White Sox

He wants to stay in Chicago, but Anthony Swarzak has pitched his way into trade buzz for rebuilding White Sox

He wants to stay in Chicago, but Anthony Swarzak has pitched his way into trade buzz for rebuilding White Sox

It’s like 1977 all over again on the South Side, because all anyone is talking about is rumors.

(Get it? Like “Rumours”? The Fleetwood Mac album? Nothing? Fine.)

After this week’s shocking blockbuster trade that sent Jose Quintana across town to the Cubs, it’s assumed that a mass exodus has begun, with the White Sox expected to be nowhere near close to finished dealing productive veterans for minor league assets that could help in their rebuilding efforts.

Todd Frazier’s name has been all over the internet for the past few days, the baseball world almost making it a foregone conclusion that he’ll soon be shipped to the Boston Red Sox. Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal went as far as saying a deal between the two seems “seems almost inevitable.”

Strangely, Melky Cabrera hasn’t been mentioned in any rumors, but he showed why he probably should be by picking up four hits — and his major league leading eighth outfield assist — in Saturday night’s game against the visiting Seattle Mariners.

But perhaps the most likely trade candidates are in the White Sox bullpen, particularly at the back end, which has been pretty darn strong in 2017. David Robertson has veteran experience and plenty of postseason experience, too, from his days with the New York Yankees, including a World Series ring from 2009.

But setup guys Anthony Swarzak and Tommy Kahnle have been mentioned as guys who could be moved, too. As good as Robertson’s been, both Swarzak (2.51) and Kahnle (2.57) have lower ERAs.

All three were on display Saturday night, and aside from Swarzak surrendering a two-run homer to Nelson Cruz, the first batter he faced, the trio was lights out, retiring all but one of the final 12 batters of the game — and that one was cut down in a double play.

It was more of the same from the three most important pieces of the White Sox relief corps, who turned in a stellar first half, stellar enough to throw their names into midseason trade talk.

“We all take a lot of pride in it, we all work really hard. And it’s good to see everything kind of coming together for individual guys down there right now,” Swarzak said.

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Swarzak, statistically, has been the best of the bunch, and it’s why he’s been listed alongside Frazier and Robertson as a guy who could fetch something of value in a trade-deadline deal. Robertson is a closer, something contenders pay premiums for seemingly every season around this time, but there are contenders in need of help throughout the bullpen. The Washington Nationals instantly come to mind, a first-place team with the worst relief ERA in baseball.

Swarzak made it clear he doesn’t want to leave the South Side but admitted that there’s a little bit of a silver lining to being mentioned in trade buzz — it means you’ve been pitching well.

“We all want to win now and win here,” Swarzak said. “If your name’s being talked about, that’s always good. But at the same time, it’d be nice to win here in Chicago. These fans are great, these coaches are great, the players are great, and we just want to kind of bring it all together. I know we’ve got the talent to do it in this room, we’ve just got to keep getting the reps together.

“So hopefully they can keep us together and maybe we can win a few more games. If not, that’s how it is, and guys will go on and do great things elsewhere.”

Much like the discussion around Quintana, there are some caveats with guys like Swarzak and Kahnle that maybe don’t apply to guys like Frazier and Cabrera. The White Sox could opt to hang onto these relievers and use them to construct their bullpen of the future. But at the same time, an opportunity exists to add a younger piece that could help the team when the rebuild reaches its apex.

Rick Hahn & Co. will have to think about that with Swarzak, a guy who has really figured things out this season, sporting a 2.51 ERA through 36 appearances with the White Sox after turning in a 4.52 ERA in his first seven major league seasons.

“I think that I’ve made tremendous strides over the last few years,” Swarzak said. “This year, the results are there to back up the hard work. That’s always promising and reassuring because you’re starting to trust the process and realize that you’re heading in the right direction. I want to keep it going. We’ve got a lot of baseball left, and if I have a bad second half, that kind of negates everything I did in the first half. I just want to keep pitching well and hopefully keep the ball in the ballpark.”

"Anthony has done a great job for us," manager Rick Renteria said Saturday. "I think he’s grown into a high-leverage situation guy. But he’s been very effective. We gradually used him early in the season. He showed that he could do it. He’s commanded the zone. Stayed down in the zone. Used his slider very effectively. Hasn’t been rattled by too much. We've tried to put him in situations. ... I think he’s been able to run with the opportunity he’s been given and showed the whole world that he’s capable of doing high-leverage situations very effectively."

Like the rest of the team, Swarzak isn’t necessarily worried about trade buzz on a daily basis. Renteria praised his players’ handling of all the noise ahead of Saturday’s game, and they’ll only have to keep that up over the next few weeks.

“We’re trying to take care of what we can take care of,” Swarzak said. “You can only control so much in this game as a player, and what we can control is in between those lines. That’s really what we’re all trying to focus on. We’re all trying to get better as a group and win as a group.

“It’s unfortunate when we lose a piece like Jose to a trade, but that’s the business we’ve chosen, that’s the game today. If it happens, it happens.”

The White Sox sent down Carson Fulmer, so why isn't Lucas Giolito receiving the same treatment?

The White Sox sent down Carson Fulmer, so why isn't Lucas Giolito receiving the same treatment?

Lucas Giolito is having a rough go of things in his second year with the White Sox.

He came into the season with some pretty high expectations after posting a 2.38 ERA in seven starts at the end of the 2017 campaign and then dominating during spring training. But he’s done anything but dominate since this season started, and after one of his worst outings in Thursday’s 9-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles, he’s got a 7.53 ERA in 10 starts in 2018.

Giolito stuck around for only four outs Thursday, but he allowed the Orioles to do plenty of damage, giving up seven runs on six hits — two of which were back-to-back home runs to start the second inning — and three walks. He leads the American League with his 37 walks.

“I take what I do very seriously. I work as hard as I can at it,” Giolito said. “So when I experience failure like this, it’s kind of hard to deal with. All I can do is come back tomorrow, keep working on things and hopefully have a better one.”

All of Giolito’s struggles have fans wondering why the White Sox haven’t sent him down to Triple-A to work on his craft.

“I don’t foresee that at this particular time,” Rick Renteria said when asked if Giolito could be sent to Triple-A. “I think he’s just a young man who’s got to continue to minimize the emotional aspect of crossing from preparation into the game and staying focused, relaxed and hammer the zone with strikes. And truthfully it’s just first-pitch strike and get after the next one.”

The White Sox have already sent one young pitcher down in Carson Fulmer, who was having a nightmarish time at the big league level. Fulmer’s results were worse than Giolito’s on a regular basis. He got sent down after posting an 8.07 ERA in nine outings.

But hasn’t Giolito suffered through command issues enough to warrant some time away from the major league limelight? According to his manager, Giolito’s situation is vastly different than Fulmer’s.

“I don’t see them anywhere near each other,” Renteria said. “They’re two different competitors in terms of the outcomes that they’ve had. Lucas has at least had situations in which he might have struggled early and been able to gain some confidence through the middle rounds of his start and continue to propel himself to finish some ballgames, give us six or seven innings at times. So it’s two different guys.

“With Gio, I expect that we would have a nice clean start from the beginning, but when he doesn’t I still feel like if he gets through it he’ll settle down and continue to hammer away at what he needs to do in order to get deeper into a ballgame, and that was a little different with Carson. With Carson it was right from the get-go he was struggling, and he had a difficult time extending his outings after the third or fourth because it just kept getting too deep into his pitch count and not really hammering the strike zone as much.”

Renteria is not wrong. Giolito has had a knack to take a rough beginning to a start and turn it into five or six innings. Notably, he gave up a couple first-inning runs and walked seven hitters and still got the win against the Cubs a week and a half ago. And while his first-inning ERA is 10.80 and his second-inning ERA is 12.54, he’s pitched into at least the sixth inning in seven of his 10 starts.

Renteria’s point is that Giolito is learning how to shake off early damage and achieving the goal, most times out, of eating up innings and keeping his team in the game. Those are a couple valuable qualities to develop for a young pitcher. But are those the lone qualities that determine that Giolito is suited to continue his learning process at the major league level? His command remains a glaring problem, and both he and Renteria admitted that his problems are more mental than physical.

“The one thing everyone has to understand is we have to go beyond the physical and attack a little bit more of the mental and emotional and try to connect and slow that down,” Renteria said. “Those aspects are the ones that ultimately, at times, deal in the derailment of the physical action. So if we can kind of calm that down a little bit.

“He’s very focused. Giolito is high intensity. Nice kid but high-intensity young man when he gets on the mound. You might not believe it. He’s going 100 mph. So I think it goes to more just trusting himself, trusting the process, taking it truthfully one pitch at a time.”

Well, if a demotion to the minors isn’t likely, what about moving Giolito to the bullpen? Carlos Rodon and Chris Sale dipped their toes in bullpen waters before moving to the rotation. Could a reversal of that strategy help Giolito?

Well, the current state of the White Sox starting rotation — Fulmer in the minors, Miguel Gonzalez on the 60-day DL and pitchers like James Shields, Hector Santiago and Dylan Covey, who aren’t exactly long-term pieces, getting a lot of starts — doesn’t really allow for another piece to be removed.

“I know they have done it with Rodon and Sale,” Renteria said. “The difference is we don’t have the makeup of the starting rotation that those clubs had in order to put those guys in the ‘pen. We are in a different situation right now. Moving forward, is that something we can possibly do? Absolutely. It has been done with very good success.

“Right now we are in truly discovery mode and adjustment mode and adapting and trying to do everything we can to get these guys to develop their skill sets to be very usable and effective at the major league level and we are doing it to the best of our ability.”

There could be promise in the fact that Giolito has turned a season around as recently as last year. Before he was impressing on the South Side in August and September, he was struggling at Triple-A Charlotte. Even after he ironed things out, things had gotten off to a rocky enough start that he owned a 4.48 ERA and 10 losses when he was called up to the bigs.

It doesn’t seem Giolito will be going back to Charlotte, unless things continue to go in a dramatically poor direction. Right now, these are just more of the growing pains during this rebuilding process. “The hardest part of the rebuild” doesn’t just means wins and losses. It means watching some players struggle through speed bumps as they continue to develop into what the White Sox hope they’ll be when this team is ready to compete.

Danny Farquhar to throw out the first pitch before White Sox game on June 1

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AP

Danny Farquhar to throw out the first pitch before White Sox game on June 1

In another example of how amazing Danny Farquhar’s recovery has been, the pitcher will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the White Sox game on June 1.

Farquhar suffered a brain hemorrhage from a ruptured aneurysm during the sixth inning of the team’s April 20 game against the Houston Astros. But his recovery has been astounding, and he was discharged from the hospital on May 7. Farquhar’s neurosurgeon expects him to be able to pitch again in future seasons.

Farquhar has been back to visit his teammates at Guaranteed Rate Field a couple times since leaving the hospital. June 1 will mark his return to a big league mound, even if it’s only for a ceremonial first pitch with his wife and three children. Doctors, nurses and staff from RUSH University Medical Center will be on hand for Farquhar’s pitch on June 1.

The White Sox announced that in celebration of Farquhar’s recovery, they will donate proceeds from all fundraising efforts on June 1 to the Joe Niekro Foundation, an organization committed to supporting patients and families, research, treatment and awareness of brain aneurysms.