White Sox

Bartolo Colon threw how many straight strikes?

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Bartolo Colon threw how many straight strikes?

From Comcast SportsNetANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- It wasn't as though Bartolo Colon didn't give the Los Angeles Angels anything good to hit. The Oakland Athletics' right-hander threw 82 of his 108 pitches for strikes against his former team -- including 38 in a row at one point.But the Angels' vaunted offense managed only four hits over eight innings against the 38-year-old Colon, who struck out five and walked none in a 6-0 victory on Wednesday night."I felt like I threw a lot of strikes, but I never thought I threw 38 in a row. I didn't know anything about it until I came in here," Colon said through a translator. "The two-seamer was the most consistent pitch that I had tonight. I feel good because I know that team has great players. You have to have confidence in yourself, because if you don't, that's when you have trouble."Colon's strike streak ended on an 0-1 pitch to Bobby Abreu with one out in the eighth after he gave up a pinch-hit ground-rule double by Erick Aybar -- the only hitter to reach second base against him."I can't believe it," A's catcher Kurt Suzuki said. "I mean, against a team like the Angels when you look at their lineup, that's going after guys and not being afraid to throw strikes. That's what he did tonight -- basically off heaters, too. He was just dialing."We tried to keep it going. And as the game goes on, you kind of figure out what's working for him," Suzuki added. "We got into a rhythm probably after the second inning. Bartolo knows where the ball's going and he knows what he wants to do. He's the kind of pitcher you need in the rotation to kind of stabilize it, and the kind that the other guys can lean on, with the young rotation we have."Colon (3-1) helped drop his former team six games behind two-time defending AL champion Texas in the AL West -- just 12 games into the season."Our offense has been a little bit spotty, and we need to get simple at the plate," manager Mike Scioscia said. "Some guys are starting to get into their game -- but as a unit, we're not finding that offensive chemistry. We just need to start to get a better direction of our own. But we have a good club. I really like this club."Colon won the 2005 AL Cy Young Award after helping lead the Angels to a division title with a 21-8 record and 3.48 ERA. The two-time All-Star is 3-2 with a 2.05 ERA in five starts against them since leaving the organization and signing with Boston as a free agent in February 2008.Colon, whose three previous starts this season all were against Seattle, has walked only two batters in his first 27 1-3 innings and has made 18 consecutive starts with fewer than three -- one off his longest such streak. The last time he issued more than two walks was July 7, 2011, when he had four against Tampa Bay."It's a phenomenal feat, yet really not surprising out of him," A's manager Bob Melvin said of the 38 straight strikes. "I mean, I think he could throw a strike with his eyes closed if he had to. That's the way he's been for us. Granted they have a great lineup and you can never take a breather with it. But a guy like Bartolo has been around long enough to know that you're going to throw strikes, not walk anybody and make them earn their way on."Yoenis Cespedes hit a three-run homer for Oakland, giving the Cuban-born rookie a team-leading 12 RBIs in his first 12 games.Jonny Gomes added a solo shot for the A's against Ervin Santana (0-3), who gave up four runs and seven hits over seven innings with five strikeouts. The Angels' No. 3 starter is 5-7 with a 3.90 ERA in 14 starts since his no-hitter at Cleveland on July 27, and has a 6.75 ERA in his three starts this season.Colon was staked to a 3-0 lead before he even threw a pitch. Cespedes, whose two-run double capped a four-run eighth inning in Tuesday night's 5-3 win, drove a 1-2 pitch into the left field bullpen for his fourth home run after singles by Cliff Pennington and Josh Reddick.Gomes, starting in left field with Coco Crisp battling a flu bug and a 2-for-24 drought, led off the sixth with a drive to left field for his third homer of the season -- and third hit.Albert Pujols' season-opening home run drought reached 12 games and 49 at-bats. The three-time NL MVP was 1 for 4, including a sixth-inning drive that Cespedes caught at the edge of the warning track in left-center. The only other time in Pujols' 12-year career that he went more than five games before hitting his first homer was 2008, when it took him nine games and 28 at-bats to do it.Notes: The Angels have called a press conference for Thursday to announce a contract extension for Aybar, for a reported 35 million over four years. He then will be presented with his first Gold Glove before the start of the series finale. ... The A's had 10 hits, including Jemile Weeks' RBI double in the ninth. It was the first time they're reached double digits in 13 games this season. ... Angels LF Bobby Abreu was 0 for 4 while batting in the leadoff spot for the first time since Aug. 28, 2010 -- when he ended stretch of 20 consecutive starts in the one hole. Lifetime, he is hitting .281 with nine homers, 20 RBIs, 32 walks and 45 strikeouts in 50 starts in the leadoff spot.

Jace Fry, who still hasn't allowed a hit, is penciling his name into the White Sox bullpen of the future

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USA TODAY

Jace Fry, who still hasn't allowed a hit, is penciling his name into the White Sox bullpen of the future

The White Sox best reliever through the first 42 games of this rebuilding season? Undoubtedly, it’s been Jace Fry.

With Rick Renteria’s bullpen hardly the most reliable relief corps the game has ever seen, Fry has been a revelation, starting his 2018 campaign with 7.1 scoreless innings over six appearances.

And now things are getting a bit more dramatic for the 24-year-old lefty, a guy who’s been through a pair of Tommy John surgeries. He pitched some high-leverage ball in Saturday night’s 5-3 win, sitting down all four hitters he faced in the eighth and ninth innings while protecting a two-run lead.

“I was ready the whole game, just waiting for my name to be called,” Fry said. “But it was awesome getting in there in the eighth inning, even getting the first guy in the ninth inning. After I got him I was kind of hoping he’d let me keep going.”

Renteria uses his bullpen in a non-traditional manner, one that perhaps he thinks is a way of the future or one that’s a result of his lack of dominant options out there. Whichever it is, he doesn’t really have a closer but rather a host of guys he uses in those high-leverage situations, whenever they might come during the late stages of a game. Joakim Soria, Nate Jones and Bruce Rondon have all been used to get big outs late in games, and Rondon threw a scoreless seventh Saturday, with Jones getting the game’s final two outs for the save.

But it could be argued that most difficult outs were recorded by Fry, who put away the visiting Texas Rangers’ fourth, fifth and sixth hitters before getting the seventh hitter to strike out to start off the ninth.

Renteria steered away from dubbing Fry one of his new high-leverage guys after the game, but why wouldn’t Fry be in that mix? All he’s done since joining the big league squad earlier this month is get outs. He’s got 10 strikeouts, hasn’t allowed a hit and has just two walks as the lone blemishes on an otherwise perfect season line.

“It just happens to be that it was the eighth inning and the ninth that he pitched,” Renteria said. “I think he’s looking very comfortable in those. It happens to be the eighth and ninth we needed him. He’s been very, very effective. He’s been commanding the strike zone very well, confidently approaching his hitters. He’s got pretty good stuff.

“He’s able to command the zone. Along with that nice breaking ball he’s got to lefties and righties, it’s pretty effective. But he’s continuing to show you he’s capable of coming in and getting some pretty good hitters.”

Fry has been a rarity this season in that he’s appeared to be a candidate for a long-term spot in the White Sox bullpen. Jones would perhaps be the only other guy coming close to qualifying for that, mostly because of his team-friendly contract that keeps him under control a few more years, but he’s had some rough moments, even with his ERA dropping to 3.50 on Saturday.

Fry, though, is young and is dealing at the moment. He even got a shoutout as a potential long-term piece from general manager Rick Hahn earlier this week.

“Take Jace Fry, someone we haven’t mentioned when we’ve had this conversation the last couple of weeks,” Hahn said Thursday, discussing the positives he’s seen during this developmental season. “He’s shown up here and shown that he’s made some progress in his last stint in the minors and now, at age 24, seems like he’s ready to take that next step, and pencil his name in as part of what we’re building here going forward.”

There’s a lot of season left, and no one’s expecting Fry to keep batters hitless and opposing teams scoreless from now through the end of September. But this is a nice development for the rebuilding White Sox at the moment, a guy who’s giving them at least one name to put into that bullpen of the future.

How long can he keep this thing going? As long as he keeps getting ahead of hitters.

“Having the success is awesome, but I realize it’s the plan, the plan of attack,” Fry said. “I’m going out and throwing Strike 1 and getting ahead. Actually doing it, seeing it and having the process work definitely creates more confidence. Once you go back to the blueprint of baseball, Strike 1 is everything.”

Carson Fulmer's demotion and the current state of the White Sox rotation provide several rebuilding reminders

Carson Fulmer's demotion and the current state of the White Sox rotation provide several rebuilding reminders

Carson Fulmer getting sent to Triple-A following Friday’s game might be, to this point, the biggest development this season on the South Side.

Fulmer doesn’t carry the same expectations as higher-rated prospects like Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen or Dane Dunning, but this is a top-10 draft pick who the White Sox still believe can play a significant role in their bright future. And he’s struggling. Badly. Once his ERA jumped up past 8.00 thanks to his third straight brief and run-filled outing, the White Sox made the decision to send him to Charlotte.

It leaves the White Sox rotation looking like this: James Shields, a struggling Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Hector Santiago and either Chris Volstad or the recently summoned Dylan Covey.

Four of those guys (Shields, Santiago, Volstad and Covey) don’t figure to play a role in the team’s long-term future, and Giolito is dealing with his own significant struggles, leading the American League in walks heading into his Saturday-night start. Lopez has been the rotation’s bright spot, but even he watched his ERA climb more than a full point after allowing six runs in two innings his last time out.

It’s not a great state for the rotation to be in if you, like the White Sox, have your sights set on the long-term future of this team, though it probably won’t look like that for too much longer. Still, it provides a few valuable reminders about not only this rebuilding effort but rebuilds in general.

This season is about development, and this is what development looks like

For better or worse, this is what development looks like. The White Sox own baseball’s worst record, and general manager Rick Hahn has been among the large number of White Sox fans to voice their disappointment over play that has been sloppy at times.

Fulmer’s struggles fall into the same category and serve as a reminder that growing pains like this are going to happen. We’ve seen it with Fulmer. We’ve seen it with Giolito. We’ve seen it with Lopez. Heck, we’ve seen it with Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson, too.

But more than wins and losses, this is what this season is about. Hahn calls it “the hardest part of the rebuild” because it features guys getting lit up and games being lost. The hope is that Fulmer can figure things out in the minors and that Giolito won’t require a similar demotion to right his ship. And if everything turns out all right, then this will be an easily forgotten chapter in both of those players’ development.

In the moment, though, it’s another reminder that rebuilds take time and that the waiting game provides minimal fun.

Each player’s development has a different trajectory

Just because Fulmer is getting bumped down to Triple-A doesn’t mean he can’t still turn into a successful major league pitcher. Player development and rebuilds aren’t linear, as rebuilders like to say. And to expect every prospect to travel in a straight line from potential to big league stardom doesn't make much sense.

“We reiterate, ‘It’s not the end of your career,’” Renteria said Saturday. “This is simply a reboot, a reset. Ultimately, I think after the initial shock for any player, they settle down and they understand exactly what’s going on when you look at it logically and look in the mirror. I think it’s easy to logically look at it and say, ‘I need to work on x, y and z.’

“This is a good kid with a really positive attitude and a lot of confidence. I think he’ll look in the mirror and go, ‘You know what, I got things I can work on, I’ll settle in and get over this initial bump and get to work.’ Those are the guys that end up giving themselves a chance to return sooner rather than later and have success.”

Not all prospects pan out

The other side of that coin is the reminder that not every single one of the White Sox wealth of prospects will pan out. Hahn & Co. have prepared for that and built up an incredible amount of prospect depth, but when someone doesn't live up to expectations, it will be painful.

This isn’t to suggest that Fulmer, specifically, won’t pan out, but it’s to point out that not everyone will. That’s a crowded-looking rotation of the future with Kopech, Hansen, Dunning, Fulmer, Giolito, Lopez, Carlos Rodon and Dylan Cease all competing for those eventual five spots. Rather than the White Sox having to make tough decisions about who will be left out, certainly a possibility, the developments of those pitchers might make those decisions for them.

Renteria is confident that Fulmer will be back in the big leagues, and there’s little reason to think that this is the end of Fulmer’s opportunity. But not every top-10 pick reaches All-Star status.

The future is on the way

The current starting rotation might have fans asking why the heck it looks like it does. But a month or two from now it will look drastically different.

Rodon makes his first rehab start Saturday at Class A Kannapolis as he battles back from shoulder surgery last fall, and he shouldn’t be too far away from providing a serious jolt to the starting staff. Not to mention, he’s a guy who as good a chance as anyone as grabbing one of those front-end spots, and with him in the rotation, things will look a tad more futuristic.

Same goes for Kopech, whose promotion figures to be coming at some point this summer. Given the hype and the expectations there, his arrival will obviously be a really big deal.

But regardless of the results either Rodon and Kopech put up in their first tastes of major league action in 2018, they’ll make the rotation into something that way more closely resembles the rotation of the future. There’ll be plenty of development left for the Hansens and the Ceases and the Dunnings in the minors. But a rotation featuring Rodon, Kopech, Giolito and Lopez looks a lot different than one featuring Shields, Santiago, Covey and Volstad.

Patience. It’s not much fun. But it’s necessary to build a contender.