Showing posts with label Zach Duke. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Zach Duke. 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?

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

White Sox surprisingly quiet at trade deadline

Rick Hahn
Baseball's trading deadline came and went Monday afternoon, and the White Sox didn't do anything besides the Zach Duke deal they made with the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday.

The inactivity is surprising, because GM Rick Hahn previously indicated his frustration with the team being "mired in mediocrity." Such remarks usually signal that changes are coming, but in practice, only one deal was made.

I never expected Hahn to deal any of the Sox's headliners -- Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Adam Eaton and Jose Abreu -- but I did think he would make another trade or two similar to the Duke move. The "next tier" on the Sox roster features some productive veterans who would have value to other teams, and I figured players such as David Robertson, Melky Cabrera, James Shields or Todd Frazier could be on the move.

Instead, the gang is still all here, with the noted exception of Duke.

This has created a significant meltdown among an outraged fan base that is hungry for change. I share in the frustration, but not the outrage. You just have to put the emotions away and think logically here.

I watched MLB Network for most of the afternoon Monday, and much of the speculation centered around Sale. I'm sure the Sox received offers, and I'm sure they listened. But never for one second did I think the Sox would actually pull the trigger.

Why? Well, it because all the trade packages being offered seemed to center solely around prospects. The experts kept talking about Boston offering four top prospects for Sale, with 21-year-old Yoan Moncada being the centerpiece of the deal.

I'm sure Moncada is a fine prospect. He might even be a future star. But, you're not going to give up a five-time All-Star such as Sale in exchange for a package of ifs and maybes, with the centerpiece of the trade being a 21-year-old kid who has played a grand total of 32 games above A-ball. For a guy such as Sale -- and Quintana, for that matter -- you need at least one position player who is going to help you at the major league level right away.

I just don't think that deal is out there at midseason, because contenders are not willing to subtract from their current 25-man roster at this time of year. They are looking to add to what they already have. Once the offseason arrives, teams are more willing to part with major leaguers in a deal, because they have time to acquire somebody else to fill whatever hole(s) they create by making a trade. Those adjustments are much harder to make in-season.

Provided Sale and Quintana stay healthy the rest of the season (always a gamble with pitching), the Sox will be in position to get a better haul later than they would right now.

The free-agent starting pitching crop is very weak this offseason, which would only make Sale and Quintana more valuable in a deal, should the Sox choose the nuclear option and blow the team up this offseason.

I was very surprised there was so few rumors surrounding the Robertson-Cabrera-Shields-Frazier tier of the Sox roster. I feel like similar players from other teams were traded for reasonable prospects, so there should have been some market for these guys. But given the lack of rumors, maybe there wasn't.

No trade at all is better than a bad trade, and if the Sox couldn't get someone who might legitimately be able to help them in the future, there's no reason to dump players just for the sake of dumping. That's an emotional reaction that fans call for, but front offices can't afford to think that way.

There's always the possibility of trading any or all of these guys this offseason. That said, it's fair to say management is on the clock now to do *something* between now and the start of the 2017 season.

You can't come out and say that it's "unacceptable" to be "mired in mediocrity," then serve up another year of the status quo. Things don't necessarily have to change now, but they have to change soon. One thing we all agree on is the current results aren't nearly good enough.

Monday, August 1, 2016

White Sox trade Zach Duke to St. Louis Cardinals

Zach Duke
The White Sox hammered a few more nails into their 2016 coffin over the weekend, blowing two out of three games against the last-place Minnesota Twins.

That series isn't worth rehashing on this trading deadline day. The real question is, what will the Sox do before the 3 p.m. CDT deadline?

So far, the only Sox-related trade happened Sunday, when the Sox sent left-handed reliever Zach Duke to the St. Louis Cardinals for 23-year-old outfielder Charlie Tilson.

Duke is having a respectable year. He's 2-0 with a 2.63 ERA in a league-high 53 appearances. He's got 42 strikeouts in 37.2 innings, so he has a good chance of providing value for the Cardinals - provided his arm doesn't fall off from the high number of appearances.

Non-contending teams don't need situational relievers, and Duke is under contract for $5.5 million for 2017. Given their situation, the Sox probably have better uses for that money than a guy who is going to pitch maybe 60 innings a year.

Tilson is a Chicago-area product. He played his high school ball at New Trier High School. This season, he's been playing at Triple-A Memphis, where he posted a .282/.345/.407 slash line with four home runs, 34 RBIs and 15 stolen bases.

The left-handed hitter might be a fourth outfielder, and even if that's all he is, that's not a terrible return for Duke. But I suspect Tilson will get a shot to prove he's more than that. With 57 relatively meaningless games to go, he could get a two-month tryout as the Sox's everyday center fielder.

It doesn't make a lot of sense for the Sox to continue trotting J.B. Shuck out there in center field. We already know he's not a long-term solution. Is Tilson? We don't know, but there's an opportunity now to find out.

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.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Rick Hahn: White Sox are 'mired in mediocrity'

Rick Hahn
Remember when we thought the White Sox would be better in 2016 than they were last season? That was fun while it lasted, huh?

Well, guess what? The Sox are 46-49 after 95 games. At this same point last season, they were 45-50. So, all that moving and shaking over the last calendar year has resulted in a net gain of one lousy win. Hooray!

Before Thursday night's 2-1 rain-shortened loss to the Detroit Tigers, Sox general manager Rick Hahn admitted the plan is not working.

“We looked to get ourselves right as quickly as possible,” Hahn told members of the media scrum. “There was a spurt this season where it looked like it worked. As we sit here today, we’ve been wrestling with being a couple games over, a couple games under .500 for the last few weeks.

“We’re mired in mediocrity. That’s not the goal, that’s not acceptable, that’s not what we’re trying to accomplish for the long term.”

So, there you have it: The first sign that the Sox might be looking at a change in direction at the Aug. 1 trading deadline. The team is 10.5 games out of first place in the AL Central, and 7.5 games back in the wild-card race. There isn't much hope left for 2016, and Hahn acknowledged the team has ruled out any deals that would involve trading prospects for short-term rentals.

Hahn noted several times that the Sox are "open-minded" about their options. He did not rule out a complete teardown, although he commented that trading All-Star pitchers Chris Sale and Jose Quintana "might be extreme."

The Sox are not the most transparent organization in the world -- and I don't care that they're not -- so we're left to speculate about what this might mean. My speculation is they'll keep Sale. Shortstop Tim Anderson also is off limits in a trade. Quintana is unlikely to be dealt, but could be had if the right offer comes along. Everyone else is on the block, with David Robertson, Todd Frazier, Zach Duke and Melky Cabrera among the most likely candidates to be traded.

Here's what I fail to understand: The Sox allowed this season to slip away without firing the manager or anyone else on the coaching staff. Maybe the 23-10 start to the season created false hope, but the 23-39 mark since then is ridiculous. There's no way this team should have played that poorly over a stretch of 62 games.

The Sox were willing to shake up the roster, with John Danks, Mat Latos and Jimmy Rollins all being shown the door. Anderson was called up from the minors. The Sox traded for James Shields. They signed Justin Morneau. They recently recalled top prospect Carson Fulmer. They've been willing to address problems on the roster, but that hasn't improved results. There's no question the team is playing below its talent level at present, and it's been that way for more than two months. Why isn't anyone that's part of the dugout brain trust accountable for that?

I'm reluctant to let Hahn and Ken Williams undertake a new rebuilding project. They've turned almost the entire roster over since the midpoint of the 2013 season -- Sale, Quintana and Nate Jones are the only players left from that time -- but the results still are disappointing.

There's a lot of folks who want to trade Sale and Quintana, but I'm opposed to that line of thinking for two reasons: 1) I don't trust this front office to get the appropriate return, and 2) Right now, you'd be shopping them only to contending teams, and contenders are only willing to give up prospects during the middle of the season. If you're going to trade one or both of the crown jewels of your organization, I think you need to get at least one, if not two, major league players in return -- not just prospects.

Teams that are in the hunt typically are not willing to subtract players from their 25-man roster at this time of year. If the Sox do want to make a move with their top pitchers, they might be better served to wait until the offseason when every team in baseball could conceivably be in the market for Sale or Quintana. At that point in time, the Sox might be better positioned to maximize their return.

Right now, the vultures are circling, looking to pick at the carcass of the 2016 Sox. Hahn needs to exercise patience here. If he is going to move, he better make sure he gets exactly what he wants. These decisions are too important to the future of the Sox organization to rush.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

White Sox should have swept Seattle; they lose two of three instead

Dan Jennings
As previously noted, the White Sox choked away a brilliant effort from ace Chris Sale in Monday night's series opener against Seattle, but surprisingly enough, they responded with a crisp 6-1 victory on Tuesday night.

Jose Quintana (8-8) got back to .500 by winning his third consecutive start, and he was backed by home runs from Brett Lawrie, Melky Cabrera and Todd Frazier. Cabrera's blast leading off the top of the seventh inning broke a 1-1 tie and sent the Sox on their way to the win.

The Sox should have won the series finale on Wednesday, too. They had a 5-2 lead in the seventh inning, but then the old choke reflex kicked in again.

Zach Duke gave up a two-run homer to Mike Zunino in the seventh inning. Adam Lind, who homered off David Robertson to win the game Monday, struck again with a solo home run to tie it off Nate Jones in the eighth. Then, Leonys Martin went deep in the bottom of the 11th inning off Dan Jennings to lift the Mariners to a 6-5 win.

Here's the real shame of it: Miguel Gonzalez outpitched Felix Hernandez.

Yes, you read that right. The Sox's No. 5 starter got the game into the seventh inning with a three-run lead against the Seattle ace. Gonzalez provided his team with a golden opportunity to steal a win in a game that featured an unfavorable pitching matchup.

Instead, the Sox kicked the opportunity away, like they have so many others over the past 60 games. Teams that contend take advantage of those chances. Teams that finish in fourth place blow them. I'll bet you can guess which kind of team the Sox are.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Michael Pineda stinks with two outs; White Sox take advantage

Michael Pineda
Here's an unusual stat: With two outs in an inning, opposing hitters have posted a .366/.414/.710 slash line against New York Yankees right-hander Michael Pineda.

The White Sox took advantage of Pineda bizarre inability to close out innings Wednesday in a 5-0 victory over the Yankees.

Pineda retired the first two hitters in the Sox's second inning with little difficulty, but then the wheels fell off.

Brett Lawrie singled and advanced to second on a passed ball. Pineda walked Dioner Navarro on four straight pitches, which I thought might have been a pitch-around with the struggling Avisail Garcia on deck, but then Garcia burned Pineda with an RBI single that scored Lawrie.

J.B. Shuck's ground-rule double plated Navarro to make it 2-0, and Tim Anderson followed with a two-run double down the left-field line on an 0-2 pitch.

What started out looking like a harmless inning for Pineda ended with the Sox leading 4-0. These struggles are obviously a trend for the New York pitcher, but it seems to be one of those hard-to-explain things in baseball.

The Sox added one more run in the sixth, and that was more than enough for starter Miguel Gonzalez, who upped his won-loss record to 2-4 with one of his best starts of the season. He went seven shutout innings, allowing only five hits. He struck out three and walked one.

Zach Duke and David Robertson combined for two inning of scoreless relief, and the Sox (44-41) finished off their fifth consecutive series win. The Sox haven't been able to sweep anybody during that time, mind you, but an 11-5 record over the past 16 games is pretty good.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Just like El Duque? Not quite but the White Sox will take it

Remember this?


I know. That's a silly question. If you're a White Sox fan, of course you remember Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez coming into a bases-loaded, no-outs jam with Sox clinging to a one-run lead in Game 3 of the 2005 ALDS.

Hernandez retired Jason Varitek, Tony Graffanino and Johnny Damon in succession without giving up the lead, and the Sox went on to win and complete the sweep of the then-defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox. Given what was at stake, Hernandez's performance that day became legendary, and is often cited by fans as being among the greatest moments during the 2005 championship run.
Zach Duke

On Monday night, current Sox reliever Zach Duke found himself in a similar predicament. He was summoned from the bullpen in the bottom of the ninth inning in a tie game. The Red Sox had the bases loaded, and there was nobody out.

OK, OK, let's not get carried away. This is June, not the ALDS, and there wasn't nearly as much on the line Monday night as there was that night in October 2005. But the venue was the same (Fenway Park in Boston), and Duke is English for "Duque," so we can draw some parallels there.

In any case, with the bags full, Duke retired Dustin Pedroia, Christian Vazquez and Ryan LaMarre in succession without giving up a single run, forcing the game to extra innings. Duke's teammates rewarded him with a win, as Jose Abreu's two-out, two-run double off Boston closer Craig Kimbrel lifted the South Siders to a 3-1 victory.

Back to the bottom of the ninth: Sox right-hander Zach Putnam walked three consecutive hitters to start the inning. Obviously, something wasn't right with Putnam, who was placed on the DL on Tuesday with an elbow injury.

Manager Robin Ventura summoned Duke into an almost impossible situation. According to FanGraphs, the Red Sox had a 93.8 percent chance of winning when Duke took the mound. Then, the Red Sox sent Dustin Pedroia to the plate as a pinch hitter. The All-Star second baseman was getting a rare day off, and came to bat with a robust .302 batting average. For his career, Pedroia has only struck out about once every 10 plate appearances, so the odds of him putting a ball in play that would win the game were high, to say the least.

But Duke did a masterful job of setting Pedroia up. He threw Pedroia a steady diet of breaking balls inside. They were far enough inside, in fact, that Pedroia could do nothing but hit them foul. On three occasions, Duke came inside with offspeed pitches. On three occasions, Pedroia hit foul balls down the left-field side.

Ahead in the count 1-2, Duke had Pedroia looking for offspeed pitches, so he wisely went with the fastball. His 1-2 heater missed, but his 2-2 heater had the plate. Pedroia, still with the thought of the inside breaking ball in his mind, swung late and swung through it. Strike three.

In retrospect, Pedroia was the biggest out of the inning.

The Red Sox's win expectancy still was at 83.6 percent as Vazquez came to the plate. But Duke used the overanxious 25-year-old's aggression against him. Duke threw five pitches in the at-bat, none of them for strikes. Vazquez swung at three of them, the last of which he chopped weakly toward the center of the diamond.

Tyler Saladino, serving as the Sox's fifth infielder, fielded it but made a lousy, one-hop throw to the plate. Catcher Alex Avila made the scoop and kept his foot on the plate to record the force at home. Two outs.

Boston's win expectancy dropped 66 percent as LaMarre came to the plate. The 27-year-old outfielder had just been recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket. It was his first at-bat in a Red Sox uniform. He was just 2 for 26 in his previous major league at-bats with Cincinnati last year, and he was overmatched by Duke.

The Sox lefty got ahead with a fastball, which LaMarre fouled off. Duke then fired three straight breaking balls down and in. None of the three were strikes. The overanxious LaMarre waved at two of them. No contact. A second strikeout for Duke, and miraculously, the Sox were out of the inning.

Abreu came through in the top of the 10th, connecting for the two-run double on a 99 mph heater from Kimbrel. Avisail Garcia and Adam Eaton scored on the hit, and the Sox broke their three-game losing streak.

Will clutch performances by Duke and Abreu finally spark the Sox out of their six-week-long malaise? I don't know, but it was a big win -- an unexpected win -- Monday night. That said, it doesn't mean much if the Sox can't back it up with another win Tuesday.

Putnam to DL; Beck recalled from Charlotte

As I indicated a few paragraphs up, Putnam is headed to the DL with ulnar neuritis in his pitching elbow.

The Sox have recalled Chris Beck from Triple-A Charlotte. The right-hander is 4-3 with a 4.47 ERA in 15 appearances (7 starts) with the Knights this season. I would not expect too much from Beck. The 25-year-old is a fringe prospect at best, and he'll probably join Matt Purke as a low-leverage pitcher out of the Sox bullpen.

The Sox saw their starting pitcher (James Shields) get knocked out in the second inning Saturday night. They played a 10-inning game Sunday. They played a 10-inning game Monday. It's fair to say the Sox relief corps is perilously thin going into Tuesday's game against the Red Sox.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Jose Quintana continues mastery of Blue Jays

Jose Quintana is 3-1 this season.
Something was going to give Wednesday night. The Toronto Blue Jays hadn't been swept at Rogers Centre since Sept. 10-12, 2013. And White Sox starting pitcher Jose Quintana was 3-0 in three previous starts in Toronto.

As it turns out, Quintana continued his streak, and the Blue Jays' long run of not being swept at home has come to an end.

The Sox left-hander fired six shutout innings in a 4-0 win. Quintana (3-1) struck out a season-high 10 and stranded a Toronto baserunner in scoring position in four of his six innings. He is now 4-0 with 0.68 ERA in four career starts at Toronto. His season ERA is 1.47 -- fourth-best in the AL -- and he has yet to allow a home run in 30.2 innings this season.

Zach Duke, Nate Jones and David Robertson all pitched a scoreless inning to finish the shutout.

Toronto starter Marco Estrada matched zeroes with Quintana through six innings, but the Sox once again broke through in their favorite inning -- the seventh. Dioner Navarro's two-out, two-strike, two-run triple put the Sox ahead and ended Estrada's night. Austin Jackson greeted reliever Jesse Chavez with an RBI triple to complete the three-run rally.

Avisail Garcia's RBI single in the eighth inning tacked on an insurance run as the Sox won their sixth straight and improved to 16-6.

Comings and goings

A few roster moves over the past couple days:
  • Catcher Kevan Smith was placed on the disabled list with a back problem before appearing in a game. The Sox purchased the contract of Hector Sanchez from Triple-A Charlotte. I wouldn't be surprised if Sanchez gets a start Thursday with John Danks on the mound against Baltimore
  • Pitcher Miguel Gonzalez was optioned back to Triple-A Charlotte, and relief pitcher Daniel Webb was recalled.
  • On a sad note, Robertson had a death in his family, and the closer has been placed on the bereavement list, meaning he will be away from the team for 3 to 7 days. Infielder Carlos Sanchez has been recalled to fill that roster spot. Sanchez was off to a good start at Triple-A Charlotte, with a slash line of .309/.356/.469 with three home runs and six stolen bases in 20 games. With Webb being on the roster, the Sox still have seven relievers available for the Baltimore series.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 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, April 5, 2016

White Sox get gift-wrapped win on Opening Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, January 22, 2016

White Sox bring back Matt Albers on one-year deal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Miserable first inning typical of White Sox malaise

This isn't a newsflash, but the White Sox stink on the road.

Sure, they had a nice 4-2 homestand, taking two out of three from both the Detroit Tigers and the Cincinnati Reds, but it's naive to think the Sox's early-season struggles are over until they can resemble a major league team while playing away from the comfortable environs of U.S. Cellular Field.

The Sox fell to 2-12 on the road Monday with a 10-7 loss to the NL Central cellar-dwelling Milwaukee Brewers, and the South Siders wasted no time reminding fans just how bad a team they are. The first inning of this game was disgraceful.  Let's take a moment to review the sad timeline:
  • Milwaukee leadoff hitter Gerardo Parra hit a grounder toward second baseman Micah Johnson, whose lame attempt to backhand the ball was a failure. The ball deflected off Johnson's glove for a "single." The play should have been made. It was not.
  • Parra successfully stole second base, and catcher Geovany Soto's throw was nowhere near the bag. Parra had a good enough jump that he probably would have been safe regardless, but Soto still looked like a fool with his lame toss.
  • Ryan Braun, the second Milwaukee hitter of the game, hit a weak grounder to shortstop that Alexei Ramirez kicked for an error. The play should have been made. It was not. Runners on first and third, no outs.
  • Adam Lind, the third Milwaukee hitter of the game, hit what should have been a double-play ball to Johnson, who was too slow to field it and too slow to get the ball to Ramirez. The Sox did force Braun out at second base, but Lind was needlessly safe at first. The play should have been made. It was not.
  • Sox pitcher Jeff Samardzija hangs a slider to Milwaukee cleanup hitter Carlos Gomez, who homers to put the Brewers up 3-0.
Amazing, isn't it? Four batters into the first inning, and the Sox had already made a handful of glaring miscues. Is it any wonder this team is 12-17?

Samardzija eventually dug the team a 6-0 hole, and to the Sox's credit, they did battle back against inferior Milwaukee pitching to tie the game at 7-7 in the eighth inning.

Alas, reliever Zach Duke had his first bad outing of the year. He gave up three runs, including home runs by Elian Herrera and Khris Davis, in the bottom of the eighth inning. That Milwaukee rally sealed the Sox's fate. It was a fate they deserved after another night on the road of pitiful defense and subpar starting pitching.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Carlos Rodon wins his first MLB start; then John Danks posts his best outing of the season

We said going into the weekend that Carlos Rodon was in position to put pressure on the White Sox's incumbent back-end starters, if he could have a good outing against the Cincinnati Reds in his first major league start.

Rodon delivered a credible performance, going six innings. He allowed just two runs on four hits while striking out eight and walking four. He picked up the victory in an 8-2 Sox win Saturday night in the second game of a doubleheader.

Interestingly, circumstances beyond Rodon's control put some added pressure on him for the outing. The Sox's No. 5 starter, Hector Noesi, was struck by a line drive and had to leave the game in the second inning of the opener of the doubleheader. The Sox ended up running through most of their bullpen in a 10-4 loss, and that meant Rodon had to at least get through five innings and ideally six innings in the second game.

It didn't look good when Rodon walked the first two hitters he saw, but he wiggled out of a first-and-third, no-outs jam without allowing a run and settled in nicely from there.

The Sox needed three relievers to cover the last nine outs -- Jake Petricka, Zach Duke and David Robertson. Duke and Robertson were the only two Sox relievers not used in the blowout loss in the opener, so they were plenty fresh to protect the lead.

The heavy bullpen use on Saturday also put pressure on John Danks, who started Sunday's series finale. Danks had been knocked out in the third inning of his previous start, and a repeat of that performance was simply not an option. The Sox have two pitchers they typically use in long relief -- Scott Carroll, who worked 4.2 innings in Saturday's opener, and Rodon, who obviously started the second game.

That left Danks with no safety net for his start. He had to go six innings and preferably seven. He ended up responding with his best outing of the season: seven innings pitched, with just one run on six hits.

Robertson suffered his first blown save of the season, so Danks did not pick up a win, but there's a good case to be made that the Sox lefty's ability to provide both quality and quantity of innings was the biggest factor in Chicago's 4-3 victory. Only Duke and Robertson were called upon to work in relief, and after the blown save, the Sox scored winning run in the bottom of the ninth on Gordon Beckham's two-out RBI single off Cincinnati closer Aroldis Chapman.

The Sox are just 12-16 overall, but they are 10-5 at home, having taken two out of three games in each of their five home series to this point in the season. Next up, a road trip to Milwaukee and Oakland, where the Sox must do something about their miserable 2-11 record away from U.S. Cellular Field.