bases while he was in the game: He allowed three hits, walked three and hit a batter. In that context, he's fortunate to only give up two runs in those four innings.

The Sox (10-9) were leading, 4-2, after four innings, and it had to be tempting for Renteria to send Covey back to the mound to try to complete the fifth inning and become eligible for his first major league win.

Wisely, Renteria resisted the temptation. Covey was laboring, so the Sox went to their bullpen. Dan Jennings (2-0), Anthony Swarzak and Nate Jones combined to keep the Royals (7-12) off the scoreboard for the next four innings. Meanwhile, the Sox lead swelled to 10-2 going to the ninth.

Chris Beck, who was recalled Tuesday after Zach Putnam went on the disabled list with elbow inflammation, gave up three runs in the ninth to make the score look more respectable for the Royals.

But, one of the keys to victory was Renteria understanding that sticking with Covey any longer would have led to problems. The bullpen was rested after Miguel Gonzalez provided the Sox with eight quality innings Monday night, and using the relievers to secure that win was the correct move. 

Monday, April 10, 2017

White Sox lose two out of three to Minnesota Twins

Avisail Garcia
The Minnesota Twins lost a league-worst 103 games last season, but they've surprised the American League with a 5-1 start this year. Minnesota starting pitchers have racked up quality starts in five of the team's first six games, and not surprisingly, all five of those games resulted in wins.

The Twins took two out of three from the White Sox over the weekend at Guaranteed Rate Field. Here are some observations from the series:

Friday, April 8
Twins 3, White Sox 1: If we're being honest with ourselves, we know the Sox are going to struggle offensively. They don't have much power, and they were limited to seven hits (six singles, one double) by Minnesota starter Phil Hughes (1-0) and two relievers in this loss.

Poor defense cost Sox starter Derek Holland (0-1) a gift run in the fourth inning. He tried to pick Robbie Grossman off second base and tossed the ball into center field, allowing Grossman to advance to third. The Minnesota runner later scored when Sox right fielder Avisail Garcia dropped a shallow fly ball that was not nearly deep enough to be a sacrifice fly.

Grossman also scored the go-ahead run in the sixth on a double by Miguel Sano. In the seventh, a leadoff walk to Eduardo Escobar bit Holland, as a double by Chris Gimenez off Sox reliever Nate Jones scored Minnesota's third run.

This game featured Rick Renteria's first glaring managerial mistake of the season. With the Sox trailing 3-1 after eight innings, he put Jacob May in center field in place of Leury Garcia -- presumably for defensive purposes. Naturally, May ended up at the plate after Avisail Garcia and Geovany Soto drew two-out walks with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.

The rookie, who is hitless through five games, was seemingly unaware that the previous two hitters had walked. He swung at the first pitch from Minnesota closer Brandon Kintzler and grounded out to second base to end the game. Fail.

Saturday, April 9
White Sox 6, Twins 2: The Sox executed pretty well offensively in the game, knocking Minnesota starter Adalberto Mejia out of the box early with a run in the first inning and two more in the second.

In both innings, the Sox placed a runner on second base with no outs. Both times, they brought the runner around to score. Tyler Saladino doubled to start the game, advanced to third on a grounder to the right side by Tim Anderson and scored when Melky Cabrera grounded out to short with the Minnesota infield back.

Todd Frazier walked and stole second base in the second inning. Avisail Garcia did the right thing -- he looked to hit the ball to the right side -- and he drove one off the right-field wall for an RBI triple. Garcia scored later in the inning when the Twins botched a rundown off a failed suicide squeeze attempt by Soto.

Sox starter Miguel Gonzalez (1-0) protected the lead through six innings. He gave up a two-run homer to Jason Castro in the sixth, but walked off the mound with a 3-2 lead. Garcia and Soto hit back-to-back homers in the bottom of the sixth to account for three more runs, providing the final margin of victory.

Garcia finished a double short of the cycle. He went 3 for 4 with two runs scored and three RBIs.

Saturday, April 10
Twins 4, White Sox 1: Again, the big hit was lacking for the Sox. They had 11 runners reach base and stranded 10 of them. The good news: They took five walks and had one man reach on an HBP. The bad news: They had only five hits, and all of them were singles.

The lineup had no punch against Minnesota's best pitcher, Ervin Santana (2-0). The right-hander went six innings, and he allowed only two hits.

Sox ace Jose Quintana (0-2) pitched much better than he did in the home opener. He had his typical quality start, allowing two runs on five hits over 6.1 innings. Alas, he left with the Sox trailing 2-0, and had nothing to show for a respectable effort.

Minnesota increased its lead to 4-0 in the eighth when Sano got a not-high-enough fastball from Jones and knocked it over the center field wall for a two-run homer.

The Sox had their chance in the bottom of the eighth inning. They loaded the bases with one out against Minnesota reliever Matt Belisle. But, Matt Davidson basically struck himself out by swinging at a Belisle fastball that was up and out of the zone. It was a rally-killing at-bat, to say the least.

Kintzler entered the game and plunked Avisail Garcia with a pitch to the give the Sox their lone run, but then he struck out Yolmer Sanchez, who flailed helplessly at a pitch in the dirt for strike three.

One area the Sox must improve: They need to cut down on their strikeouts. They are letting pitchers off the hook by swinging at pitches out of the zone in RBI situations. It's a long-standing problem, and part of the problem is they need to get better players. Davidson and Sanchez likely will never be good hitters at the big-league level. But in the meantime, Renteria and his staff need to preach more patience at the plate.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

White Sox going young in center field (and other news)

It's looking as if Jacob May has won the job as the starting center fielder for the White Sox.

Charlie Tilson is still in a walking boot for the next three weeks and may not be back until late May, and the Sox on Monday traded Peter Bourjos to the Tampa Bay Rays for cash considerations.

Subtracting Tilson from the equation, here are the offensive numbers the three contenders for center field have put up in the spring:

May: .339/.361/.525, 2 BB, 12 K, 4 for 5 in stolen bases, 61 plate appearances
Bourjos: .313/.340/.521, 2 BB, 7 K, 1 for 1 in stolen bases, 50 plate appearances
Leury Garcia: .339/.355/.424, 2 BB, 9 K, 2 for 4 in stolen bases, 64 plate appearances

May is the best of the three defensively, and he nosed out the other contenders with his performance at the plate, as well. I can't say I disagree with giving him the chance. He's 25 years old, the team is rebuilding, why not find out what you have with him?

Most of the prospect guys say May is a fourth outfielder, and that might very well be all he is. But you don't know until you give him some big-league time and see how he responds.

However, I was surprised they decided to move Bourjos. He seemed like a good veteran insurance policy at a position where the Sox have painfully little depth. At the very least, I was expecting him to make the club as a fourth outfielder.

Instead, the Sox are apparently going with the cringeworthy Garcia. They like his "versatility," but as I've said before, sure, he plays five positions, but he plays them all poorly, so who cares?

If May does poorly and Tilson doesn't recover from his injury, we could be looking at a starting Sox outfielder of Melky Cabrera, Leury Garcia and Avisail Garcia. That's the kind of defensive lineup that will lose you a lot of games, which might be the goal for this season anyway.

Rodon diagnosed with bursitis

Sox pitcher Carlos Rodon will begin a two-week throwing program after being diagnosed with bursitis (inflammation) in his left bicep tendon, according to a CSN Chicago report.

Rodon will begin the season on the 15-day disabled list.

In his absence, potential stopgap measures for the rotation include right-handers Dylan Covey and (gulp!) Anthony Swarzak.

This is another area where the Sox don't have much depth while they wait for more heralded pitching prospects to become big-league ready.

If Rodon is hurt and Jose Quintana gets traded, it will make what already is shaping up as a difficult season even more challenging.

A.J. Pierzynski
Pierzynski retires, takes broadcasting job

Former White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski announced his retirement Tuesday. He will join FOX as a full-time baseball analyst.

Pierzynski will serve as both a color commentator and studio analyst for FOX, while also making regular appearances on FS1's MLB Whiparound.

"With Opening Day right around the corner, this is always a great time of year," Pierzynski said in a statement from FOX Sports. "I’m really looking forward to what should be a very exciting MLB season and to being a part of the FOX Sports team again."

Pierzynski previously worked with FOX during the 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015 MLB postseasons.

It's no secret that I'm a fan of Pierzynski's. Despite his bad reputation with some folks, he's a smart guy and knows the game inside and out. I'm looking forward to hearing his insights on the FOX broadcasts.

Monday, March 13, 2017

White Sox score 14 runs in ninth inning to beat Dodgers

Leury Garcia
Let's be honest: Most spring training games are not worth much analysis. However, it gets your attention when a team scores 14 runs in one inning.

While most of the world was sleeping late Sunday night, the White Sox entered the ninth inning trailing the Los Angeles Dodgers, 3-1. They ended up winning the game, 15-5, after one of the most bizarre half-innings I've ever heard on the radio. (The game was not televised.)

The Sox batted around twice -- sending 18 men to the plate -- and scored 14 runs on only seven hits. A few highlights:

  • Luis Alexander Basabe, an outfielder who was acquired in the Chris Sale deal, had a two-run single to put the Sox ahead, 5-3.
  • Yoan Moncada, the team's top prospect, had a two-run double. Previously in the game, he had struck out in four consecutive plate appearances.
  • Longtime minor-leaguer Jason Bourgeois had five RBIs in the inning. He had a two-run single in his first AB of the rally, and he capped the Sox's scoring with a three-run homer. 
  • The Dodgers committed four errors, walked three men and hit two batters. So, the Sox were gifted nine baserunners, in addition to the seven hits they had.
The Dodgers probably could not have done any worse in that inning if they had just gone out there and lit themselves on fire. Sure, it was a collection of Double-A and Triple-A players on the field, but no professional team should be giving up that many runs in one inning.

That rally capped an interesting Sunday for the Sox, who also lost, 10-8, to the Texas Rangers in the other half of a split-squad day. In that game, the Sox scored all eight of their runs in the sixth inning.

So, to recap, the Sox had 18 offensive innings Sunday. They scored 23 runs, but they did it in the most bizarre fashion possible -- a 14-run inning, an 8-run inning, an inning with a single run scored, plus 15 innings with no runs at all.

I have to admit, I'm getting a little worried that Leury Garcia is going to make the team. He's got a slash line of .419/.500/.919 in 30 spring plate appearances. He had four hits against Texas on Sunday. But he also made two egregious mistakes on the basepaths, and at shortstop, he butchered a rundown play that allowed the Rangers to score a gift run.

I'm getting a little tired of hearing about Garcia's "versatility" being an asset. Sure, he plays multiple positions, but he plays them all poorly, so who cares? And, yes, he has speed, but he makes dumb outs on the bases, so who cares?

We know that Garcia feasts on Triple-A pitching -- he hit .313 at Charlotte in 2016 -- and that's what he's doing in this spring camp. Here's to hoping the Sox are not fooled. This is a player who makes mental mistake after mental mistake and does not belong on the roster. 

Friday, March 3, 2017

White Sox release infielder Brett Lawrie

Brett Lawrie
In a surprise move Friday, the White Sox requested waivers on infielder Brett Lawrie for the purpose of granting him his unconditional release.

Lawrie, who signed a one-year deal worth $3.5 million in December, was projected to be the team's starting second baseman. However, he hasn't played in a game since last July 21 because of a mysterious left leg injury that was reportedly caused by the use of orthotics.

The 27-year-old did not appear in any of the Sox's first seven spring training games this past week after informing the team Feb. 24 that he still wasn't feeling 100 percent ready to play.

Lawrie hit .248/.310/.413 with 12 home runs and 36 RBIs in 384 plate appearances last season, and played serviceable defense, but the Sox have other options at second base and apparently decided that they don't have the patience to wait around to see if Lawrie gets healthy.

 Most likely, Tyler Saladino is going to be the Opening Day second baseman. Saladino hit .282/.315/.409 with eight home runs and 38 RBIs in 319 plate appearances last season. The offensive numbers are similar to Lawrie's, and just about everyone agrees that Saladino is the superior defensive player. The Sox have other utility infield options with Yolmer Sanchez and Leury Garcia, and most people think top prospect Yoan Moncada is going to be called up to be the Sox's second baseman by midseason anyway.

The front office must believe that some combination of Saladino/Sanchez/Garcia can hold down second base until Moncada is ready, and it's hard to argue with that thinking.

Cutting ties with Lawrie now also saves the Sox a bit of money. Arbitration contracts are not guaranteed until Opening Day. The Sox are only on the hook for 30 days' termination pay, or about one-sixth of Lawrie's salary. That's about $574,000.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

White Sox have had their best offensive month in September

Leury Garcia
Stat of the day: The White Sox have scored 137 runs in 25 games this month, an average of 5.5 runs a game.

That makes September far and away their best offensive month of the season. The next best offensive month? It was May, when the Sox plated 123 runs in 28 games (4.4 a game).

Where was this September offense in June and July, you ask? Great question. This is obviously a case of too little and much too late, but the Sox continued their run of better-than-we're-used-to offense with a 13-6 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night.

Three batters into the bottom of the first inning, the Sox had three runs. Adam Eaton doubled and scored on a single by Tim Anderson. Melky Cabrera followed with his 14th home run of the season to make it 3-0. The Sox had the lead the rest of the way.

It was a tough night for Tampa Bay starter Alex Cobb, who is trying to make it back from Tommy John surgery. He lasted only three innings and gave up eight runs. His ERA swelled to 8.59 after five starts. The Sox added two runs in the second and three more in the third, including a three-run home run by Leury Garcia, of all people.

For Garcia, it was just his second career home run and first since June 4, 2014.

Anderson continued to impress in his rookie season as he went 3 for 5 with a double, his eighth home run of the season, two runs scored and three RBIs. His batting average sits at a respectable .278 clip 94 games into his career. At no point during this season has he looked overmatched offensively or defensively, and while it's still too soon to say what kind of player Anderson will ultimately become, it has to be comforting for the Sox to know who their shortstop is going to be in 2017. It's one less hole to fill.

The beneficiary of all this run support was Sox ace Chris Sale (17-9), who equaled a career high in wins with 17 in what might be his last start of the season. Sale wasn't at his sharpest, but he didn't need to be. He went seven innings, allowing three runs on eight hits. He struck out seven and did not issue a walk, which is typically the recipe for success when pitching with a big lead.

Chris Beck worked a 1-2-3 eighth, and the Sox led, 13-3, after eight innings. Enter Matt Albers, whose career is probably going to be over after this week. He allowed three runs (two earned) to account for the final score. Remember when Albers was unscored upon for 30 straight appearances? Well, his ERA is up to 6.31 now. That's how badly he's pitched the last three or four months. He's done.

The win was the Sox's fourth in a row, and at 76-81, they still have an outside shot at finishing .500 if they can win the rest of their games this week. Not likely, but hey, it's all we got, right?

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

White Sox pitcher Jeff Samardzija turns in the worst performance of his career

The end of the 2015 regular season is less than three weeks away. It can't come soon enough for White Sox starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija, who is enduring a baffling terrible second half.

Samardzija turned in the worst start of his career Tuesday night as the Sox absorbed a 17-6 pounding at the hands of the Oakland Athletics.

The right-hander put the Sox in a 5-0 hole in the first inning. He failed to make it through the fourth inning -- he didn't record an out in that fourth, in fact -- an inning in which the Athletics would score 10 runs.

Samardzija's final line: 3 IP, 11 H, 10 R, 10 ER, 3 BBs, 3 Ks.

From June 7 through July 28, Samardzija posted 10 straight starts of seven innings pitched or more. His season highlight came July 9 when he threw a four-hit shutout against the best offensive team in the league, the Toronto Blue Jays.

But since Aug. 1, it has all gone very wrong. Samardzija is 1-8 with a 9.24 ERA since that date. On Tuesday, he became just the third pitcher in MLB history to allow nine or more earned runs in a game three times in the same season. The others are Jaime Navarro (1997) and Brett Tomko (2003).

Sox fans are all too familiar with Navarro, and he's unfortunately become a convenient comparison to make with Samardzija.

Navarro, like Samardzija, pitched for the Cubs before joining the Sox and had a respectable amount of success. Navarro went a combined 29-18 with a 3.62 ERA from 1995-96 on the North Side. In 1997, he moved eight miles south to the White Sox and put up poor numbers that rival those of Samardzija this season.

Navarro (1997 White Sox): 9-14, 5.79 ERA, 1.622 WHIP
Samardzija (2015 White Sox): 9-13, 5.27 ERA, 1.354 WHIP

Of course, Navarro was a free-agent acquisition who was making some bucks with the Sox, so that meant his spot in the rotation remained secure no matter how poorly he performed. From 1997-99, he made 87 starts for the South Siders, went 25-43 with a 6.06 ERA and stole $5 million a year from Jerry Reinsdorf. That was big money in late 1990s dollars.

The good news for Sox fans is the Samardzija train wreck won't continue on for three years like the Navarro disaster did. Samardzija's contract is up at the end of the season. You have to believe both the player and team are eager to move on.

Position players pitching in September

Another sign of White Sox mismanagement: Two position players pitched in Tuesday's debacle. Utility man Leury Garcia worked a scoreless eighth inning, while shortstop Alexei Ramirez pitched a scoreless ninth.

Sure, the Sox bullpen has been used a lot this week. Chris Sale lasted only three innings in a Sunday loss to the Minnesota Twins. Monday's game lasted 14 innings, and as we've chronicled, Samardzija was knocked out early Tuesday. But with the September roster expansion, a team shouldn't need to resort to risking the health of position players to eat up innings on the mound.

I'm baffled as to why the Sox didn't allow a Quad-A innings-eater such as Scott Carroll or Junior Guerra to join the roster for the last month of the year. Either of those two men could have saved the Sox some embarrassment in this latest loss.

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.


Monday, January 5, 2015

White Sox sign Emilio Bonifacio to one-year contract

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

White Sox claim J.B. Shuck, reinstate Nate Jones from 60-day DL

With the World Series over, teams are now free to start making offseason transactions.

The White Sox made a couple of minor moves Monday, claiming outfielder J.B. Shuck off waivers from the Cleveland Indians and reinstating relief pitcher Nate Jones from the 60-day disabled list.

Shuck finished fifth in the American League Rookie of the Year voting in 2013, when he posted a .293/.331/.366 slash line in 478 plate appearances with the Los Angeles Angels. Injuries to other players opened the door for Shuck to play 129 games that season, and he did pretty well with the opportunity.

However, 2014 was a different story for the 27-year-old outfielder. He hit .167/.195/.250 for the Angels in April and was sent back to Triple-A, where he stayed until August. Just before the non-waiver trading deadline, he was sent to Cleveland for cash considerations. Shuck had a miserable time with the Tribe, going 2 for 26 in September. He ended up hitting just .145 in 110 at-bats in the majors for the season.

He did, however, bat .320 in 102 minor league games, so perhaps the Sox saw some signs he could regain his 2013 form. He is a left-handed hitter and can play all three outfield spots competently.

Obviously, this isn't the kind of pickup that will excite fans. If you look around the Internet, you'll find the meathead fans screaming at the sky, wondering what Sox management is thinking, asking why they would make such a low-impact move.

Those folks, as always, need to relax. I'm sure this isn't the biggest move the Sox will make this offseason. It's just the first. I'm sure the club knows it needs more impact talent, and I'm sure they know Shuck doesn't fall into that category.

However, while seeking those impact players, it's also important to try to improve your roster around the margins. You want more depth. You want more competition in camp. If you look at the Sox bench last season,  for most of the year it consisted of players such as Jordan Danks, Moises Sierra, Leury Garcia, Adrian Nieto and an end-of-career version of Paul Konerko. That's not a good bench, friends.

If Shuck in 2015 plays better outfield than Danks or Sierra did in 2014, then this is a good acquisition. Maybe this guy turns out to be the fourth outfielder the Sox need. Or, maybe he stinks, in which case he'll be spending the season in Charlotte. However, there's little for the Sox to lose in picking up guys like Shuck.

As for Jones, he's expected to miss most -- if not all -- of 2015 after Tommy John surgery. I wouldn't expect much production from him until 2016.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

White Sox designate Jeff Keppinger for assignment

In a move that surprised many observers, the White Sox on Wednesday designated infielder Jeff Keppinger for assignment.

Keppinger, 34, hit a career-best .325 two years ago with the Tampa Bay Rays, but he slumped to a .253/.283/.317 slash line for the 2013 White Sox. He was limited by a right shoulder problem, which ultimately cut his season short and required surgery. He was slow to recover from the injury over the offseason and appeared in just six spring training games before being placed on the disabled list on March 30.

Keppinger has been on a rehab assignment since May 2 at Double-A Birmingham, where he hit .256 in 11 games. With the rehab period set to expire, the Sox decided they'd rather cut Keppinger loose than put him on the major league roster.

The decision is surprising because Keppinger is in just the second year of a three-year, $12 million deal he signed with the Sox prior to the start of the 2013 season. With the move, the Sox are opting to eat approximately $7.5 million dollars, which is a departure from business as usual on the South Side.

Typically in situations such as this, you would expect the Sox to trot Keppinger out to third base every day for the next two months, hoping he would play well enough to entice a contending team to take his salary off their hands.

Not this time. Instead, they recognized there is no place for Keppinger on the roster.

Conor Gillaspie has played well at third base for the Sox this season, and the team has hopes that prospect Matt Davidson will reverse his struggles at the plate and eventually become the long-term answer at the position. There's no room at second base for Keppinger, either, with younger players Gordon Beckham, Marcus Semien and Leury Garcia all ahead of him on the organization's depth chart.

Not to mention, the Sox recently promoted second baseman Micah Johnson, one of their better prospects, to Triple-A Charlotte. With Davidson and middle infield prospect Carlos Sanchez also toiling in Charlotte, there isn't even any room for Keppinger in the Triple-A infield. There is no point in giving Keppinger at-bats over any of these younger infielders, at any level, so it is the right baseball decision to send him packing.

In the past, the Sox have at times let economics get in the way of making the right baseball decision. In this case, I applaud GM Rick Hahn and the Sox front office for doing the right thing. At one point in time, signing Keppinger looked like a good move. It just didn't work out, but at least the Sox aren't compounding the mistake by keeping a useless player around because of money.

Keppinger is out of the organization, and the Sox rebuilding plan is better off for it.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Jordan Danks down because Moises Sierra might be a better hitter

There was probably some amount of rejoicing among White Sox fans when Jordan Danks and his .098/.229/.195 batting line were demoted to Triple-A Charlotte earlier this week.

The White Sox recently added Moises Sierra to their roster.
Danks has a glove that can carry him as a fifth outfielder on the roster of a good team. He's also made enough slow, steady progress through the minors offensively that he's earned an extended big-league look under the right circumstances. Those circumstances include a wave of injuries to the Sox outfield, and frankly a lack of better options.

Two things mucked up Danks' big opportunity. First there was his awful showing at the plate, which would have been too much to stomach even if the Sox were 10 games or so under .500 and more squarely in "playing for next year" mode. The second thing is the pickup of Moises Sierra off waivers from the Blue Jays.

Sierra didn't end up on waivers because he's much of a prospect. He ended up there because he spent his time in Toronto this year making Danks look like Mike Trout with his .059/.086/.059 "hitting" performance. And Sierra can't play center field.

In Danks and Sierra we're still talking about two guys who have combined for 629 sporadic big-league at-bats, so we should probably look at what they've done in the minors to get a better idea of who might hit better.


Player
PA
BA
OBP
SLG
K%
Danks
2,079
.266
.353
.423
27
Sierra
2,859
.266
.329
.408
20


Their overall work makes Danks look like a better player, but that's not really fair to Sierra, who began playing ball as a 17-year-old free agent out of the Dominican Republic. Danks was drafted out of college and began as 21-year-old.

So here's what they've done in Triple-A:


Player
PA
BA
OBP
SLG
K%
Danks
1,566
.265
.350
.422
28
Sierra
834
.275
.343
.447
23

Now three things jump out at you. The first is that Danks has played A LOT more games at Triple-A than Sierra. Which makes sense because Danks is 27 years old and has seen his career stalled. The second is that Danks has a lot of problems making contact with his low average and high strikeouts despite spending four seasons in Charlotte. The third thing is that Sierra has more power. Power that's developed as he's gotten older, and might develop even more as he's only 25 years old.

Speaking strictly about offensive potential, to me it looks like Sierra has more of it.

Everything else isn't equal, though. Danks might be the better overall player. In fact, because Danks' glove gives him a higher floor as a player, I'd bet on him being the more likely of the two to be with the Sox two years from now. Not as a starter, but as that fifth outfielder.

At the same time, Adam Eaton will be back, and the job in center is his. With Avisail Garcia out for the season, the Sox have more time to devote to player development. Particularly in the corner outfield spots, where Danks' glove has less value and where teams want more offense. And while nobody loves Alejandro De Aza's defense, he's good enough to be the primary backup in center, where Leury Garcia can also presumably play. These are probably the best back-of-the-roster choices the Sox can make with Paul Konerko taking up a mostly ceremonial spot.

Sending Sierra away means throwing him back on the waiver wire, which the Sox are understandably reluctant to do given their organizational lack of depth in the outfield. So for now Sierra gets his turn to audition, and Danks will go back to Charlotte where he'll probably have to hit better than Sierra does in Chicago to merit a callback without a trade or another injury opening that door for him.

Unless something better comes along than either Sierra or Danks.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

When Conor Gillaspie returns from the DL, who will the White Sox send down?

White Sox third baseman Conor Gillaspie is on a rehab assignment at Triple-A Charlotte and could come off the disabled list as soon as Wednesday.

Before suffering a bruised hand, Gillaspie was hitting .302 with 12 RBIs in 16 games. Upon his return, he's going to take over for Marcus Semien as the Sox's regular third baseman. And unlike earlier in the year, there isn't much playing time available for Semien at second base, now that Gordon Beckham is back off the disabled list.

So, what do the Sox do with Semien? Is he the guy they send back to the minors when Gillaspie is activated? Or will outfielder Jordan Danks or all-purpose player Leury Garcia be optioned? It's not an easy call, and there is more than likely some internal debate going on among White Sox brass.

If the fans had their way, Beckham would probably be the guy shown the door -- even with his 4-for-5 performance and go-ahead home run in Tuesday's 5-1 victory over the Cubs at Wrigley Field. The disappointing second baseman has become a bit of a whipping boy for fans on Internet message boards, but let's be realistic: The Sox aren't going to cut Beckham loose now or look to trade him when he's just coming off an injury and his value is at its lowest.

For better or for worse, Beckham is the regular second baseman until at least July. Defensively, he's still the Sox's best option at the position. If he rebuilds his value by midseason, he could be shipped off at the trade deadline to clear a starting spot for either Semien or Micah Johnson. But that's a question for another time.

When Gillaspie returns, one of Semien, Danks or Garcia is going to be gone. Of the three, Danks is perhaps the weakest player, but he needs to remain on the roster for as long as Adam Eaton is on the disabled list. With Eaton on the shelf, Danks is the only good defensive outfielder the Sox have. Without him, you're looking at a starting outfield of Moises Sierra, Alejandro De Aza and Dayan Viciedo -- with Garcia, an infielder by trade, and Adam Dunn, a designated hitter by trade, filling backup roles. Not acceptable. If I'm making the decision, Danks stays despite his ugly .098/.229/.195 slash line.

That leaves Semien and Garcia. A lot of Sox fans would disagree with me here, but I think Semien goes to Charlotte for more playing time. Garcia stays as the backup infielder.

It's tough because Semien has shown a flair for the dramatic this season. He's had some big hits for the Sox -- 15 of his 16 RBIs have come in the sixth inning or later. That said, I can't ignore his.213/.267/.346 slash line, nor can I ignore his league-leading 45 strikeouts.

I like Semien and think he could be an everyday player in the majors at some point in the future. I just don't think that day is today. I don't think he would benefit much from sitting on the major league bench, so I support sending him to Triple-A and having him work on closing some of the holes in that swing. Garcia, to me, will never be more than a utility infielder anyway, so I'm fine with leaving him right where he is.

For me, Semien's development is a greater priority than Garcia's development. He's the better of the two players. Semien's the one who needs the everyday at-bats in my book, so the Sox should put him in a place where he can get them. That place, right now, is Charlotte.

We'll probably find out sometime in the next 48 hours whether the Sox agree with me.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Bunting with two strikes ... sometimes that works

I was watching a White Sox-Reds spring training game last week when I saw Sox center fielder Adam Eaton bunt for a base hit on an 0-2 pitch. The Cincinnati third baseman was so stunned that he threw the ball away on the play. Even with an accurate throw, Eaton would have been safe.  

I thought to myself, "I haven't seen a Sox player try something like that in quite a few years."  

Fast-forward to Wednesday afternoon: With the score tied 6-6 in the bottom of the 11th inning, Sox infielder Leury Garcia lays down a perfect bunt on an 0-2 pitch. He beats the play out without a throw.  Later in the inning, he scores the game-winning run on a wild pitch as the Sox defeat the Minnesota Twins, 7-6.  

It would be a refreshing change if the Sox can find a way to score some runs this season without the benefit of the long ball. On Wednesday, only one of their seven tallies came on a home run -- a solo shot by Adam Dunn in the eighth inning.  

The Sox scored three runs in the second inning on three singles, a double and two sacrifice hits. They rallied to tie the game with two runs in the ninth on three singles and a fielder's choice. It was encouraging to see some manufactured runs with the game on the line.

Speaking of that ninth-inning rally, Paul Konerko got off to a good start in his new bench role. He led off the inning with a pinch-hit single off Minnesota closer Glen Perkins, who is left-handed. Konerko, for all his struggles in 2013, hit .313 against left-handed pitchers a year ago. He can still be effective for the Sox if he is spotted in matchups that are favorable for him.

'Don't want to get picked off here in this situation'

Good news for the Cubs: Their new leadoff man, Emilio Bonifacio, is swinging the bat exceptionally well out of the gate. He's 9 for 12 through the first two games of the season.  

Bad news for the Cubs: Bonifacio has been picked off base two of the nine times he's reached, and he would have been picked off a third time if the Pittsburgh first baseman had not dropped the ball.

I don't know if I've ever seen a guy get picked off three times the first two days of the season. Would that be some kind of record? It's hard to come down too hard on Bonifacio, though, because he's one of the few Cub hitters off to a good start. The North Siders are 0-2, having lost a pair of extra-inning contests in Pittsburgh. They've scored only three runs in 26 innings against the Pirates pitching staff.

On Wednesday, the Cubs rallied from a 2-0 deficit with a run in the eighth and another run in the ninth. They even took a short-lived 3-2 lead on Anthony Rizzo's solo home run in the top of the 12th. But new closer Jose Veras failed in his first save situation. He gave up the lead and was fortunate to escape a bases-loaded jam and with only one run allowed in the bottom of the 12th. Veras was taking forever in between pitches and seemed to have no confidence in his stuff. It's only one outing, but that performance cannot be encouraging for the Cubs, who went on to lose 4-3 in 16 innings.  

Buerhle turns back clock in first start of season  

Former White Sox left-hander Mark Buehrle had an up-and down year in his first season in Toronto in 2013, but on Wednesday, he looked like the pitcher he was five or six years ago.

Buehrle allowed only four hits over 8.2 innings and picked up the win as the Blue Jays defeated Tampa Bay, 3-0. The southpaw struck out 11 and walked just one.

It was just the second double-digit strikeout game of Buehrle's career. The other came during the Sox' World Series year. He fanned a career-high 12 in a 2-1 win over Seattle on April 16, 2005.

I still root for Buehrle, as long as he isn't pitching against the Sox.