White Sox

If the Sox need pitching, could Simon Castro help?

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If the Sox need pitching, could Simon Castro help?

In a perfect world for the White Sox, Gavin Floyd and Philip Humber would put their struggles behind them, pitching at the level the team believes the pair can. But if one or both pitchers can't keep runs from scoring -- Floyd has an ERA of 10.38 in his last seven starts and Humber has a 7.47 ERA since his perfect game -- the Sox may be forced to look elsewhere for starting pitching.

A name that popped up this week is Simon Castro, who the White Sox acquired from San Diego in last winter's Carlos Quentin trade. Once a highly-touted prospect in the Padres' system, Castro's star fell considerably during a 2011 season that saw him post a 5.63 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A. Castro began the season with Triple-A Tucson, but was sent back to Double-A after six rough starts.

But Castro has pitched well with Double-A Birmingham, sporting a 3.60 ERA with 67 strikeouts, 16 walks and four home runs allowed in 85 innings. And he's caught the eye of Kenny Wiliams, who discussed the pitcher's progress on Monday.

"We're really happy with his progress," Williams said. "He has returned to the guy that he was when he was one of the top prospects in baseball with San Diego."

The question, though, is if Castro can handle opponents at a level higher than Double-A. 2012 is Castro's third go-around in Double-A, where he's posted a 3.52 ERA in 304 career innings. But Castro has struggled at Triple-A, making eight starts at that level in the San Diego organization with a 9.50 ERA. His control has escaped him in Triple-A, with 24 walks and 27 strikeouts to his name in 36 innings.

Williams says the main question with Castro is if he can handle the mental aspect of pitching above Double-A.

"We're going to make sure that continues and have the conversations like we did with Jose Quintana and some of the other guys we brought up quickly: Can he handle it makeup-wise and will he continue to grow and not go backwards? It's a delicate situation when you're discussing things along those lines, but we couldn't be any more pleased than where we are with him."

Quintana has shown the mettle to pitch above Double-A, posting a 1.53 ERA in 35 13 innings with the Sox this season. Unlike Castro, Quintana never failed at Triple-A, although that's because he hasn't thrown an inning at that level in his career.

To Castro's credit, the Pacific Coast League is a cruel place for pitchers, and he's hardly thrown enough innings in Triple-A to make a long-term judgment about his ability to pitch at that level.

The Sox don't appear ready to shake up the starting rotation just yet, especially with John Danks out for at least another month. But if they do reach that point, Castro may find himself in the pitching help discussion.

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

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AP

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

GLENDALE, Ariz. — On a day when Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada took live batting practice for the first time this spring, off in the distance was a lanky White Sox prospect standing in the outfield grass.

But Alec Hansen was doing more than shagging flies. He was watching both hitters very closely.

“I was looking to see how much pop they had,” Hansen said of Abreu and Moncada. “I kind of look at that to see the difference in power between minor league ball and the major leagues. It’s nice to see it’s not a huge difference. That makes me feel a bit more comfortable.”

At 6-foot-8 — actually 6-foot-8-and-a-half, according to his spring training physical — Hansen is a big man with big plans for his baseball career. He might be quiet on the outside, but he has booming expectations for himself on the inside.

“I want to be the best,” Hansen said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago.

The best? The very best?

That’s what Hansen aspires to become, though later in our conversation, he did dial back a notch, settling for becoming “one of the best.”

Either is fine with manager Ricky Renteria, who is overseeing these uber-confident White Sox prospects and accepts their lofty expectations.

“I think their mindset is where it’s supposed to be,” Renteria said. “None of these kids are concerned or consumed with the possibility of failure. Much more they’re consuming themselves with the understanding that they might hit some stumbling blocks, but they’re going to have a way to avoid overcoming them and push forward and be the best that they can be.”

In his first full season in the White Sox organization, Hansen led the minor leagues with 191 strikeouts. He’s proud of that accomplishment but admitted something: He’s not that impressed because he didn’t do it where it really matters — in the major leagues.

When you watch Hansen pitch, it’s easy to see that the talent is there. His coaches and teammates rave about his ability. With his enormous size and power arm, he is loaded with strengths.  

Though there is one weakness that Hansen acknowledges he needs to work on.

“Sometimes I have a tendency to think too much and worry. I think worrying is the worst thing that I do just because I want to be perfect,” Hansen said. “I think everyone wants to be perfect, some more than others, and I worry about things getting in the way of achieving perfection.”

To Hansen, that doesn’t mean throwing a perfect game. He actually takes it one step further.

He wants to strikeout every single hitter he faces.

“I love striking people out,” Hansen said. “Not having to rely on anyone else and just getting the job done myself and knowing that the hitter can’t get a hit off me. That’s a great feeling. That they can’t put it in play. Like a line drive out. That’s terrible.”

At some point, Hansen will have to lower these impossible expectations for himself. This is an imperfect game. There’s no place for nine-inning, 27-strikeout performances. Players end up in the Hall of Fame because they learn how to succeed with failure.

In the meantime, Hansen is here in big league camp watching and learning anything and everything.

“I’m a good observer. I listen. I don’t really talk too much. I’m a pretty quiet guy. I like to sit back and observe and see how these guys go about their business. Just trying to be at their level, hopefully one day surpass them.”

Surpass?

“It’s kind of hard to surpass some of these guys. I mean, they’re at the tip-top, like the pinnacle of the sport,” Hansen said. “I guess you could say, to get on that level and then be one of the best in the league.”

He might be on his way.

White Sox free up spot on 40-man roster by outrighting Dylan Covey

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USA TODAY

White Sox free up spot on 40-man roster by outrighting Dylan Covey

The White Sox freed up a spot on their 40-man roster Sunday, outrighting pitcher Dylan Covey to Triple-A Charlotte.

Covey pitched in 18 games last season, making 12 starts for the South Siders. Things did not go well, with Covey turning in an 0-7 record and a 7.71 ERA in 70 innings.

While there was an outside chance that Covey could have provided at least some starting-pitching depth heading into the 2018 season, the team's recent additions of Miguel Gonzalez and Hector Santiago — not to mention Covey's results from last season — wiped out that idea.

At the moment, the White Sox starting rotation figures to look like this by Opening Day: James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Gonzalez and Carson Fulmer, with Santiago seeming like a good option to provide depth as the long man in the bullpen.