Dan Jennings is the next man up for the White Sox.
On a couple different fronts.
Most logically, Jennings is the next person — along with the recently returned Jake Petricka — to slide into a late-inning role for a team that’s traded away three late-inning relievers in eight days. The White Sox trades of David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle to the New York Yankees and Anthony Swarzak to the Milwaukee Brewers has cleared the way for Jennings and Petricka to be the new late-game arms for the South Siders.
But that’s not all, as Jennings could also soon find his name on the transactions page, another piece of what was a pretty stellar relief corps that could entice contenders. If the White Sox make yet another move before Monday’s trade deadline, it’s possible it could include Jennings.
“You really try to push that out of your head,” Jennings said of trade buzz. “I mean, I’ve been traded once before, totally unexpected. You really try to push that to the side. Even if you get traded or you’re here, it’s still the same game. It’s still pitching, and I’ve always taken pride in taking the ball whenever, in any situation. I just hope to continue to do that.”
Jennings’ season ERA of 3.45 might not have impressed the same way those of Robertson, Swarzak and Kahnle did before they left town. But Jennings has been just as impressive of late, posting a 2.25 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 24 innings of work since June 6. That’s just six earned runs in his last 23 appearances, with opposing batters turning in just a .491 OPS against him during that stretch.
“I don’t think they tell the whole picture,” Jennings said of those season-long numbers. “I had a few outings where I felt like I threw the ball really well and the result didn’t dictate that. It’s all about how you feel throwing the ball, if you’re keeping the ball down, if you’re throwing strikes. Sometimes in this game it’s funny where it doesn’t necessarily work out in your favor despite how you throw the ball. I do feel like I’ve been throwing the ball well for a while now. You hope the results match that, but sometimes they don’t and you’ve just got to keep plugging away.”
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With plenty of contending teams looking for bullpen help, perhaps Rick Hahn can squeeze one more rebuild-centered acquisition out of a buyer in exchange for another bullpen arm.
Jennings, though, could also stay on the South Side and be a featured player in what is now a mighty different-looking bullpen. Petricka, just off the DL, as well as Tyler Clippard, acquired in that trade with the Yankees, figure to make up the new White Sox late-inning unit.
Jennings has a pretty good track record including a 2.08 ERA in 64 games last season with the White Sox and a 1.34 ERA in 47 games with the Miami Marlins in 2014. Petricka, meanwhile, converted 14 saves in 18 opportunities doing time as the White Sox closer in 2014.
“Everyone wants to pitch in that eighth, ninth inning,” Petricka said. “No matter how it comes about, you’re excited for it. So if my name’s called, I’ll be ready.”
The reason for those opportunities, the moves that have already been made and the continued trade rumors is that the White Sox bullpen has been very strong this season. Four guys turning in good performances has meant the White Sox have been able to strengthen their rebuilding effort. It could happen one more time, too.
“I think everybody knew we had the pieces,” Jennings said. “We’ve always had the guys. Since I’ve been here, since Day 1, we’ve had the guys. We knew we had a lot of talent in this room, and that is a good thing. Obviously, other teams want that talent and it’s unfortunate again to see friends and teammates go, but that’s the nature of this game.”