White Sox

The pains of the White Sox rebuild: While team of the future develops, team of the present blown out

The pains of the White Sox rebuild: While team of the future develops, team of the present blown out

Mama said there’d be days like this.

In the middle of the rebuild, it’s hard to call an embarrassing blowout loss unexpected. These types of things are going to happen while the team of the future develops down in the minor leagues.

But anyone who was inside Guaranteed Rate Field on Sunday afternoon or watching from home saw just how low the lows can get while that plan plays out.

Derek Holland gave up seven runs and left before an out was recorded in the third inning. The visiting Kansas City Royals poured seven more runs on the White Sox bullpen over the course of another South Side marathon. Errors and mental mistakes were made in the field. And the prized prospect who’s supposed to be the star of the team when the rebuild reaches its apex, he struck out for the 30th and 31st times in his last 19 games.

The White Sox aren’t yet at the point when every loss stings the fan base. It’s the middle of August in a last-place season. Heck, losses are even helping the team reach some fans’ goal of the White Sox getting the No. 1 pick in next spring’s draft.

But this one was a stinker. As exciting as it might be to project out the 2020 lineup and follow along with box scores from Charlotte and Winston-Salem, games like this show the most difficult aspects of a rebuild.

“In terms of mistakes, today and yesterday we had some things that didn’t go well and that doesn’t play well or doesn’t look well and we don’t want those things to occur,” manager Rick Renteria said after the game. “But you continue to address them as need be and deal with them. I think as we continue to move along, hopefully they continue to be fewer and far between. But is it to be expected that they might make mistakes like some that have occurred? Yes.”

Leury Garcia had a couple ugly-looking plays in left field, first making an errant throw home that allowed a run to score in the second and then misjudging a ball that flew by him and went for a double in the third. Those plays, along with Tyler Saladino’s first-inning error at third base, made for a batch of fielding mistakes to go along with a couple mistakes on the base paths in Saturday’s loss.

But the fielding woes paled in comparison to those of Holland on the mound. The veteran righty hasn’t had a good year, and Sunday might have been his worst outing yet. He gave up four runs in the second inning and then couldn’t get an out in the third, giving up a leadoff homer before a double and a walk. He left after throwing 67 pitches and recording just six outs, tagged for seven runs, those two he left on for Mike Pelfrey scoring on Whit Merrifield’s three-run homer.

Holland’s season ERA jumped up to 5.68 after Sunday’s outing.

“I don’t even know where to begin,” he said. “Today was just, in my eyes, embarrassing. Not being able to find the strike zone, and then when I did, catching too much plate. These guys are going to do what they did today to you when you can’t not be in the middle of the plate. It’s frustrating. We’ve been working our asses off to do everything right on the field. The thing I’m happy about is obviously being healthy, but I’m past that. I’ve obviously shown I’m healthy, it’s just a matter of executing. It’s frustrating to sit here and work as hard as we do with (pitching coach Don Cooper) and the bullpen and go out there and not be able to do the job I should be doing. It’s just frustrating. I really don’t even know where to begin.”

While much of the campaign has been a rough go for Holland, things have gotten particularly rocky as summer has worn on. He’s made it out of the sixth inning just once since the beginning of July, posting a 8.76 ERA since then. He’s walked a total of 22 batters in his last five starts, including seven in the start prior to Sunday’s.

Sunday was his shortest start of the season but the third since the beginning of June in which he’s failed to get out of the third inning.

“It’s hard,” Renteria said. “When we watch it, we ask ourselves the same thing, ‘What can we possibly do to help him get through this?’ The reality is, tomorrow’s another day and you go back to the drawing board and see if he can put himself back and give himself an opportunity for a good outing the next time out.

“He’s obviously not wanting to go out there to fail. He wants to have success and he wants to have success for his teammates, himself. You feel for him right now, where he’s at. This young man’s working through every possible scenario, and I know he and Coop, they get after it. He’s got a tremendous work routine and ethic, but it just hasn't been working out to this point over the last few outings. I know he's very cognizant of that and he’s wanting to get back on track. The question for all of us, and for him, continues to be, how do we do that?”

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The presence of Holland — as well as other veteran pitchers on the staff like Mike Pelfrey, James Shields and Miguel Gonzalez — are necessities in a rebuilding situation, even as the starting pitchers of the future like Reynaldo Lopez start to slowly make their way to the big league team.

Look across town to the Cubs and the kinds of starting pitchers they were employing during their rebuilding years. Yes, Theo Epstein’s front office turned some sign-and-flip guys into top-tier prospects that ended up playing a huge role on a World Series team. But the likes of Chris Volstad, Justin Germano, Edwin Jackson, Carlos Villanueva and Felix Doubront turned into nothing but high ERAs for those fifth-place Cubs teams.

That’s the reality of a rebuild.

“I’m my own worst critic. And I’m not happy with the way I’m performing,” Holland said. “These guys are out here busting their asses for me, and for me to not do my job is what’s frustrating. I have every right to be upset with myself because these fans deserve better. I should be doing better. And I’m not performing the way that I feel I should be. For me, it’s frustrating, it’s upsetting, it’s very disappointing, and it’s very embarrassing, too.

“I’ve got to keep grinding. I’m not going to throw in the towel. Just because I had a bad outing doesn't mean I quit. We’re going to continue to keep plugging away. Still got the opportunity to be out there, I’ve got to take advantage of it each time like I have been. We all go through tough times, it’s just a matter of the tough times ending.”

But along with all that present-day sorrow comes that hope for the future.

Yoan Moncada had two more strikeouts Sunday, but he also picked up a double. A flash of brilliance for a young player still developing, even if he’s now doing it at the big league level.

He scored on Tim Anderson’s home run, the fourth in the last eight games for the shortstop who’s struggled much of the season but is having himself a very solid August.

Nicky Delmonico reached base for the 12th straight game and picked up a hit in his 10th straight. Look out, DiMaggio. But in all seriousness, he was on base three more times Sunday and might have had a ninth-inning homer if not for Alex Gordon’s highlight-reel leaping snag to end the game.

So this is life in the rebuild. There are going to be some bad days. And if the team on the North Side taught Chicago baseball fans anything, there might even be some bad years. The White Sox are going through one right now, with Sunday’s defeat being the team’s 70th loss of the season.

But there’s also plenty of reason to be hopeful, and these bad days and bad years will have their silver linings, silver linings that will — if everything goes according to Rick Hahn’s plan — blossom into a golden era on the South Side.

Eighteen White Sox questions for 2018: Can Carson Fulmer carve out a spot in the rotation of the future?


Eighteen White Sox questions for 2018: Can Carson Fulmer carve out a spot in the rotation of the future?

White Sox fans might have their eyes on the future, but the 2018 season has plenty of intrigue all its own. As Opening Day nears, let's take a look at the 18 most pressing questions for the 2018 edition of the South Side baseball team.

Spring stats aren't supposed to mean much. But when they're really bad, do they mean a little more?

Carson Fulmer has had a bad spring. He entered Monday's outing against the Arizona Diamondbacks with an astonishingly high 18.90 ERA. Things got a little better Monday, when he had his best outing of the spring, throwing four scoreless (and hitless) innings.

Fulmer, the No. 8 pick in the 2015 draft, was supposed to be a big piece of the White Sox future coming off an excellent season at Vanderbilt. But with just 15 big league appearances under his belt and now this poor showing in spring training, it's worth wondering how big a piece he'll be when this rebuild reaches its apex and the White Sox are planned to be contending on an annual basis — or if he's going to be a piece at all.

Moved quickly to the majors in 2016, Fulmer was roughed up for an 8.49 ERA in eight relief appearances. Last season, he was crushed in a spot start in August, allowing six runs in 1.1 innings. But he came back at the end of the season and showed some promise, turning in a 1.64 ERA in six appearances. Four of those were starts, and in those he allowed just three runs in 17.1 innings.

That end-of-season performance figured to earn Fulmer a spot on the young-and-getting-younger White Sox starting staff, giving him the opportunity to prove that he could be a part of a rotation of the future. Instead, the spring has been a bumpy ride.

His first outing against the Cubs: four runs in an inning. His second outing against the San Diego Padres: four runs in an inning. His third outing against the Padres: two runs in three innings. His fourth outing against the Milwaukee Brewers: seven runs in 1.2 innings.

That's a hideous list of results for a guy trying to work his way into a rotation spot. Monday, his fifth outing, got him back on track a bit, and it still looks like he'll stave off Hector Santiago — signed to a minor league deal at the outset of spring training and looking like a shoo-in for the long-relief role in the bullpen — for the fifth spot in the rotation. The obvious thing going for Fulmer in that battle is his age and his one-time expectations, good enough reasons to give him every opportunity to earn a spot in a rotation of the future.

Thing is, that future's coming fast. The rotation of the future is a crowded one, with Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen, Dylan Cease, Dane Dunning and Carlos Rodon all fighting for jobs, along with Fulmer. So this year offers a unique opportunity for Fulmer to show the White Sox at the big league level that he can be one of those guys.

But he's got to get there first. It makes sense that he would, because even if his spring struggles move over to the regular season, the White Sox aren't expected to be contending for a championship in 2018.

The window to impress might not be huge, but it does exist. In 2018, we'll see what Fulmer can do.

White Sox opposition research: What's there to know about the Tampa Bay Rays?


White Sox opposition research: What's there to know about the Tampa Bay Rays?

As the 2018 season nears and the White Sox get ready to take on the rest of the American League, we're taking a team-by-team look at all 14 of their opponents.

What’s there to know about the Tampa Bay Rays?

Well, remember all the players on the Rays that you know? Bad news. They aren’t on the Rays anymore.

That’s not entirely true, I suppose, as Chris Archer is still on the Rays. But he’s got to be looking around the home clubhouse at the Trop these days and wondering, “Where’d everybody go?”

Perhaps trying to emulate the other fish-based Florida franchise, the Rays traded away a bunch of players this offseason, making this roster — one that somehow managed to finish third in the American League East last season — unrecognizable.

Evan Longoria, perhaps the best player in this young franchise’s history, was traded to the San Francisco Giants. Jake Odorizzi was traded to the Minnesota Twins. Corey Dickerson was DFA’d, then traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Steve Souza was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks. And look at this lengthy list of guys who were lost to free agency: Alex Cobb, Lucas Duda, Logan Morrison, Tommy Hunter and Steve Cishek.

Can someone go check and make sure the rays in that tank in center field didn’t get traded, too?

So who’s left from this offseason purge? Well, there’s Archer, who despite being an awesome face for the game has finished with an ERA north of 4.00 in each of the last two seasons. He’s still really good, at this point almost a lock for 200 innings and way more than 200 strikeouts. But who’s going to help him out?

The additions of 34-year-old Denard Span and 32-year-old Carlos Gomez were … odd. There are two former White Sox in the mix in Micah Johnson, who’s been on like 17 teams since November, and Daniel Hudson, who the Rays got back for Dickerson. Matt Duffy didn’t play at all last season. Kevin Kiermaier only played in 98 games last year but was quite good, having the best offensive season of his career. After an All-Star season for the Washington Nationals, Wilson Ramos missed most of last season, his first with the Rays.

The best player on the team, or at least the one with the best 2017 campaign, is closer Alex Colome, the pitcher whose name begins “Alex Co” that the Rays still employ. He led baseball with 47 saves last year, and that’s on a team that won only 80 games. Mighty impressive. He’s got 84 saves in the last two seasons combined.

That doesn't mean there's not help on the way. Much like White Sox fans, Rays fans can salivate over a potentially promising future. The organization boasts three of the top 25 prospects in baseball: pitcher Brent Honeywell (No. 18), infielder Willy Adames (No. 22) and "first baseman/pitcher" — that sounds fun — Brendan McKay (No. 25). And they have two more guys in the top 100, including shortstop Christian Arroyo, the big piece coming back in that Longoria deal with the Giants. So the future is perhaps as bright as that sunburst in the Rays' logo.

In the end, though, it ain’t shaping up to be a good year in St. Pete, and the catwalk-filled baseball warehouse has only a little to do with that. The post Joe Maddon/Andrew Friedman Era hasn’t gone too well. Meanwhile, Maddon's won a World Series with the Cubs, and Friedman's been to one with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Any other wacky managers and baseball geniuses out there?

2017 record: 80-82, third place in AL East

Offseason additions: Denard Span, Carlos Gomez, C.J. Cron, Micah Johnson, Joey Wendle, Daniel Hudson

Offseason departures: Evan Longoria, Jake Odorizzi, Corey Dickerson, Steve Souza, Alex Cobb, Lucas Duda, Logan Morrison, Tommy Hunter, Steve Cishek

X-factor: He's not the X-factor, but it's worth pointing out that the Rays do have a player named "Mallex," which sounds like the name of a bad guy in a superhero movie. While Archer looks real lonely on that starting staff, there's some interesting guys around him. Somewhat strangely, the Rays are going to employ a four-man rotation. The X-factor of the bunch is Jake Faria, who in his first big league season last year turned in a 3.43 ERA in 16 games, 14 of which were starts. He struck out 84 batters in 86.2 innings. Past Archer and Faria, you've got Blake Snell, who struck out 119 guys in 129.1 innings, and Nathan Eovaldi, the one-time New York Yankee who missed all of last season.

Projected lineup:

1. Denard Span, DH
2. Matt Duffy, 3B
3. Kevin Kiermaier, CF
4. Carlos Gomez, RF
5. Brad Miller, 2B
6. Wilson Ramos, C
7. C.J. Cron, 1B
8. Adeiny Hechavarria, SS
9. Mallex Smith, LF

Projected rotation:

1. Chris Archer
2. Blake Snell
3. Nathan Eovaldi
4. Jake Faria

Prediction: Fifth place in AL East, no playoffs

Catch up on the AL:

Oakland Athletics
Texas Rangers
Seattle Mariners
Los Angeles Angels
Houston Astros
Tampa Bay Rays

Catch up on the NL:

San Diego Padres
Colorado Rockies
Arizona Diamondbacks
San Francisco Giants