Showing posts with label Matt Albers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Matt Albers. Show all posts

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.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Some numbers behind Robin Ventura's pitching mismanagement

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 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, 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?

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

White Sox option Carson Fulmer to Triple-A, recall Anthony Ranaudo

Anthony Ranaudo
As expected, the White Sox will call up Anthony Ranaudo to start Wednesday's game against the first-place Cleveland Indians.

Ranaudo takes the rotation spot of Miguel Gonzalez, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a groin strain last week.

The right-handed Ranaudo made one previous start with the Sox this year and showed well, allowing three earned runs on two hits over 6.2 innings against the Cubs on July 27. At Triple-A Charlotte, he is 6-5 with a 3.35 ERA in 16 starts.

He will pitch on regular rest Wednesday.

In a little bit of a surprise, Carson Fulmer was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte to make room for Ranaudo on the 25-man roster.

Fulmer, the No. 8 overall pick in the 2015 draft, was used strangely and sparingly since his July 15 promotion. He appeared in just eight games and posted an 8.49 ERA in 11.2 innings of sporadic work.

That's the equivalent of about two starts in a month, so it's hard to say how much this one month in the big leagues helped Fulmer's development.

He never pitched on back-to-back days, and he only pitched on one day's rest twice. Basically, he was collecting rust in the bullpen. During the same period where Fulmer made eight appearances, Matt Albers pitched 11 times, which is strange because there's no upside to giving more opportunities to a veteran retread such as Albers.

Reports indicate Fulmer will be "stretched out" at Triple-A Charlotte for a potential start or two in September after roster expand. I'm fine with that. I don't care whether Fulmer is at Triple-A or the big league level. I don't care whether he's starting or relieving. I just want him getting opportunities to pitch and refine his craft.

Getting on the mound more frequently can only help him. Rotting on the bullpen bench with a bad team doesn't do anything for his development.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

There isn't much more Jose Quintana can do for the White Sox

Jose Quintana -- hosed again
"It's bad when you try everything and you lose."

That's what White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana had to say after Wednesday's 3-2, 14-inning loss to the Kansas City Royals.

Quintana did what he almost always does -- pitch outstanding baseball. He went 7.1 innings, allowing just one run on five hits with five strikeouts and one walk. His ERA is down to 2.85, which is brilliant in the hard-hitting American League.

Quintana's teammates also did what they almost always do -- find a way to squander his terrific performance.

In many ways, this was the prototypical Quintana no-decision. He took a 1-0 lead into the eighth inning, but the Sox could have had more runs than one. They gave away three outs on the bases, went 2 for 9 with runners in scoring position and stranded 12 runners. They failed to deliver the big hit with men on base in the fifth, seventh and eighth innings.

Inept offense.

Nevertheless, there was Quintana, industriously protecting a slim lead all game long. He got one out into the eighth inning before a double by Paulo Orlando ended his night after 97 pitches. I would argue that Quintana had earned the right to try to pitch around that, but it was a hot night, and manager Robin Ventura elected to go to the bullpen.

It took Nate Jones exactly one pitch to blow Quintana's chance at victory. Cheslor Cuthbert doubled to tie the score. Have I mentioned that the Royals have a lineup full of guys who love to swing at the first pitch? The Sox still haven't figure that out yet. #typicalWhiteSoxnonsense

The Sox had another chance to win the game in the 11th inning after Tim Anderson's two-out RBI single staked them to a 2-1 lead. Alas, closer David Robertson still isn't able to close. He gave the run right back in the bottom of the inning for his fourth blow save in eight chances since the All-Star break.

There have been five meetings between the Sox and Kansas City at Kauffman Stadium this year, and the Sox have had the lead in the seventh inning in all five of them. Yet, their record in those five games is 1-4. It's fitting that both Jones and Robertson were charged with blown saves in this one. You get the feeling the Sox bullpen couldn't protect a 10-run lead against the Royals in that stadium.

After the second Sox lead was blown, the game took on the feel of an inevitable loss. The Sox lost, all right, when Lorenzo Cain delivered a two-out RBI single off the increasingly useless Matt Albers in the bottom of the 14th inning.

One wonders why Albers (2-5) and his 5.91 ERA continue to appear in high-leverage situations. With the Sox out of the race, would it would be wrong to see how a younger pitcher would react in that spot? Carson Fulmer? Even Michael Ynoa?

Of course, it's not uncommon for me to be puzzled by some of the in-game decisions the Sox make. Nothing new under the sun there.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Charlie Tilson injured in first game; White Sox outclassed by Tigers

Robin Ventura
We've once again reached that time of year where we separate the die-hards from the fair-weather fans.

The calendar has turned to August. The dog days of the season have arrived. The trading deadline has passed, and the White Sox appear well on their way to their fourth consecutive losing season.

The Sox were outclassed by a division rival Tuesday night -- a common theme during the Robin Ventura era -- losing 11-5 to the Detroit Tigers in the first of a three-game set.

James Shields held the Tigers scoreless through the first four innings, but the Detroit offense erupted for six runs in the fifth. Relievers Matt Albers, Michael Ynoa and Carson Fulmer provided little relief, combining to give up five more runs over three innings of work.

Ho hum, another run-of-the-mill loss, but the real sorrow here is that newly acquired center fielder Charlie Tilson got hurt in his first game with the Sox.

Tilson collected his first major league hit, a single up the middle off Anibal Sanchez, leading off the third inning. Unfortunately, two innings later, he had to be helped off the field after falling awkwardly while chasing Miguel Cabrera's liner into the right-center gap.

The rookie appeared to roll his left ankle as he fell to the ground, although the Sox are calling it a "strained hamstring" for now. By the looks of the injury, it almost certainly is more than that, and Tilson is more than likely headed to the disabled list.

In a strange twist of fate, Tilson becomes the fourth Sox rookie to succumb to injury in his major league debut this season. Kevan Smith (back), Jason Coats (face) and Matt Davidson (foot) also did not make it through their first games.

I have no idea whether Tilson can be part of the solution for the Sox in the outfield, but I would have liked to have seen a 50-plus-game sample size from him here at the end of the year in order to form an opinion. However, if this injury is as serious as I fear, we'll be back to looking at J.B. Shuck in center field by the end of the week. Not good.

Of course, Avisail Garcia came off the bench to replace Tilson and homered in both of his ABs, one of which was a massive 466-foot shot off Detroit reliever Mark Lowe. The Sox keep trying to replace Garcia, but he always seems to find his way back into the lineup through a fluke injury or some other odd occurrence.

It would be just like Garcia to have a fools' gold hot streak during garbage time, wouldn't it?

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Miguel Gonzalez outpitches Jake Arrieta in crosstown series opener

Jake Arrieta -- not sharp lately
Based on pitching matchups, just about everyone was expecting the Cubs to prevail in Monday's opener of the 2016 crosstown series.

The North Siders had their ace, defending NL Cy Young award winner Jake Arrieta, on the mound, while the White Sox were countering with their No. 5 starter, Miguel Gonzalez.

However, games are not played on paper -- and surprise, surprise -- Gonzalez outpitched Arrieta in a 5-4 Sox victory:

Gonzalez: 6.2 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BBs, 8 Ks, 1 HR
Arrieta: 6 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BBs, 6 Ks, 1 HR

Neither man figured in the decision, but taking a longer view, maybe we should have known this was not a mismatch.

Arrieta has not been pitching well. The Cubs have lost seven of the last 10 games he has started, including the last four. Arrieta has allowed 20 earned runs in 29.1 innings pitched over his last five outings, only one of which has been a quality start. That will pencil out to a 6.14 ERA.

In contrast, Gonzalez has churned out five consecutive quality starts for the Sox. He has allowed 11 earned runs over 32.2 innings during that span, good for a rock-solid 3.03 ERA.

The Sox right-hander is only 1-2 during that stretch, but it's through no fault of his own. He should have gotten the win Monday night, as he walked off the mound with a two outs in the seventh inning and a 4-2 lead.

But as we discussed in yesterday's blog entry, the Sox are woefully thin in the bullpen right now. Jacob Turner had a short start Friday against the Detroit Tigers. And Chris Sale did not make his start Saturday after the whole jersey-slashing incident, so the Sox bullpen has had to cover an absurd amount of innings over the past few days.

Both closer David Robertson and top set-up reliever Nate Jones were unavailable Monday, leaving Matt Albers and Dan Jennings to try to protect the 4-2 lead in the ninth. They could not. The Cubs tied it, although we can credit Jennings for recording a key strikeout of Jason Heyward with two on and two out to preserve the 4-4 tie.

The Sox then recorded their third consecutive walk-off victory. J.B. Shuck singled to lead off the bottom of the ninth against newly acquired Cubs left-hander Mike Montgomery. Dioner Navarro advanced the runner to second with a sacrifice bunt, and Tyler Saladino delivered a game-winning base hit to center field.

In case you were wondering, this is the first time the Sox have had three straight walk-off winners since Aug. 4-6, 1962.

The Sox will send James Shields to the mound in the second game of the series Tuesday. He'll be opposed by Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks.

Technically, I guess Hendricks is the fifth starter for the Cubs, but much like Gonzalez, he's been pitching better than that moniker would suggest.

Hendricks hasn't given up an earned run since June 29, and has logged a 0.72 ERA over his last seven appearances (six starts).

Maybe as Sox fans, we should be more worried about Hendricks and less worried about Arrieta, media hype aside.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Chris Sale suspended; White Sox pitching staff hanging by a thread

Chris Sale
White Sox ace Chris Sale has been suspended five days for "violating team rules, for insubordination and for destroying team equipment," general manager Rick Hahn said in a statement Sunday.

Sale did not want to wear the 1976 throwback jerseys the team was supposed to wear during his scheduled start Saturday, so he cut them up in the locker room before the game. The Sox subsequently sent Sale home and had reliever Matt Albers start Saturday's game instead.

Sale will be eligible to return Thursday, and I'm not going to waste any time discussing the actions by Sale or management in this whole mess. It led SportsCenter on Saturday night. It was a headline on CNN's website. Anything I might say about the matter would only be adding to the noise.

What I will say is the Sox's entire pitching staff is in deep trouble for the next week as a result of this incident. I commend the team for salvaging the final two games of a four-game series with the Detroit Tigers over the weekend, but the bullpen, in particular, is hanging by a thread after what just took place.

The relief corps had to pitch the entirety of Saturday's game. Albers went two innings. Dan Jennings worked two innings. So did Tommy Kahnle. Zach Duke pitched the seventh inning. Nate Jones started the eighth, but struggled -- his own error allowed the Tigers to tie the game at 3. Closer David Robertson relieved with two on and two out and struck out Tyler Collins to keep things even.

After the Sox failed to score in the bottom of the eighth inning, heavy rains moved into Chicago for the second time during the game. Play had to be suspended until Sunday afternoon.

When the game resumed Sunday, Robertson was still on the mound. He essentially had to get four outs to navigate the top of the ninth after J.B. Shuck misplayed a routine fly into a double, but Robertson fanned Cameron Maybin with a runner in scoring position to once again keep it at 3-3. It's worth noting that Robertson had his A stuff during that inning -- two of the three outs were swinging strikeouts.

The Sox won the game, 4-3, on a two-out RBI single by Adam Eaton in the bottom of the ninth. You have to give the bullpen credit for covering all nine innings on an emergency basis and pulling out a win.

However, that workload took its toll in Sunday's regularly scheduled game. The Sox won, 5-4, but it should have been much easier than it was. Starting pitcher Jose Quintana fired 117 pitches on a day where the heat index was 109, and he got two outs deep in the seventh inning with a 4-0 lead.

You'd like to think the Sox bullpen could close that one out, but Jones and Robertson couldn't get it done. Jones gave up a solo home run to Andrew Romine in the eighth inning, and Robertson surrendered three solo shots in the ninth -- Nick Castellanos, Collins and Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit those home runs.

Robertson had two strikes with two outs on Collins, and again on Saltalamacchia, and he couldn't close. In the earlier contest, Robertson overmatched both those two hitters with his best stuff. Both struck out swinging. But in this game, Robertson left a cutter in the center of the plate against Collins, and hung a curve ball to Saltalamacchia  -- both with disastrous results.

The Sox won anyway when Melky Cabrera singled home Eaton, who had drawn a leadoff walk, in the bottom of the ninth. But, fans are ready to tie Robertson to a chair and throw him on the eastbound lane of the Dan Ryan after he blew Quintana's win.

I'm not sure the criticism is fair. Robertson entered Saturday's game around 10 p.m. He had to be ready to take the mound again at 1:10 Sunday. And, he was summoned again shortly before 5 p.m. Sunday afternoon.

So, in about an 18-hour span, Robertson had to warm up three times and take the mound three times, in some of the hottest weather we've had in Chicago in about four years.

How many pitches can we expect a short reliever to throw in that amount of time before he loses effectiveness? Keep in mind, it's not just the pitches on the mound, it's the pitches in the bullpen, too.

Jones has pitched five times in the past six games. Robertson is obviously overworked. Should we really be surprised that they labored so badly in the Sunday afternoon heat?

Sale's actions put his teammates in a tough spot. The Sox are not a good offensive team. They play a lot of close games (49 of 98 games decided by two runs or less). The high-leverage relievers get used a lot. Overuse crossed the line into abuse on Sunday, from my perspective.

The Sox don't have an off day until next Monday. They have two games at home against the Cubs, two games on the road against the Cubs, then three in Minnesota against the Twins.

The schedule offers no relief in the short run. Robertson and Jones almost certainly will need the night off Monday vs. the Cubs. Starter Miguel Gonzalez is probably going to have to go six innings, regardless of whether he is effective or not.

I won't be surprised if some losing comes as a result of all this over the next week. This is the price the Sox will pay for Sale insubordination. Arms are being taxed, and sooner or later, more games are going to be lost. Frankly, it's fairly surprising the Sox got two wins Sunday.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

White Sox settle for 3 out of 4 in Boston

Jose Abreu
The pitching matchup for Thursday's series finale between the White Sox and the Boston Red Sox did not bode well for Chicago: James Shields vs. Rick Porcello.

After all, Shields had allowed 22 runs in his first 8.2 innings as a member of the Sox, and Porcello entered Thursday's play with an 8-2 record -- including a 6-0 mark at Fenway Park.

The Sox lost, 8-7 in 10 innings, but it had nothing to do with the Shields vs. Porcello matchup. Both men turned in mediocre starts and were gone before the sixth inning was over. Frankly, this Sox loss would have been easier to take if Shields had just gotten knocked around again.

Instead, the Sox squandered two leads and blew two golden chances to score with the bases loaded in the eighth and 10th innings, and it's impossible to feel like they shouldn't have come away with a four-game series sweep.

The Sox led, 4-1, in the sixth when Shields cracked. He departed after walking David Ortiz and Ryan LaMarre consecutively to start the inning. Matt Albers provided no relief, hitting a batter and loading the bases before giving up a pair of singles. One of the singles was of the infield variety, with Brett Lawrie making an errant throw that didn't help matters.

The Sox had to use a second reliever, Dan Jennings, who extricated the team from the mess, but not before Boston had surged in front, 5-4.

Jose Abreu answered for the South Siders, clubbing a three-run homer in the top of the seventh off Junichi Tazawa to give the Sox a 7-5 lead.

That would be short-lived, as Boston scored one in the seventh off Chris Beck and another in the eighth off Nate Jones to tie it at 7.

But the real issue for the Sox here was the inability to put the game away by taking advantage of prime scoring opportunities. The South Siders loaded the bases with nobody out in the top of the eighth inning. But J.B. Shuck popped out to shallow left, Tim Anderson struck out swinging and Adam Eaton grounded out weakly to second base.

The failures kept the Sox lead at a meager one run (7-6), and Boston tied it off Jones in the bottom of the inning.

The same exact situation presented itself in the top of the 10th inning. Lawrie at third, Alex Avila at second, Avisail Garcia at first, bases loaded, no outs. Shuck popped out to shortstop. Anderson struck out swinging. Eaton struck out swinging. Once again, no runs, and a heaping pile of frustration.

In the bottom of the inning, Matt Purke lost the game. He walked two hitters and gave up a game-ending single to Xander Bogaerts.

At that point, it felt like Boston was finally putting the Sox out of their misery. They had their chances. They blew them, and Boston finally handed them the loss they deserved.

It's disappointing, because a four-game sweep of the Red Sox could have really built some momentum for the upcoming homestand against Toronto and Minnesota.

Instead, we're once again talking about an infuriating loss. We're once again talking about a sub-.500 Sox team (36-37), and we're looking at a team that is in fourth place, six games out of first.

On Monday, I think any Sox fan would have been more than happy with three out of four in Boston. From that perspective, it was a good series. But, in the bigger picture, it's still difficult to see a path to the playoffs for this deeply flawed Sox team.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Miguel Gonzalez gamble fails; White Sox offense rallies

Former Sox pitcher Gavin Floyd gave up Toronto's lead Monday.
Miguel Gonzalez did not distinguish himself Monday in his first start in a White Sox uniform. His fastball velocity was decent enough -- 90-91 mph -- but his command was not precise.

And a pitcher without overwhelming stuff can't afford to be imprecise against the powerful Toronto batting order.

The Blue Jays No. 2 through No. 6 hitters -- Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Troy Tulowitzki and Michael Saunders -- went a combined 7 for 13 with a home run, three doubles and five runs scored against Gonzalez.

Gonzalez lasted 5.1 innings, allowing five runs on 11 hits. He struck out six and walked two. The Sox trailed 5-1 after six innings, and the Blue Jays had their ace, Marcus Stroman, on the mound.

Game over, right?

Well, maybe it would have been over last year. Not this year. The Sox rallied for five runs in the seventh inning, all after two were out, and ended up beating Toronto, 7-5. It was probably the most satisfying win of the Sox's 14-6 start. 

Stroman left with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh inning, still leading 5-1. But Toronto lefty Brett Cecil could not get anybody out. Adam Eaton singled up the middle on a 1-2 pitch to drive in two runs and bring the Sox within 5-3. Jimmy Rollins followed with an RBI single to make it 5-4, and then the Blue Jays tried to coax Jose Abreu to get himself out by swinging at bad pitches.

Abreu is in a terrible slump. He has been swinging at sliders in the dirt routinely as of late, but this time he laid off Cecil's low breaking pitches and took a walk to reload the bases.

The Blue Jays then summoned former Sox right-hander Gavin Floyd to face Todd Frazier. I have to say, Toronto is unlikely to defend its AL East title this year if it doesn't have anybody better than Floyd to bring in with the bases loaded, two outs and a one-run lead in the seventh inning.

Frazier got a 0-1 cut fastball and lined it down the left-field line for a two-run double that put the Sox ahead to stay at 6-5. The South Siders added an insurance run in the ninth, and the bullpen did the rest.

Zach Putnam, Dan Jennings, Matt Albers and David Robertson combined for 3.2 innings of scoreless relief. Robertson converted his eighth save in nine chances. Albers is unscored upon in his last 30 appearances, breaking the previous team record of 29 -- set by reliever Jesse Crain in 2013.

Useless stat of the day: The White Sox have scored 17 of their 68 runs this season in the seventh inning. Go figure.

Getting back to Gonzalez, we'll see if the Sox give him another shot. We were told velocity was the reason the Baltimore Orioles let him go after spring training, but it seemed like command was a bigger problem for him Monday than velocity. Did Sox brass see enough to believe he might be a better fifth starter option than John Danks?

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

White Sox add to Minnesota's early misery; Twins drop to 0-7

Minnesota's Kyle Gibson had never lost to the Sox -- until Monday.
I was hoping the Minnesota Twins would win at least one game over the weekend against the Kansas City Royals. Not so much because I wanted the Royals to lose, but more because I didn't want the Twins to enter their three-game series against the White Sox this week winless.

I figure the longer a streak goes -- either a good streak or a bad one -- the more likely it is to end. The law of averages eventually kicks in.

So, I had a little bit of dismay Sunday when the Royals erased a 3-1 deficit in the ninth inning and went on to beat the Twins, 4-3, in 10 innings. That meant Minnesota would enter its home opener Monday against the Sox with an 0-6 mark. The Twins were sending right-handed pitcher Kyle Gibson to the mound. Gibson had a 4-0 career record against the Sox, including a 2.13 ERA.

The Twins were due for a win, and the Sox were facing a pitcher they never hit well. Gulp.

It turns out I had no reason to worry. Jose Quintana outpitched Gibson, and the Sox beat Minnesota 4-1, sending the Twins to 0-7.

This was a methodical win for the Sox, who improved to 5-2. They took the lead early, added to their lead, and then protected it. Brett Lawrie had an RBI single in the second inning. Austin Jackson narrowly missed a grand slam in the fourth -- the ball hooked just foul -- moments before delivering a two-run single up the middle. Todd Frazier's RBI double in the ninth accounted for the final Sox run.

Quintana fired six innings of one-run ball. Matt Albers worked a scoreless seventh. Zach Duke and Nate Jones combined for an easy eighth. Closer David Robertson worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his third save of the season. For the Sox, that's how you draw it up.

The Twins, however, did not plan on being 0-7 at this stage. Yes, there are 155 games to go, but history tells us Minnesota is a long shot to get out of this hole.

Of the 10 previous teams to start the season 0-7 in American League history, none have recovered to post a winning record, let alone make the playoffs. The 2008 Detroit Tigers started 0-7 and ended up 74-88. No team has ever reached 75 wins after starting 0-7. On average, teams that start 0-7 end up with 60 wins.

There are three teams in MLB history that have started 0-6 and recovered to make the playoffs: the 1974 Pittsburgh Pirates, the 1995 Cincinnati Reds and the 2011 Tampa Bay Rays. All three of those clubs picked up their first win of the season in their seventh game.

Make no mistake, the Twins are still likely to win one soon. Odds are the Sox will not sweep this current three-game set. But even after that first win comes, Minnesota will be fighting history the rest of the way as a result of its historically bad first week.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Garage Sale fun at SoxFest 2016

Where do you go when you want a box of baseballs signed by Jerry Owens? How about a box of baseball signed by Andre Rienzo? Maybe a signed picture of Alex Cintron?

Well, you go to the SoxFest Garage Sale, of course!

I would never waste any of my hard-earned money on those items, but it is kind of fun to go through the rack of discounted jerseys of (mostly bad) former players.

Take this gem for example:

Can't believe that one didn't fly off the rack.

They have some current player jerseys, too, and I couldn't resist taking a photo with the jersey of my favorite cult hero/relief pitcher.

HEY HEY HEY! It's Fat Albers!

This one had to be at the bottom of the barrel, though:

Believe it or not, this was the second Ray Olmedo jersey I saw for sale at SoxFest. One of the booth vendors had one, and the guy wanted $100 for it. My friend, Brian, who took each of these three photos, asked the vendor if he was willing to barter on the Olmedo jersey. The guy said he was already bartering, and that he had knocked the price down from $150. He then added that since people don't like triple-figure prices, the Olmedo jersey could be ours for $99.

Shockingly, both Brian and I took a pass on that "deal." The vendor was trying to claim that the patches on the sleeve of the Olmedo jersey made it worth more. The jersey had the tribute to Kevin Hickey patch on there, and some other patch that I've already forgotten about.

Unfortunately for that vendor, we were not enticed, because the only thing worse than buying an Emilio Bonifacio jersey is buying an Olmedo jersey. 

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!

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.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Catching up on White Sox roster moves, other news

The White Sox have almost finalized their 25-man roster for Opening Day with a flurry of roster moves over the past 48 hours, so let's get updated on the comings and goings.

Micah Johnson vs. Carlos Sanchez: Surprise! Both candidates for the starting second base job made the team, according to manager Robin Ventura. However, Ventura has yet to name his second baseman for the April 6 opener in Kansas City. Having both these two guys on the roster is likely a temporary situation. The team will open the year with 11 pitchers. When Chris Sale comes off the disabled list -- presumably on April 12 -- one of Johnson or Sanchez will be sent to the minors.

J.B. Shuck: Thanks to his .339/.391/.441 slash line this spring, Shuck has made the roster as a fourth outfielder. He also has stolen five bases during Cactus League play, and he might be the best defensive corner outfielder on the roster coming into the season.

Geovany Soto: The former Cub has secured the backup catching position, perhaps sealing his spot by throwing out 3 of 4 potential base stealers during a Tuesday game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. And, Soto would have thrown out 4 of 4 had shortstop Alexei Ramirez not missed a tag on Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig. Soto's .281/.439/.469 slash line didn't hurt his cause, either. He clearly distinguished himself over the other catching candidates.

Matt Albers: The veteran reliever made the 25-man roster despite allowing seven runs over his last three outings. He did start the spring strong with four consecutive scoreless innings, so perhaps that left an impression. Albers had a 3.14 ERA in 56 games for the Cleveland Indians in his last healthy season (2013), so perhaps the Sox believe with renewed health he can return to the form he showed two years ago.

Carlos Rodon: The heralded pitching prospect is headed back to Triple-A Charlotte, as expected, but he left one final good impression Tuesday with 5.1 innings of one-run ball against the Dodgers. The lefty finished the spring with a team-best 21 strikeouts in 17.2 innings and a 3.06 ERA. It won't be a surprise if we see him on the South Side before the 2015 season is over.

Jesse Crain and Brad Penny: The two pitchers were each paid $100,000 retention bonuses to stay with the organization, under rules governing minor league contracts. Both players will remain in the White Sox system with a June 1 opt-out clause, should they not reach the majors before then. Crain is still working his way back from shoulder problems that cost him the entire 2014 season.

Sale update: The White Sox ace struck out 13 Cincinnati Reds minor leaguers in a six-inning outing on Wednesday. He will have one more outing at extended spring training Monday before a likely return to the rotation April 12.

With that, I think we're all set on the news and notes. For now. There is still one more spot in the Sox bullpen to be claimed. I think it's going to Kyle Drabek. Stay tuned.

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.

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.