Showing posts with label Miguel Gonzalez. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Miguel Gonzalez. Show all posts

Monday, March 19, 2018

White Sox Opening Day starter: James Shields

James Shields
There's nothing like Opening Day. For many baseball fans, including me, it's more exciting than Christmas morning was when I was a little kid.

However, that enthusiasm is somewhat lessened when you know your favorite team is almost certain to begin the season 0-1.

Such is the case for me this year, as the White Sox have named 36-year-old James Shields as their Opening Day starter.


Shields has made 43 starts with the Sox since he was acquired midseason in 2016, and he's gone 9-19 with a 5.99 ERA. The veteran right-hander has given up a whopping 58 home runs over those 43 starts, and his 5.23 ERA in 2017 actually was lauded as being an improvement after the 6.77 ERA Shields posted in 22 starts with the Sox in 2016.

Double yuck.

So what could be the justification for starting Shields against the Kansas City Royals on March 29? Well, once upon a time, in place not named Chicago, Shields was a respectable major league pitcher. Believe it or not, he's made seven previous Opening Day starts -- four with the Tampa Bay Rays, two with Kansas City and one with the San Diego Padres. So, he has experience, and the moment shouldn't rattle him.

In those seven starts, Shields is 2-2 with a 4.75 ERA, although in fairness to him, five of those seven starts were quality, and the two rough outings were enough to inflate his ERA. But that was then, and this is now, and Shields simply hasn't done anything in the past two years to inspire confidence.

There's no reason to believe he's the Sox's best pitcher, so you won't catch me calling him the "ace." There are aces, and then there are guys who start on Opening Day. Shields is the latter, not the former.

Here's one silver lining: Shields is scheduled to pitch twice on the season-opening road trip to Kansas City and Toronto. His second start should come April 4 against the Blue Jays, which means there's no way in hell he will be anywhere near the mound when the Sox open at home April 5 against the Detroit Tigers.

If pitchers remain on schedule, Lucas Giolito is in line to start the second game of the season against the Royals, which would mean it would be his turn for the home opener April 5. Right now, it's looking like Reynaldo Lopez will pitch the third game, and Miguel Gonzalez the fourth.

Carson Fulmer and Hector Santiago continue to compete for the fifth starting rotation spot. Fulmer will make a spring start today -- March 19 -- against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

White Sox sign Hector Santiago to minor league deal

Hector Santiago
The White Sox added another pitcher to their list of roster candidates Wednesday, signing left-hander Hector Santiago to a minor league deal.

Santiago, of course, is a familiar face on the South Side of Chicago. He was drafted by the Sox in 2006 and pitched for the team from 2011 to 2013. During that time, he made 78 appearances (24 starts) and went 8-10 with a respectable 3.41 ERA.

He was a starting pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels from 2014 through the middle of 2016, when he was traded to the Minnesota Twins. His best overall season was with Los Angeles in 2015, when he made the All-Star team and went 9-9 with 3.59 ERA.

Santiago struggled with Minnesota in 2017. A back injury limited him to 15 games (14 starts), and he went 4-8 with a 5.63 ERA. Questions marks about both health and performance are why he was available to the Sox on a minor league deal.

There is not much to lose offering an experienced pitcher a minor league deal. If Santiago is injured or looks bad in spring training, he will be cut. But if he can regain the form he showed between 2013 and 2015, he's a roster candidate either in the rotation or in the bullpen.

The Sox don't have an obvious candidate for long reliever in camp, and Santiago might be that guy if he can show well. He also provides some starting rotation insurance.

We think we know the five guys who will open the season in the Sox's rotation: veterans James Shields and Miguel Gonzalez and youngsters Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Carson Fulmer.

But with Carlos Rodon likely to start the season on the disabled list, the Sox don't have much in the way of fallback options should any of those aforementioned five get injured during spring or falter early in the season.

Santiago could provide that fallback option.

And since he is a former Sox player coming back to Chicago, we need to formally welcome him back with this video:

Thursday, January 11, 2018

White Sox bring back Miguel Gonzalez on one-year deal

Miguel Gonzalez
The White Sox moved to improve their starting pitching depth Thursday by signing Miguel Gonzalez to a one-year contract worth $4.75 million.

With Carlos Rodon likely to start the 2018 season on the DL, the Sox needed a stopgap veteran to eat some innings and at least get them through the first half of the year. They are turning to a pitcher they are familiar with in Gonzalez.

The 33-year-old veteran spent most of the 2016 and 2017 seasons on the South Side. He made 45 starts with the Sox and went 12-18 with a 4.02 ERA over that span.

Gonzalez was traded to the Texas Rangers for infielder Ti'Quan Forbes on Aug. 31. He made five September starts in Texas and went 1-3 with a 6.45 ERA before becoming a free agent.

Best guess on the Opening Day rotation as of now: 
James Shields
Lucas Giolito
Reynaldo Lopez
Carson Fulmer

Presumably, Rodon will return at some point. Prospects Michael Kopech and Alec Hansen could make their big-league debuts sometime this season. Until then, somebody has to pitch. Might as well be Gonzalez.

The Sox designated outfielder Jacob May for assignment in order to make room for Gonzalez on the 40-man roster.

And as always, we would be remiss if we didn't include this number in a blog post such as this:

Friday, September 1, 2017

White Sox trade Miguel Gonzalez to Rangers for Ti'Quan Forbes

Miguel Gonzalez
Hours after he received a no-decision in the White Sox's 5-4 loss to the Minnesota Twins on Thursday, right-hander Miguel Gonzalez was traded to the Texas Rangers for minor league infielder Ti'Quan Forbes.

Forbes, 21, was the Rangers' second-round pick in the 2014 draft. He has played both shortstop and third base, and he has split time between Class-A Hickory and High-A Down East this season. His slash line is not that impressive: .236/.283/.345 with 11 home runs and 45 RBIs combined in 131 games between the two levels.

I've read that Forbes is described as a "slow developer," and he's still a young player -- having been drafted out of high school. In fact, he just turned 21 on Aug. 26, so he would have been one of the younger guys in his league at age 20 for most of this season.

This kid is pretty much a lotto ticket, and it will be at least a couple years before we know whether he amounts to anything. Hell, for all I know, this will be the last time I ever write about him on this blog.

But, really, you can be expecting much return for Gonzalez, who is a free agent at the end of the season. There are about 30 games left to go, so the Rangers are looking at getting five, maybe six, starts out of Gonzalez, who is nothing more than a league-average starter.

What is that really worth? Apparently, it's worth a longshot prospect such as Forbes.

Credit Gonzalez for pitching well enough the second half of the season that he had some value to a contender. He allowed three runs over six innings Thursday, which represented his fifth consecutive quality start, and eighth quality start in nine second-half appearances.

Gonzalez is 2-0 with a 1.85 ERA over his past five starts. If you're the Rangers, and you're four games out of the wild card on Sept. 1, and you're getting increasingly desperate for pitching, you could do worse than Gonzalez in the middle or at the back of your rotation.

From the Sox perspective, well, this probably keeps the struggling Derek Holland in the rotation the rest of the year. Reynaldo Lopez is coming off the disabled list to start Friday night, and now he'll take Gonzalez's spot instead of Holland's.

Monday, August 28, 2017

White Sox take two out of three from Detroit Tigers

Yolmer Sanchez
This weekend represented a rarity for the White Sox this season: They went into a three-game series in which the pitching matchups seemed to present them with an outstanding chance of winning at least two out of three.

The Sox did, in fact, take two out of three games from the Detroit Tigers, although the order in which they won this series was a little different than I anticipated. Let's look back on the weekend that was:

Aug. 25
White Sox 3, Tigers 2: This was the one game in the series where I felt the Tigers had the edge with their ace, Justin Verlander, going against Sox right-hander Miguel Gonzalez.

Perhaps I should have known better, because Gonzalez has had a strong second half. He's racked up seven quality starts in his past eight outings and lowered his season ERA from 5.15 to 4.30 in the process. And he more than matched Verlander in this game:

Gonzalez: 8 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 9 Ks, 0 BBs
Verlander: 7 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 8Ks, 2 BBs

This one ended up being decided by bullpens, and while neither club has a good one, it was Detroit's relief corps that broke first.

With the score tied at 2, Tim Anderson led off the bottom of the ninth inning with a double off Joe Jimenez (0-2). Yolmer Sanchez followed a game-ending RBI single.

That made a winner of Sox reliever Juan Minaya (2-1), who worked 1-2-3 top of the ninth.

Aug. 26
Tigers 6, White Sox 3: I thought this would be the most favorable matchup for the Sox this weekend, so, of course, they lost.

Carlos Rodon (2-5) had allowed two runs or less and worked six innings or more in five straight starts coming into Saturday, but his hot streak ended against the Tigers.

The left-hander lasted only five innings and gave up five runs. Sanchez staked him to an early 2-0 lead with a home run, but Rodon handed it right back by giving up back-to-back home runs to Justin Upton and Miguel Cabrera in the top of the third inning. Cabrera's homer gave Detroit a 3-2 lead, and the Tigers led the rest of the way.

Detroit starter Buck Farmer (3-1) has a 6.17 ERA this season, but two of his three wins have come against the Sox. Farmer was nothing special in this game, allowing three earned runs over 5.2 innings, but he was better than Rodon. That was disappointing.

Aug. 27
White Sox 7, Tigers 1: Not so disappointing was the performance of rookie right-hander Lucas Giolito (1-1), who fired seven shutout innings to pick up his first major-league victory in the rubber match of the series.

Unlike his first start, Giolito had his four-pitch mix working. He was consistently ahead in counts and allowed only two hits through his first six innings. He struck out four and threw 72 of his 104 pitches for strikes.

His seventh and final inning was a tough one, but he managed to get out of a two-out jam that saw the Tigers load the bases. Jose Iglesias hit a ball down the left-field line that was initially ruled a grand slam. Replays showed the ball was clearly foul, and the call was reversed. After the loud strike one, Giolito induced Iglesias to ground out to shortstop, and that completed his seven-inning day.

The Sox have had a lot of success against Detroit lefty Matt Boyd (He's 0-4 vs. Chicago in his career), and they scored five runs off him in the bottom of the third inning Sunday. Matt Davidson's two-out, two-strike three-run homer turned a 2-0 lead into a 5-0 lead, and the Sox remained in control the rest of the way.

Sanchez went 3 for 4 and finished the series 6 for 12 with a home run, a double, two runs scored and four RBIs. 

The win finished up a 5-3 homestand for the South Siders. The Sox are 9-5 in their past 14 home games, so at least they are playing better before their fans at Guaranteed Rate Field. Their 2-8 road record this month stinks, but being able to compete and win at home is a step forward over what we were seeing for most of June and July.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Will someone make a waiver deal for Miguel Gonzalez?

Miguel Gonzalez
On the surface, it seems preposterous that a contending team might want to swing a waiver deal for White Sox right-hander Miguel Gonzalez.

Gonzalez's overall numbers are not impressive -- a 6-10 record in 19 starts, to go along with a 4.67 ERA, a 5.01 FIP, a 1.48 WHIP and a rate of 5.13 Ks per 9 innings.

That said, the 33-year-old right-hander has made six starts since coming off the disabled list July 18 -- all against first-place teams -- and he has performed well in five of them.

The latest good Gonzalez outing came Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Although the Sox lost, 6-1, it was not the fault of Gonzalez, who pitched six innings of one-run ball against a Dodgers team that is an incredible 50 games over .500 (84-34).

Here's a look at the past six outings for Gonzalez:

July 18 vs. Dodgers: 6 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 5 Ks, 5 BBs (loss)
July 24 vs. Cubs: 7.1 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 Ks, 3 BBs (win)
July 29 vs Indians: 6 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 4 Ks, 3 BBs (no-decision)
Aug. 3 vs. Red Sox: 1.2 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 0 Ks, 0 BBs (loss)
Aug. 9. vs. Astros: 8 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 Ks, 1 BB (win)
Aug. 15 vs. Dodgers: 6 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 4Ks, 3 BBs (no-decision)

That outing against Boston was terrible. We can't pretend that it didn't happen, but it's an outlier when you look at Gonzalez's recent performances. But even with that Red Sox disaster, Gonzalez is 2-2 with a 3.60 ERA during this stretch against six teams that would all be in the playoffs if the season ended today.

That's respectable, and despite his career mediocrity, Gonzalez could represent a back-of-the-rotation upgrade for a couple of teams that are in the playoff hunt.

I'm looking at you, Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Angels.

Friday, August 11, 2017

As we all expected, White Sox sweep Astros

Tim Anderson
The title of this blog entry is intended as sarcasm. So, please, no comments from Astros fans claiming that I'm being disrespectful.

The White Sox entered this week having lost 20 of their past 23 games. The Houston Astros were coming to town with the best record in the American League at 71-40, and their most accomplished pitcher, Dallas Keuchel, was scheduled to pitch Game 1 of the three-game series.

It wasn't looking good.

So, naturally, the Sox rocked Keuchel for eight runs, knocked him out early in an 8-5 victory Tuesday and set the stage for what ultimately would become a three-game series sweep for the South Siders, their first since they swept the Kansas City Royals from April 24 to 26.

Go figure.

We almost never see a Sox starting pitcher make it through eight innings, but stunningly, we saw it happen two nights in a row against a very good Houston lineup. Miguel Gonzalez (6-10) tossed eight innings of one-run ball in a 7-1 Sox victory Wednesday night. That game featured a two-run homer and an RBI double from Tim Anderson.

On Thursday night, left-hander Carlos Rodon continued his encouraging resurgence by throwing eight-innings of two-run ball. He did not get a decision in the Sox's 3-2, 11-inning victory, but he once again pitched deep into a game with an economy of pitches (98), and he walked nobody for the second consecutive outing.

In his past three games -- all against first-place teams (Indians, Red Sox, Astros), Rodon has tossed 22.1 innings and allowed only five runs on 21 hits. That will pencil out to a 2.01 ERA. He has struck out 24 and walked only two in that same span, reducing his season ERA from 6.29 to 4.24.

And, oh yeah, I've buried the lead a little bit here. I didn't mention that everyone's talking about Yoan Moncada after his performance Thursday night. His home run off Houston closer Ken Giles tied the game at 2 in the bottom of the ninth, and then his RBI single in the bottom of the 11th off Francis Martes scored Leury Garcia with the winning run.

Moncada, the Sox's top-ranked prospect, started slowly after being called up from Triple-A Charlotte. But we've seen him come on offensively in the past two series against Boston and Houston. He was 5 for 14 with three walks against the Red Sox, and 4 for 9 with three walks, a home run and a double against the Astros.

During that span, Moncada has raised his batting average from .105 to .213. His on-base percentage is a very respectable .377. The walks have been there all along. The hits are starting to come more frequently.

As for Anderson, he was 0 for 5 with three strikeouts Thursday, but before that, he was on a seven-game hitting streak that saw him go 11 for 31 (.355 average) with three doubles, a triple and two home runs. The solid contact and extra-base hits have suddenly returned to Anderson's game.

The wins over the Astros are nice, but let's be honest, they are inconsequential in the big picture with the Sox sitting at 44-68 overall. What really matters is some better play from some young guys who are supposed to be forming the future core of the team, and that's Rodon, Moncada and Anderson.

Now, we'll get a look at Reynaldo Lopez, who is being called up to make his first start in a Sox uniform Friday against Kansas City. Even if he does poorly, I'd rather see what he can do than watch any more starts from James Shields or Mike Pelfrey.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Surprisingly, Miguel Gonzalez baffles Cubs in crosstown opener

I apologize for previously including Miguel Gonzalez on my list of washed-up White Sox veterans.

Unlike starting rotation mates James Shields, Mike Pelfrey and Derek Holland, Gonzalez occasionally comes up with a well-pitched ballgame against a good team.

The right-hander came off the disabled list July 18 and fired six innings of one-run ball in a 1-0 loss to Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers, and he backed that up with another strong outing Monday -- pitching 7.1 innings of one-run ball in a 3-1 victory over the Cubs in the first game of the 2017 Crosstown Classic at Wrigley Field.

With the win, the Sox (39-57) broke a nine-game losing streak and collected their first victory since the All-Star break. Gonzalez (5-9) also became the first Sox pitcher in 30 games to have an outing of seven innings or more.

It wasn't easy.

The key moment came in the bottom of the seventh inning with the Sox leading 2-1. The Cubs loaded the bases with two outs for Anthony Rizzo, and with the Sox bullpen depleted because of trades, manager Rick Renteria had little choice but to stick with Gonzalez.

With the wind blowing in at Wrigley, Rizzo flew out to the warning track in center field to end the threat.

The conditions did not stop the Sox from hitting a pair of home runs. Rookie center fielder Adam Engel's drive in the top of the sixth inning off Cubs reliever Justin Grimm (1-1) got into the left-center field bleachers to give the Sox the lead for good at 2-1.

Matt Davidson added a 476-foot solo shot off Koji Uehara in the top of the eighth inning to complete the scoring. That one was going to be a home run on any day, at any park, in any conditions.

Sox reliever Anthony Swarzak picked up his first save in 226 career relief appearances. He retired the first two hitters in the bottom of the ninth before Kris Bryant reached on an infield single and Rizzo walked. Willson Contreras came to the plate representing the winning run, but Swarzak overmatched him with two blazing fastballs right on the black of the outside corner, the second of which was strike three called.

Contreras didn't think they were strikes, arguing with home plate umpire Angel Hernandez and breaking his bat in frustration after the out was recorded. Alas, they were strikes. Those pitches looked good to me, and good to K zone on the Comcast SportsNet Chicago broadcast, too.

Hey Willson, now it's your turn to cry.

Monday, July 3, 2017

2017 White Sox reach season's halfway point

Jose Quintana
The White Sox took two out of three games from the Texas Rangers at Guaranteed Rate Field over the weekend, which puts their record at 36-45 at the halfway point of the season.

Projected out over the full 162 games, they would finish 72-90. That sounds about right given the preseason expectations.

I've always said the 2013 Sox are the worst team I've cheered for in my lifetime -- and that club had the 63-99 record to prove it. This year's team only needs to go 28-53 the second half to top that, and that seems doable, even though some productive veterans are likely to be traded before July is over.

That said, this season has a more painful feel to it than that 2013 campaign, and I think I've finally put my finger on why: The losses this season are as ugly as they come. Perhaps they aren't frequent as they were in 2013, but the brand of baseball is a little bit worse -- especially when it comes to pitching.

You go back and look at the numbers from 2013, and the Sox had three starting pitchers with ERAs below 4 -- Chris Sale (3.07), Jose Quintana (3.51) and Hector Santiago (3.56). The Sox also had Jake Peavy on the team for half the season before he was dealt to the Boston Red Sox, and his ERA (4.28 ERA) was no worse than league average.

So, for most of the year, the 2013 Sox had four men in their rotation who could give you a competitive outing. Now, that team couldn't hit worth a damn; they lost 99 games for a reason. But when you went to the park to watch the 2013 Sox, they would typically lose 4-1 and you'd be outta there in two and a half hours.

This year is a different scene, because starting pitching is the biggest weakness for this club. James Shields, of all people, is the only pitcher with an ERA below 4 (3.98), and he's made only six starts this season. Quintana is having a down year (4.45 ERA), and you've got retread veterans Derek Holland (4.52), Mike Pelfrey (4.13) and Miguel Gonzalez (5.15 ERA) hanging around the rotation.

A typical Sox loss this season is characterized by a short outing from a post-peak veteran starter, followed by a parade of middle relievers who struggle to throw strikes, and are lucky to be in the major leagues. By the end of the day, Sox pitchers have thrown about 200 pitches to get through nine innings, and three and a half hours later, you're walking out of the ballpark with a 10-2 loss or a 10-4 loss.

Linked are the box scores to the past two games I've personally attended. Frankly, I'd rather see some decent pitching and have the Sox get beat in a hurry than watch some of these long, drawn-out messes where five or six relievers are used.

I'm one of those fans who stays to the end no matter what, no matter how painful, so I guess the one positive to blowout losses is I can get out of the parking lot much faster when the game is over. (Most people scram early.) But, I can't say that I'm enjoying the baseball I've been seeing this year.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Carlos Rodon extremely wild in return, but there were positives

Carlos Rodon
I'm not going to say White Sox left-hander Carlos Rodon pitched well in his first start of the 2017 season. He did not.

He walked six guys in five innings, struck out only two, and threw only 41 of his 94 pitches for strikes. The Sox lost, 12-3, to the New York Yankees on Wednesday in a game that was every bit as ugly as the final score indicates.

That said, we can take some positives out of this Rodon performance -- his first in the big leagues since last September -- in the sense that he looked like a healthy pitcher. Rodon missed the first three months of the season with bursitis in his throwing shoulder. Steve Stone always says velocity comes from the shoulder, so you can conclude that a pitcher with an injured shoulder will lack velocity on his pitches.

Rodon did not lack velocity on his fastball Wednesday night. In fact, he uncorked a couple all the way back to the screen in the first inning, which was an indication that perhaps he felt too strong in this outing. His four-seam fastball averaged 94.9 mph according to BrooksBaseball.Net and touched 97 mph. His two-seamer averaged 94.4 mph and touched 95. That's about where Rodon should be.

The problem was, he couldn't command anything. I can't recall a single time where he got a called strike on his slider in the five innings he was out there. He was essentially a one-pitch pitcher, and he had no control of that one pitch -- his fastball.

As fans, we'll have to show a little patience here. Rodon is still basically in spring training mode, and for a pitcher who has missed significant time, the feel for the breaking ball is usually the last thing that returns. Once Rodon regains the feel for his slider, and can grab a strike with it, he can win some games for the Sox -- as long as he's healthy and throwing 94 to 97 on the fastball. He's never been a precise command guy, but he doesn't have to be with the velocity and movement he has on his pitches. He does, however, need to throw more strikes.

Really, given that ball-to-strike ratio, it's borderline miraculous that Rodon made it through five innings allowing only three unearned runs. When he left the game, the Sox were trailing, 3-2. He took the loss, but he wasn't the one responsible for allowing the score to get out of hand. Reliever Jake Petricka coughed up five runs in the sixth inning. Michael Ynoa gave up four more in the ninth while only recording one out.

Poor pitching by middle relievers made the score ugly, more than anything Rodon did. The main thing I'm looking for with Rodon right now? Does he come out of this healthy, make his next start five days from now and look sharper than he did Wednesday? If so, I'm happy.

The Sox could use another starting pitcher they can rely on, with Miguel Gonzalez on the DL, James Shields looking washed-up and Mike Pelfrey being Mike Pelfrey.

Monday, June 19, 2017

James Shields returns from DL; Miguel Gonzalez goes on DL

The White Sox had an overall good week -- they went 5-2 against two teams from the AL East, taking three of four at home against the Baltimore Orioles and winning two of three on the road against the Toronto Blue Jays.

However, the Sox (31-37) can't seem to shake their season-long problem of pitching injuries. Right-hander James Shields came off the disabled list to make his first start since April 16 on Sunday, but he was merely taking the spot of Miguel Gonzalez, who went on the 10-day disabled list with shoulder inflammation.

Now we know the reason Gonzalez has been so terrible lately. The right-hander has a 10.34 ERA in three June starts, and longer term, he's 1-8 with a 7.32 ERA over his past nine games. His season ERA is 5.49, well above his career norm of 3.97.

As for Shields, he was mediocre in receiving a no-decision in Sunday's 7-3 loss to the Blue Jays. And, honestly, mediocrity is all we expect from the 35-year-old declining veteran. He went 5.2 innings, allowing three earned runs on seven hits with three strikeouts and one walk.

Shields was one out away from getting through six innings with a 3-1 lead, but he couldn't close the deal. He easily retired the first two batters of the inning, but Troy Tulowitzki reached on a scratch infield single that hit the third-base bag. Shields then hung a slider to Russell Martin, who hit a game-tying two-run homer that hit the top of the wall and bounced over in right-center field.

That was Shields' final pitch of the day, and the Sox bullpen -- which has been solid most of the year -- was not solid on this day. Anthony Swarzak (3-2) gave up a single and a triple that allowed the Jays to take a 4-3 lead into the seventh inning.

Swarzak, Dan Jennings and Michael Ynoa combined to give up three runs in the bottom of the seventh as the Jays broke it open and salvaged the finale of the series.

Jennings was brought in to force switch-hitter Kendrys Morales to turn around and hit from the right side, and boy, did that move fail. Morales hit a two-run blast that hasn't landed yet. I've said it before this year, and I'll make the point again: Jennings is overused, having appeared in 32 of the Sox's 68 games. As we go along, his performance gets worse and worse.

The problem is that Jennings is the only left-hander in the bullpen, so he gets summoned to pitch to left-handed hitters on a frequent basis. Injuries have forced David Holmberg into the starting rotation, even though he is more suited to be the second lefty reliever.

Perhaps Holmberg could have kept Morales in the yard Sunday, but alas, he needs to stay in the rotation for now, with Gonzalez headed to the disabled list.

Monday, May 15, 2017

White Sox win two of three games vs. Padres in clash of rebuilding teams

Todd Frazier
There are some White Sox fans out there who have their hearts set on losing as many games as possible this season, in hopes of getting the No. 1 pick in the 2018 MLB draft.

I hate to tell those folks this, but it's going to be real hard for the Sox or any other team to be worse than the San Diego Padres this year.

The Sox (17-18) took two out of three from the Padres (14-25) at Guaranteed Rate Field over the weekend, and I saw San Diego do some terrible things that I've never seen a major league team do in all the years that I've following the great sport of baseball.

Let's get to some thoughts on the weekend that was:

Friday, May 12
Padres 6, White Sox 3: Even a brutal team such as San Diego is going to win 55 to 60 games, and this was one of those games for the Padres.

They hit three home runs, including two off Sox starter Miguel Gonzalez, who continued his inevitable regression to the mean by allowing five earned runs in five innings. San Diego had a 3-0 lead by the third inning, and offense was scarce for the South Siders.

Five of the nine Sox starters took 0-fers, and the team wasted a multiple homer game by Leury Garcia, who had had three hits. Garcia's two homers accounted for all three Sox runs.

Saturday, May 13
White Sox 5, Padres 4: The Sox trailed, 2-1, going to the bottom of the fourth inning when Jose Abreu reached on an error by San Diego third baseman Ryan Schimpf. Abreu then advanced to second base on a wild pitch by Trevor Cahill. Abreu then advanced to third base on a wild pitch by Trevor Cahill. Abreu then scored the tying run on a wild pitch by Trevor Cahill.

The Padres gave up a run on an E-5 and three wild pitches. I've seen such incompetence before in my days as a high school sports reporter, but I've never seen such buffoonery by a big league club.

The Sox ended up collecting their first walk-off win of the season. With the score tied 4-4 in the bottom of the ninth, San Diego reliever Brad Hand committed a cardinal sin by walking the Sox's No. 9 hitter, Tyler Saladino, to start the inning.

Garcia bunted Saladino into scoring position. Hand jumped ahead of the next hitter, Yolmer Sanchez, 0-2. But, Hand had fallen into a pattern of throwing his breaking ball every time he got into a two-strike count. He got a pair of strikeouts on the curve in the bottom of the eighth inning, but Sanchez appeared to be sitting on it in that situation.

The second baseman smacked one back up the middle for a single, and Saladino scored the winning run on a bang-bang play at the plate.

Sunday, May 14
White Sox 9, Padres 3: For seven innings, this was an aggravating game for Sox fans to watch. The offense was limited to only one run over six innings against the corpse of Jered Weaver, who has an ERA of 6.05 even after baffling Sox hitters throughout the afternoon.

Weaver hasn't won a game all season, and I had heard reports that he would be a candidate for release if he did not pitch well in Chicago. The Sox had a chance to perhaps literally end his career in the bottom of the first inning. Bases loaded, no outs. Alas, Weaver was out of the inning with only one run allowed two pitches later, after Avisail Garcia hit into a run-scoring double play and Todd Frazier grounded out.

No matter, San Diego imploded in the bottom of the eighth inning. The Padres had a 3-1 lead, but they walked five hitters, plunked a batter and committed two errors in that inning. The Sox sprinkled in four hits and parlayed all that into an eight-run outburst that gave them the 9-3 victory.

Melky Cabrera provided the big hit, a two-run single with the bases loaded that put the Sox ahead to stay at 4-3.

Moments later, the Sox had first and third with one out when Saladino popped up a bunt to first baseman Wil Myers. Frazier tagged and scored from third on a ball that traveled about 50 feet in the air to make it 5-3.

Yes, you read that right.

Myers had his back to the play after making the catch, and he casually flipped the ball back to pitcher Brandon Maurer. While the Padres were acting like a bunch of aloof idiots, Frazier tore down the third-base line to score a run. By the time Maurer realized what was happening, he made an errant toss to the plate that allowed Cabrera to advance to second.

The Sox tacked on with an RBI single by Willy Garcia, a two-run double by Leury Garcia and a RBI single by Sanchez.

I've never seen a team at any level give up a run on a pop-up bunt to first base before. Give the Padres credit; they seem hellbent on being the worst team in baseball.

Monday, May 1, 2017

White Sox settle for two out of three in weekend series in Detroit

Jose Abreu -- 12 for 22 in his past six games
The White Sox's six-game winning streak came to an end Sunday in Detroit, but I doubt anyone is complaining too loudly about a series in which the South Siders took two out of three games.

Sure, the Tigers were without offensive stars Miguel Cabrera and J.D. Martinez, but you have to remember the Sox were 1-8 last season at Comerica Park. So, in other words, the Sox (13-10) won more games in Detroit this weekend than they did during the entire 2016 campaign.

We'll take it, right? Here's a look back at the weekend series:

Friday, April 28
White Sox 7, Tigers 3: This is a game Detroit third baseman Nicholas Castellanos would like to forget. He made three errors, including two in a decisive top of the eighth inning.

The miscues came on back-to-back plays with the score tied at 3. The Sox loaded the bases and eventually took the lead on a two-out, two-run single by Geovany Soto. The South Siders tacked on two more in the ninth on a two-run homer by Tim Anderson. A game that could have gone either way turned on poor defense and poor bullpen work by the Tigers.

Meanwhile, the Sox's bullpen was stellar. Starter Mike Pelfrey turned in a predictably mediocre outing. He went 4.2 innings, allowing three earned runs on six hits. He also walked four, which was not an encouraging sign. The good news is the relief corps cleaned up the mess. Dan Jennings, Anthony Swarzak (2-0), Nate Jones and Tommy Kahnle combined for 4.1 innings of scoreless, one-hit relief.

The Tigers did not have a single base runner in any of the last three innings.

Saturday, April 29
White Sox 6, Tigers 4 (10 inn.): First baseman Jose Abreu has had two hits in each of his past six games, going 12 for 22 in that span to raise his average to .280.

Both of Abreu's hits in Saturday's game were home runs, his first two of the season. The Sox's best hitter was due to break out, and his second home run of this game in the eighth inning staked the South Siders to a 4-2 lead.

That should have been enough to make a winner out of Sox starter Derek Holland, who once again pitched well: 6.1 innings, two runs on five hits with four strikeouts and two walks. The veteran's ERA now sits at 2.17.

Alas, David Robertson's run of perfection came to an end, as the Sox closer failed to close, coughing up the two-run lead in the bottom of the ninth.

Fortunately, the Sox grabbed the lead back in the top of the 10th on Melky Cabrera's first home run of the season and an RBI triple by Avisail Garcia.

Given a second chance to close out a victory, Robertson (1-0) put up a zero in the bottom of the 10th inning to extend the Sox's winning streak to six.

Sunday, April 30
Tigers 7, White Sox 3: Miguel Gonzalez had won each of his first three decisions this season, and coming into Sunday's start, he had allowed only six hits over 16.1 innings in his previous two outings.

Let's just say regression (and the Tigers) hit Gonzalez (3-1) hard in this one. He gave up 14 hits over six innings, and was fortunate to allow "only" seven runs (six earned) in a struggling outing.

The Sox got an RBI triple from Abreu, an RBI single from Cabrera and a solo home run from Todd Frazier, but it was not nearly enough to overcome a rough day for the Sox's starting pitcher.

The good news is Gonzalez saved the bullpen. He managed to scratch through six innings. The only reliever used was Chris Beck, who labored through two scoreless innings (He walked three. Blech.).

Why does that matter? Well, the Sox are on a 10-game road trip, and they don't have another off-day until May 8. If you're going to lose a ballgame, at least don't run through the whole bullpen. Gonzalez did enough to prevent that from happening, and all relievers except for Beck should be available for Monday's series opener against Kansas City.

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. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Matt Davidson makes case for more playing time

Matt Davidson
The White Sox leader in home runs and RBIs through 18 games is ... Matt Davidson?

Yes, that's correct.

Davidson went 3 for 4 with four RBIs and his team-best fourth home run of the season Monday, leading the Sox (9-9) to a 12-1 win over the Kansas City Royals (7-12).

The 26-year-old has 14 RBIs, which is tied for the team lead with Avisail Garcia, but Davidson has posted that total in only 40 plate appearances, while Garcia has 72 plate appearances.

Davidson has been the source of much consternation among Sox fans because he hasn't been playing every day. Before Monday's rout, Davidson had not started any of the previous four games.

I can at least understand manager Rick Renteria's logic. In those four games, the Sox faced a strong contingent of right-handed pitchers -- Masahiro Tanaka of the New York Yankees, and then Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar of the Cleveland Indians.

None of those pitchers is a good matchup for Davidson, who has struck out 12 times in his 24 plate appearances against right-handers this season. The flip side to that argument? Davidson also has three home runs against righties, so perhaps he's hot enough right now that "handedness" doesn't matter so much.

Davidson was in there Monday against Kansas City left-hander Jason Vargas (3-1), and he laced an opposite field homer in his first at-bat. But perhaps his best swing came in the bottom of the sixth inning, when he delivered an RBI double on the ninth pitch of an at-bat against Royals reliever Peter Moylan, who is a side-winding right-hander. Davidson fought off a couple tough 3-2 pitches, then found one that he could shoot into the right-center gap for a hit.

Later in the sixth inning, during which the Sox scored eight runs, Davidson hit a two-run single off the left-field wall that had an exit velocity of 110 mph. He hit the ball so hard that he couldn't make a double out of it. That one was off a left-handed pitcher, reliever Travis Wood.

The question for Renteria is this: Does he continue to spot Davidson in matchups that are favorable for him? Or does he take the training wheels off, throw Davidson in there against everybody -- even tough right-handers -- and find out whether this hot start is for real?

When I look at Davidson's slash line of .368/.375/.789, I can't help but think "small sample size." But the longer this goes on, the more calls we are going to hear for more playing time for Davidson. That especially will be the case if the left-handed side of the DH platoon, Cody Asche, continues to struggle. Asche is 2 for 35 and has yet to record an extra-base hit in 38 plate appearances.

We won't know Tuesday whether Renteria is going to change course. The Royals are starting their best pitcher, left-hander Danny Duffy, so that means Davidson is going to play. We'll see what the Sox manager does the next time the team faces a less-than-elite right-hander.

Speaking of right-handers, Miguel Gonzalez (3-0) continues to roll for the Sox. He went eight innings Monday, allowing only one unearned run on two hits. He struck out five and walked one, and lowered his ERA to 2.00 over four starts and 27 innings. He's been the Sox's best pitcher this month. Who would have thought that? 

Friday, April 14, 2017

Surprise! White Sox win a series against defending AL champion Cleveland

Avisail Garcia -- AL's leading hitter as of April 14
We concluded yesterday's blog post by noting that White Sox manager Rick Renteria would be wise to avoid using relievers David Robertson and Nate Jones for a fourth straight game.

Well, guess what? There was never a reason to consider going to high-leverage bullpen guys in Thursday's game, as the Sox rolled to a 10-4 win over the Cleveland Indians.

The Sox (4-4) took two out of three from the defending AL champions and sent the Tribe (4-5) to their fifth loss in their past six games.

Shortstop Tim Anderson hit a home run off Cleveland starter Josh Tomlin (0-2) on the first pitch of the game, and that sparked a five-run first inning for the South Siders. The other four runs were scored after two were out. Matt Davidson hit a three-run, opposite-field homer to make it 4-0. Yolmer Sanchez doubled and scored on a single by Omar Narvaez to cap the rally.

The Sox ended up scoring nine of their 10 runs with two outs, and the trend continued in the second inning when Avisail Garcia delivered a two-run single to make it 7-1 and end Tomlin's night.

Final line for the Cleveland right-hander: 1.2 IP, 8 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 1 BB, 0 Ks, 2 HRs

It was nice to see the Sox knock Tomlin around. He had a 1.83 ERA in three starts and 19.2 IP against Chicago last year. Hey, it's a new season.

With all the early run support, you would have thought Miguel Gonzalez would have been in line for his second win. Alas, the right-hander ran up a high pitch count, walking four men in the first four innings, and he couldn't make it through the fifth after the Tribe scored two runs to cut the lead to 7-3.

Gonzalez allowed three earned runs on eight hits with five strikeouts in 4.2 innings.

Renteria, as we suggested, went to some of his secondary relievers. Anthony Swarzak, Dan Jennings and Tommy Kahnle combined for 4.1 innings of one-run relief. Swarzak (1-0) recorded five outs without allowing a run to pick up his first win as a member of the Sox.

The Sox put the game away with three more two-out runs in the eighth on singles by Jose Abreu, Cody Asche and Garcia.

Unbelievably, Garcia is leading the league in hitting with a .452 average. He also has eight RBIs. Cue the talk about small sample sizes.

The Sox will continue their nine-game road swing with a three-game weekend series in Minnesota. Here are the pitching matchups:

Friday: Dylan Covey (First appearance of 2017) vs. Adalberto Mejia (0-1, 10.80 ERA)
Saturday: Jose Quintana (0-2, 6.17 ERA) vs. Ervin Santana (2-0, 0.69 ERA)
Sunday: James Shields (1-0, 1.69 ERA) vs. Hector Santiago (1-1, 2.38 ERA)

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.