Showing posts with label Zach Putnam. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Zach Putnam. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

How might the White Sox pitching staff look when the season starts?

Jose Quintana -- still here
White Sox pitchers and catchers will have their first full workouts Feb. 14 in Glendale, Arizona. It's closer than we think, so let's take a look at how the pitching staff might shake out given the current roster construction.

We'll assume there are no trades between now and Opening Day -- a big assumption, because general manager Rick Hahn made it clear at SoxFest that he's still open to making moves before the season starts.

For a rebuilding club, the Sox look surprisingly set on the pitching side of things. The five projected starting pitchers right now are pretty obvious:

1. Jose Quintana
2. Carlos Rodon
3. Miguel Gonzalez
4. James Shields
5. Derek Holland

In anyone gets injured or traded, Rule 5 draft pick Dylan Covey might get the first shot at taking a spot. The other roster contenders would be two of the three players acquired in the Adam Eaton trade -- Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez. However, Hahn indicated a preference to have all the recently acquired prospects start the season in the minor leagues, so we probably will not see Giolito or Lopez in Chicago until later in the 2017 season.

I look for prospects Carson Fulmer and Tyler Danish to potentially get some starts during spring training, but both players are ticketed for the Triple-A rotation in Charlotte when the season starts.

Let's assume the Sox will carry 12 pitchers -- most teams do -- so that means there are seven spots in the bullpen. There isn't a lot of mystery with five out of the seven:
David Robertson -- also still here

1. David Robertson
2. Nate Jones
3. Dan Jennings
4. Jake Petricka
5. Zach Putnam
6. ????
7. ????

Contenders for the last two spots include a quartet of right-handers we saw in Chicago in 2016: Tommy Kahnle, Michael Ynoa, Juan Minaya and Chris Beck.

I'm guessing one of the four makes the club, with Kahnle having the inside track. Unlike the rest of that crew, he had a strong finish to 2016 -- a 0.87 ERA over his final 11 appearances with 11 strikeouts in 10.1 IP.

Why would only one of the four make the team? Well, I'm thinking the Sox want a second left-hander in the bullpen. Jennings is the only left-handed roster lock as a relief pitcher. The door is open for waiver claim Giovanni Soto, who last pitched in the majors with Cleveland in 2015. The 25-year-old's left-handedness is an advantage for him as he battles Ynoa, Minaya and Beck for a roster spot.

But what of the non-roster invitees, you ask? Are there any pitchers that could surprise and make the roster out of spring training?

I'd say keep an eye on the non-rostered lefties, a list that includes Matt Purke, Aaron Bummer, Brian Clark, Jace Fry, David Holmberg and Cory Luebke.

Purke is a familiar name to Sox fans, although his 12 big league outings last season were pretty bad. I'll be interested to see what Bummer has after amateur scouting director Nick Hostetler spoke highly of him at SoxFest. Bummer is hard thrower who missed the 2015 season with Tommy John surgery, and he has fewer than 40 professional innings under his belt. It seems unlikely he'll compete for a roster spot given his inexperience, but he might be the most intriguing name in this group.

Clark is more advanced, having thrown 56 innings across 37 games between Birmingham and Charlotte last year. Fry missed the 2016 season with Tommy John surgery, and has thrown only 61 professional innings. Holmberg has worked mostly as a starter in his career. He made 28 starts between Birmingham and Charlotte last year, and has 167 career starts in the minors. Luebke is a 31-year-old former San Diego Padres prospect who underwent two Tommy John surgeries and missed three seasons from 2013-15.

From that list of six, we'll see if any emerge as a worthy challenger. Personally, I wouldn't count on it. Of course, when do you ever count on non-roster invitees?

Non-rostered right-handed pitchers in camp include Blake Smith, who made five September appearances with the Sox last year; 31-year-old veteran Anthony Swarzak, who had 26 relief appearances with the New York Yankees last year; and 20-year-old prospect Spencer Adams, who split time between Winston-Salem and Birmingham in 2016.

And, oh yeah, Michael Kopech and Zack Burdi are going to be in camp as non-roster players. Heard anything about them lately? How's that for burying the lead?

In all seriousness, Kopech is probably ticketed for High-A Winston-Salem when the season starts, while Burdi will be headed to the Charlotte bullpen, in hopes of one day becoming the White Sox closer.

Neither of these two hyped prospects are going to make the club, but they will generate headlines each and every time they take the mound this spring.

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, July 6, 2016

Carlos Rodon's disappointing first half ends with a dud; Alex Avila heads back to DL; Chris Sale an All-Star

Carlos Rodon
Carlos Rodon is far from the worst player on the White Sox, but he might be the most disappointing.

Many people, including me, thought the young left-hander was poised for a breakout season after a strong finish to his rookie campaign in 2015. Instead, the first half of this year has represented a step backward.

Rodon was shelled in a 9-0 loss to the New York Yankees on Tuesday night at U.S. Cellular Field. He lasted only five innings, giving up a season-high six runs (five earned) on a season-high 12 hits. He struck out just three and walked two. The only inning in which he did not allow a run was the first, and he was fortunate to escape a bases-loaded situation in that inning.

Right now, Rodon is consistently behind in counts. He cannot throw either of his offspeed pitches for strikes consistently. Opposing hitters know the fastball is the only pitch Rodon can get over the plate, and they are feasting on it.

Rodon is going to continue to struggle until he can establish either his slider or his changeup as a pitch that hitters have to honor. In the meantime, his record is 2-7. He hasn't won since May 22. His ERA is up to 4.50, and the Sox are just 5-11 in the 16 games he has started.

Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka silenced the Sox bats Tuesday, so Rodon would have had to have been awful good to have a chance to win this game. However, it's hard for a pitcher to claim non-support when he fails to pitch into the seventh inning and fails to keep his team within striking distance of the opposition.

Avila headed back to disabled list

Sox catcher Alex Avila left Tuesday's game after the fifth inning with a right hamstring strain. Reports after the game indicated Avila is headed back to the 15-day disabled list. This is the same injury that caused Avila to be disabled in late April and into early May.

Avila will have plenty of company on the disabled list, as he joins teammates Austin Jackson, Justin Morneau, Zach Putnam, Jake Petricka, Daniel Webb and Matt Davidson on an increasingly crowded shelf.

The Sox will have to dip into their minor leagues for another catcher before Wednesday's series finale against the Yankees. Kevan Smith (back injury) remains on the DL at Triple-A Charlotte (sensing a theme here?), and the only other catcher on the 40-man roster is recently acquired Alfredo Gonzalez, who is currently in Birmingham and has never played about Double-A.

Omar Narvaez, who was in big league camp during spring training, has been getting the majority of the playing time recently at Charlotte and is another possibility.

Sale headed to All-Star Game

On a brighter note, Sox ace Chris Sale was chosen to represent the American League in the All-Star Game for the fifth consecutive season.

Sale leads the league with 14 wins against just two losses in his 17 starts. He also leads the league in innings pitched (120) and WHIP (0.98) and ranks third with a 2.93 ERA.

It would be surprising if Sale does not get the nod to start the game, although American League manager Ned Yost has not yet announced his decision.

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.

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.

Friday, April 8, 2016

I went to Opening Day at U.S. Cellular Field, and it snowed

How's this for baseball weather?:


That was the scene at U.S. Cellular Field on Friday before the White Sox's first home game of the season against the Cleveland Indians. The game resulted in a 7-1 Cleveland victory. More on that in minute, but five years from now, when people talk about Opening Day 2016 the main thing they are going to remember was the bone-chilling cold (temperatures in the 30s, wind chills in the 20s) and snow.

It did stop snowing for a little while, and the ballpark looked great for pregame ceremonies:


And, did I mention this new center field scoreboard is awesome?


On the field, there weren't many positives for the Sox, who fell to 3-2 with their worst performance of the season's first week.  We should have seen it coming. John Danks entered Friday's action with a 5-14 record, with a 5.29 ERA, in 26 career starts against Cleveland.

Make it 5-15 in 27 starts.

Danks gave up seven runs, five earned, over five innings pitched. He sucked the life out of the sellout crowd by giving up three runs in the top of the first inning, plus two more in the second. The "here we go again" feeling that was so prominent in the ballpark during these last three losing seasons of 2013-2015 was back again immediately with the Sox down 5-0 an inning and a half into the home portion of the schedule.

There were physical mistakes (Alex Avila's throwing error in the first inning that cost the Sox two runs) and mental mistakes (Avisail Garcia getting picked off first base with runners on first and second and one out, down 5-0, in the bottom of the second inning). There was an alarming lack of offense -- only three hits all day.

Todd Frazier went 2-for-3 with a solo home run, a single and a walk. Beyond that, the only offense was a single by Austin Jackson. This marked the second straight year the Sox were limited to just three hits in their home opener. Last year's 6-0 loss to the Minnesota Twins was utterly forgettable and sadly a predictor of misery to come.

We can only hope today's performance is an aberration and not a foretelling of another bad season on the South Side.

The only other good thing we can say? Well, Dan Jennings and Zach Putnam combined for four scoreless innings in relief of Danks. If not for that, it would have been worse than 7-1.

Without question, this game was one to forget, unless you're talking about the weather.

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, January 12, 2016

White Sox make additions to 2016 SoxFest roster

Jose Contreras
With the holiday season over, it's time to look ahead to SoxFest 2016, which believe it or not is just a little more than two weeks away.

The event is scheduled for Jan. 29 to 31 at Hilton Chicago.

The White Sox on Monday announced outfielders Melky Cabrera and Avisail Garcia; pitchers Dan Jennings, Erik Johnson, Nate Jones, Zach Putnam and Daniel Webb; and catcher Dioner Navarro have been added to list of current players expected to attend.

World Series hero Jose Contreras highlights the list of former players slated to appear. Other 2005 team members include Carl Everett and Willie Harris. Chet Lemon, who was an All-Star outfielder for the Sox in 1978 and 1979, will be in attendance, as will former pitcher Kirk McCaskill, who is best known for being on the mound when the Sox clinched the 1993 AL West Division championship.

Overall, the list of ex-players slated to attend the event is pretty good. It includes Carlton Fisk, Harold Baines, Bo Jackson and Ron Kittle.

Other current players who previously committed to appear include first baseman Jose Abreu, catcher Alex Avila, pitcher John Danks, third baseman Todd Frazier, infielder Tyler Saladino and pitcher Chris Sale.

If Twitter is any indication, center fielder Adam Eaton also will be on hand.

You can monitor any additional updates to the list of attendees by visiting whitesox.com/SoxFest.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Zach Putnam: Can the White Sox trust him?

Zach Putnam was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise miserable 2014 White Sox bullpen. We're not going to take that away from him.

The right-hander went 5-3 with a 1.98 ERA and allowed only 39 hits in 54.2 innings for the 2014 Sox. He totaled six saves, and most impressively, he stranded a team-record 89 percent (26 of 29) of his inherited runners last year. That's a solid season by any standard, especially for a pitcher who had been picked up off the scrap heap and didn't make the roster at the start of the year.

But despite the good numbers Putnam put up last season, I haven't yet been able to shake the idea that his 2014 performance was an aberration. After all, Putnam is a 26-year-old on his fourth organization. The other three teams he was with before he joined the Sox -- Cleveland, Colorado and the Cubs -- didn't give him many opportunities at the major league level, and he didn't do anything with the handful of chances he received.

In parts of three seasons with those three teams, Putnam appeared in 15 games, worked a total of 12.2 innings and posted a 8.53 ERA. You might say he profiles as a journeyman.

For the first time in his career, Putnam reported to camp this February with his major league roster spot secure based on his previous year's performance. He did not perform well in Cactus League play. He posted a 9.35 ERA and gave up four home runs in just 8.2 innings, increasing my suspicions that maybe last year was simply a career year for him.

People talk about sinkers not sinking and split-finger pitches not moving in the dry air of Arizona, and I'm sure that had some impact on Putnam's poor spring. However, it's no excuse for the flat sinker Putnam threw to Lorenzo Cain in the eighth inning Wednesday night in Kansas City. Or was that a splitter? Heck, it had so little movement on it that I don't even know what pitch it was.

What is clear is that, whatever it was, Cain crushed it over the left-field wall for a two-run homer that broke a 5-5 tie and lifted the Royals to a 7-5 victory over the White Sox.

The South Siders are now 0-2 with the loss. I'm not panicked tonight by any means, but I am asking myself whether the Sox can continue to trust Putnam with an eighth-inning role. When I look at his stuff and career profile, those 54.2 good innings from a year ago just aren't enough to convince me that he should be a high-leverage reliever on team that believes itself to be a contender.

It's worth noting that perhaps the Sox don't have any better options right now. They spent $46 million to bring in David Robertson to close games. OK, great, but with Jake Petricka and Nate Jones both on the disabled list, who is the best choice to be the right-handed setup man?

You're choosing among Putnam, Javy Guerra and Matt Albers. I can't say any of those options inspire me, and that's one of the holes on this Sox roster right now. The team needs somebody to step up and join left-hander Zach Duke as part of the bridge between the starting staff and Robertson.

The Sox are giving Putnam first crack at that job, but I can't get past the sinking feeling that Putnam is going to pitch himself out of that role and cost the Sox some more games in the process.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Robin Ventura's strict adherence to lefty-righty matchups costs White Sox in Baltimore

Anyone who has ever watched a game with me knows my biggest pet peeve in baseball is walks. I hate pitchers who walk people. I hate giving hitters a free 90 feet. Just throw the damn ball over the plate, will you?

But, a close second on that list of pet peeves is the way modern-day managers adhere strictly to lefty-righty matchups at all times. Robin Ventura's belief in lefty-righty matchups played a significant role in the White Sox' 5-4 extra-inning loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday night. Ventura is hardly the only manager in baseball guilty of this sin -- all of them do it these days -- but the bottom of the eighth inning of Wednesday's game is a good case study in why this lefty-righty stuff drives me absolutely bananas.

The Sox were leading 4-0 going into the fateful eighth inning. Starting pitcher Hector Noesi had been sailing along until that point, but he gave up back-to-back singles to start the frame. With runners on first and second, the middle of the lineup was due for Baltimore. Ventura likely didn't want Noesi to face Steve Pearce, Adam Jones or Chris Davis for a fourth time, so he correctly went to the bullpen and brought in reliever Zach Putnam.

Putnam did a fine job. He retired Pearce and Jones on fly balls to center field, and his stuff looked good. The runners were still planted at first and second with two outs, and Putnam looked poised to work out of the jam and keep the Sox ahead by four runs.

Alas, Davis is a left-handed hitter, and by golly, we can't leave the right-handed Putnam in to face a left-handed hitter, can we? No. That would be dangerous. So, Ventura summoned his washed-up lefty reliever, Scott Downs, who by the way failed to retire Davis when he faced him on Tuesday night.

The Sox are lucky Downs didn't give up a three-run homer to Davis during the course of the at-bat. He hung Davis two breaking balls. Fortunately enough, Davis fouled off both of them. Eventually, Downs walked Davis to load the bases (did I mention I hate walks?), which brought Nelson Cruz to the plate.

Cruz, a strong right-handed hitter, ranks second in the American League in home runs. You can't leave Downs in to face him, so Ventura had no choice but to go to the bullpen once more. He summoned Javy Guerra, which is probably as good a call as he could have made under the circumstances, but I trust Putnam more than Guerra. It would have been nice to have Putnam on the mound in that high-leverage spot, but he had already been relieved of his duties.

Guerra fell behind in the count and eventually served up a game-tying grand slam to Cruz. Baltimore went on to win the game in 12 innings.

I firmly believe that if Putnam had been allowed to face Davis, he would have retired him, and the Sox would have taken a four-run lead into the ninth. More than likely, the outcome of the game would have been different.

Why do managers insist on removing an effective right-handed pitcher from the game just because a left-handed hitter is at the plate? Why do managers feel they need to burn through three or four relievers in the seventh or eighth inning? To me, if you bring in enough relievers, eventually you are going to stumble on a guy who doesn't have his stuff.

Putnam had his stuff. What excuse is there for not sticking with him? There is none.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Ronald Belisario's cold streak coincides with his promotion to closer

Remember back on June 12 when the White Sox were only 2.5 games out of the AL Central lead? Some were talking about this team potentially making a surprise run at the division title. Yeah, that was fun while it lasted. Since then, the bottom has fallen out.

The South Siders have now dropped nine out of 11 and have fallen a season-worst seven games (35-42) below .500. They trail the Detroit Tigers by 7.5 games in the division, and they have lost five consecutive games after Monday's 6-4 loss to the Baltimore Orioles.

This latest defeat should not have happened. Ace Chris Sale was in line for the win after allowing just two runs over six innings. He pitched out of a pair of bases-loaded jams to give the Sox a chance at victory. Jose Abreu hit his 22nd home run of the season and drove in three runs, and things were looking good with the Sox up 4-2 in the eighth inning.

Then, the wheels came off. The Orioles got a solo home run from catcher Caleb Joseph off Zach Putnam to tighten the score to 4-3 heading to the ninth. Sox "closer" Ronald Belisario then presided over a spectacular meltdown.

After jumping ahead of Steve Pearce 1-2 in the count, Belisario served up a fat pitch that Pearce hit for a leadoff single. Adam Jones was next hit by a pitch to move the tying run into scoring position and put the winning run on base with nobody out. After Nelson Cruz struck out, Belisario hung a 3-2 slider to Chris Davis, who hit a three-run home run to lift the Orioles to a come-from-behind win.

It's pretty hard to miss the fact that Belisario has been awful since being named closer following an injury to Matt Lindstrom on May 20. Since that date, Belisario has appeared in 13 games, going 7 for 10 in save opportunities. He's allowed 11 earned runs in 11 innings pitched during that stretch. That's easy math: a brutal 9.00 ERA.

Thing is, you can't fault Sox manager Robin Ventura for going to Belisario, because he was the hot hand at the time of Lindstrom's injury. Prior to May 20. Belisario had gone 12 consecutive appearances without surrendering an earned run.

But as soon as he was named closer, Belisario's effectiveness disappeared. Coincidence? I don't believe so. I think Belisario is one of those guys who is just more comfortable pitching the seventh or eighth inning. That's what he's done for most of his career, and he doesn't seem able to handle the responsibility of pitching in the ninth inning.

The closing situation has not gone well for the Sox this year. Lindstrom and Nate Jones, the two top candidates for the job coming into the season, are both on the disabled list. Daniel Webb was mentioned as a potential candidate by pitching coach Don Cooper in the spring, but he has been too wild (25 walks in 35.1 IP) to be trusted in any high-leverage situation - let alone closing.

Belisario is essentially the Sox' fourth option as a closer. It looks like they'll have to find a fifth option, because Belisario is not getting it done.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Chris Sale dominates Yankees in return from disabled list

Under normal circumstances, you get excited when a pitcher from your hometown team is throwing a perfect game or a no-hitter.

That wasn't the case for me Thursday night as I watched Chris Sale retire the first 17 men he faced, including nine strikeouts, in his return from the disabled list against the New York Yankees.

Sale was on a strict pitch count, although Sox manager Robin Ventura refused to say what it was. But you knew Sale was approaching that predetermined figure when Sox reliever Zach Putnam was warming up in the bullpen with the Yankees batting in the top of the sixth inning and nobody on base.

I knew if Sale made it through six innings without allowing a baserunner, Ventura would remove him from the game and then we'd have the meatheads lighting up the phone lines and rioting in the streets, screaming about a missed opportunity at a perfect game. The meatheads wouldn't understand that Sale hadn't pitched a game in over a month, and it's incumbent on the Sox to be careful with their ace -- who is still without question the most valuable player the team has in its organization. No way you're going to leave a pitcher who is just back from the DL out there for 100-plus pitches in pursuit of a no-hitter. No way.

I wanted to avoid listening to that moronic debate, so I was actually relieved when New York left fielder Zoilo Almonte singled sharply to center field with two outs in the sixth inning, ending Sale's run at perfection. The Sox lefty finished off the inning with a strikeout of Jacoby Ellsbury, and that cleared the way for Ventura to go to the bullpen without any controversy about pulling a pitcher who had a perfect game going.

Putnam, Daniel Webb and Ronald Belisario combined to cover the final nine outs. The Sox beat the Yankees, 3-2, and Sale improved his season record to 4-0.

Sale's final line: Six innings pitched, 10 strikeouts, no runs, one hit, no walks, 86 pitches, 54 of them for strikes. Sale threw first-pitch strike to 13 of the 19 men he faced. He had command of all of his pitches, and New York had little chance to score while he was on the mound. Aside from Almonte's single, there was maybe one other ball hit hard against Sale the whole night.

Best of all, Sale left the mound healthy and feeling good, which is the most important thing for the Sox moving forward.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

White Sox add Zach Putnam to roster, designate Donnie Veal for assignment

The White Sox blew out their entire bullpen and were forced to use utility infielder Leury Garcia to pitch the 14th inning in Wednesday's 6-4 loss to the Boston Red Sox.

Moreover, White Sox relief pitchers walked 11 and hit one batter in the loss, handing the Red Sox 12 extra baserunners over the final eight innings of the game. Given such incompetence, it is remarkable it took Boston 14 innings to finish off Chicago.

You had to figure a roster move was coming Thursday after a Little League-quality performance from the bullpen, and sure enough, the Sox have designated left-hander Donnie Veal for assignment.

Veal has faced 32 batters in six innings pitched this season, and 13 of those hitters reached base -- seven on walks. That's not good enough, and that's why Veal has lost his roster spot.

The Sox have purchased the contract of right-hander Zach Putnam from Triple-A Charlotte. Putnam was unscored upon in six innings for the Knights this season. He has struck out 11 batters and walked just one in that span.

Putnam has previous major league experience. He has appeared in 15 games for the Cleveland Indians, Colorado Rockies and Cubs over the past three seasons, posting an ugly 8.53 ERA. We're not going to pretend Putnam is any sort of answer. He's a journeyman pitcher, but hey, he has only walked one batter in 12.2 career innings at the major league level.

If he comes in and throws the ball over the plate, that's a step up from what some of the other Sox relief pitchers have been doing lately.