White Sox

Humber makes his best pitch, hurls gem

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Humber makes his best pitch, hurls gem

Saturday, April 9, 2011
Posted: 5:55 p.m. Updated: 8:28 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

CHICAGO The third time was the charm for Phil Humber.

The 28-year-old righty threw the game of his life in the White Sox's 4-2 win Saturday afternoon, turning his third career start (and first for the White Sox) into a sort of masterpiece alleviating the pressing need for Jake Peavy to rush back into the Chicago rotation.

We had a good game plan going in, and A. J. took care of me behind the plate, Humber said. I made pitches when I had to. Last night was a tough loss, and everybody came to play today.

He was great, catcher A.J. Pierzynski returned. He was the story of the gamethe way he threw the ball, especially the way last nights game ended. To come out and shut them down the way he did, it was awesome.

WATCH: Pierzynski laughs off Lopez altercation

The most important person to impressWhite Sox manager Ozzie Guillencertainly was.

Great, wow, said the jefe of his fifth starters effort. He got an opportunity to win the game, he pitched very well, he got in trouble in one inning maybe, but he threw the ball very, very good, threw strikes. He gave us more than what we thought he was going to give us. It was outstanding today.

And thats just the impact Humber had hoped to have.

Hopefully it wasnt a surprise, he said. They got me on the team because they wanted me on the team, they didnt just throw me out there because they didnt have anybody else. They believe in me, and that gives me a lot of confidence as a player.

You always want to at least meet the expectations, if not exceed them. I dont know what they were, but I wanted to go out there and give the team a chance to win, and thankfully I was able to do that.

The outcome was in doubt for a full nine innings, however, as the Pale Hose were opposed by Wade Davis, who authored a best-seller of his own, holding the high-octane Chisox to two runs on five hits in six innings of work.

They are a good team, Pierzynski said. You can say what you want, but Wade Davis has always pitched very well against us. Hes tough. He changes speeds very well. He mixes up his pitches very well. Hes a good pitcherthey signed him to a long-term deal because hes good.

Davis was rescued from potential catastrophe in the fourth, when Juan Pierre hit a two-out, bases-loaded, screaming line drive into the right-field corner that Sam Fuld laid out to snag and retire the side. Pierre was inches away from a potential game-breaking, inside-the-park grand slam.

WATCH: Pierre still can't believe the catch

Guillen laughed off the notion that Pierre was thatclose to a granny, with a loud laugh.

Maybe five or six years ago, it was an inside-the-parker, but I dont know about now, Guillen said. I dont remember seeing any catch better than that. The situation, where he was playing, this kid went a long way. If that ball landed, it would be a different ballgame. Its just a helluva play.

It was an incredible catch, and I tip my hat to him that he didnt kill himself on the fence and he got there and made the play, Pierzynski said. It was an amazing play.

Fulds belly flop followed Brent Morels single, a rather hilarious Rhode Island Leaguer pop that floated tantalizingly beyond Davis grasp for a bases-loaded single.

Thank God Brent Morel hit that ball a foot too far, where Davis he couldnt reach it, Pierzynski said.

In the seventh, Chicago finally drove Davis from the box and immediately doubled its lead, as Pierzynski drove a deep double to right that Fuld failed to handle. The two-run knock would ultimately prove to be the game winner for the South Siders.

Sergio Santos, Fireman of the First Week for the Sox, came on to anesthetize the Rays with a scoreless eighth, giving way to fellow young gun Chris Sale, who earned the save after giving up a home run to Felipe Lopez in the ninth.

Guillen was thrilled at how his team bounced back after expressing before the game that hed be studying how much fight his troops had in them.

Good teams are supposed to not carry what happened the night before to the next day, whether you win or lose, he said. We brought a lot of energy. We knew it would be a challenge to see how we could bounce back from the game last night and I was very satisfied with what I saw.
Did U.S. Cellular Field witness MLB's best defensive play for the second straight season? Sam Fuld's full-speed running dive to make this catch robbed Juan Pierre of at least a triple and three RBIs. (AP)
Not Fuld

Fulds amazing catch in the fourth was the defensive story of the game.

Somebody said that guy is really good in the outfield, and hes made some nice plays against us these three games, but that catch he made off of Pierre is one of the best catches Ive ever seen, Pierzynski said. Honestly, he ran like 50 yards to get to that ball.

Closing time

While Guillen was clear not to spark a closer controversy, he did edge a bit back toward a closer-by-committee situation, judging by his postgame remarks.

Thornton was beat up todayhe threw a lot of pitches yesterday, Guillen said. But this is what youre going to see: Im going to go with my gut feeling. Obviously, Thornton is going to get the most opportunities, but Im the manager of this ballclub and Im going to put the best guys out there, the ones I think are going to do the job.

"The way Santos is throwing, Sale is throwing, if Thornton needs a break well give it to him. Matt threw like 30 pitches FridayI know he couldnt pitch today.

Guillen had a brief conference in the clubhouse with Sale after the game, and also cited Santos as a closer in a more specific way than he has yet this season.

Whenever your name's called, you have to go out there and do your job, and do it the best you can, Sale said of his save opportunity. It just so happened today I was throwing in the ninth. You go out there with the same mindset: Get three outs, get this game wrapped up, and go home with the win.

At the end of the day its a goal of mine to be closer, but until they name somebody Im going to be in that same role whether its the sixth, seventh, or eighth, Santos said. When my names called, Im gonna give the same effort as if Im closing the game.

Santos has had an unbelievable run through 2011 so far, unscored upon in spring training and now stretching his scoreless streak to four regular season games as well.

Everythings starting to come together a little bit. Everything is working in my favor, he said. If I miss a spot, they hit it to somebody. Im making the pitches I need to with two strikes, putting guys away. Im in a good rhythm right now and I just want to ride it out for as long as I can.

Santos is very aggressivedont be surprised if you see Santos in the ninth, Guillen said. All the people out there, they see closerthats a title. I dont know who gets that title. Im going to go by my gutwhat I feel, what my pitching coach feels, what I feel is best for the ballclub. Santos threw the ball very well.

Weve done it before. In 2005, I had three closers. In 2007, I had seven closersnobody could close. But I gotta go about what is best for the ballclub, its not about individual numbers and titles.

In the end, no one has replaced Thornton as the teams stopper.

"As far as were concerned, Thornton is still our closer, and were going to fill in in front of him, Santos said.

Box Score

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.

Jon Jay is taking batting practice, but his return to White Sox doesn't sound near

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AP

Jon Jay is taking batting practice, but his return to White Sox doesn't sound near

The White Sox are still waiting on one of their offseason acquisitions to make his 2019 debut. And it doesn't sound like it will be coming soon.

Jon Jay, signed to a one-year free-agent deal over the winter, has yet to play during the regular season, still dealing with the back, hip and groin injury that cropped up during spring training. His recovery process has been infrequently discussed by the White Sox, who seem to simply be stuck in wait-and-see mode with the veteran outfielder.

Jay took batting practice for the first time since the start of the regular season this week in Baltimore. But despite that sounding like a noteworthy step, manager Rick Renteria made it sound like Jay's return is still a good deal away.

"He's moving along," Renteria told reporters ahead of Wednesday night's game. "He took some BP yesterday. He's increasing his work, controlled work in a controlled environment. He's out there throwing now. So he's moving along as good as we can expect he should be.

"I think we're being cautious and simply allowing him to get his feet underneath him. He's out there now with the boys and trying to get back out on the diamond and do the work he can. And then the training staff will continue to give us an update measuring — it's slow and go right now. But he's coming along in a positive manner.

"Ultimately there will be a rehab assignment. That goes without saying. I think it just depends on when it begins. Right now, this is barely going to be the second day where he's taking BP out there, so we're a little bit away from me to even speculate as to when it can be, early or late. I couldn't give you anything in an accurate form."

That's hardly an encouraging update from the skipper, at least for those hoping to see Jay back in the lineup in the near future.

Jay played in a dozen Cactus League games during the spring, slashing a promising .324/.361/.500 with a couple homers and eight RBIs. While many fans latched on to his connection to star free agent Manny Machado this winter, Jay can provide a boost for the White Sox batting order, bringing the on-base skills that have yielded a .352 career on-base percentage. Only four or five White Sox hitters have succeeded from an on-base standpoint this season: Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada, James McCann, Ryan Cordell and Jose Rondon have on-base percentages over .350 (those last two in limited playing time), while everyone else on the team is reaching base at clips under .330.

But when those skills can be imported into the lineup remains a mystery at the moment.

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Struggles continue for White Sox starters, but there's not much in the way of alternatives

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USA TODAY

Struggles continue for White Sox starters, but there's not much in the way of alternatives

The White Sox will give Carlos Rodon, Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito every opportunity to iron out their inconsistencies this season. But the numbers have not been good for the two veteran members of the starting rotation, and considering Ivan Nova and Ervin Santana aren't part of the team's long-term plans, how long a leash the newest additions to the starting staff will have remains to be seen.

The sample sizes are small, and questioning how long these two remain members of the rotation does not come without acknowledging that neither seems to be in danger of getting cast out anytime soon. But the numbers have been downright ugly. Nova was lit up by the Baltimore Orioles in Tuesday night's 9-1 loss, inverting the damage the White Sox did against baseball's worst pitching staff a night earlier by allowing nine runs and four homers against a team that's terrorized him throughout his career. He was yanked after four incredibly ineffective innings, the third outing of his five-start season in which he's allowed six or more runs. Santana has made only two starts to this point, and one of them was fine. But his ERA is still an unpleasant 10.38, and he's given up five home runs in his 8.2 innings of work.

All told, the youngsters included with the veterans, White Sox starters own a 6.12 ERA after Tuesday night, one of the highest marks in the game.

Those numbers are not acceptable, no matter how in the thick of rebuilding the White Sox remain. Sure, the win-loss record might not be the most important thing in 2019, and Nova and Santana were not the kinds of upgrades to the starting rotation that were set to fuel a dominant staff. But they were brought in, in part, to be innings-eaters that could save a developing bullpen. Regardless of what you, the White Sox fan, thought about James Shields last season, he did eat innings, ending up as one of a baker's dozen major league pitchers to hit the 200-inning mark. If Nova and Santana aren't going to pitch deep into games — Nova's averaging only a little more than five innings per start, and Santana's averaged fewer than five innings in his two outings — their value on this roster comes into question.

Fans would surely be quick to push the button that jettisons Nova and Santana from this rotation, certainly, given the results to this point, but if the front office decides now or months from now to go down such a path, the question becomes: Who is there to fill that spot on the starting staff?

The in-organization depth is not ideal, even if Dylan Cease is one of the highest-rated pitching prospects in baseball. As well as he's started his season at Triple-A Charlotte — a 1.84 ERA and 14 strikeouts in his first 14.2 innings of the 2019 campaign — the White Sox insist that he needs to build up a significant amount of innings there before he makes what is sure to be an excitement-generating major league debut. If Nova and Santana can linger until July or August, then maybe by then Cease will be the no-brainer option as a replacement. Though if they're still taking their every-fifth-day turns at that point, then perhaps they're no longer a problem significant enough to require a replacement. Quite the Catch 22, you see.

Rick Hahn said multiple times during the offseason that Cease is on a similar track to the one Michael Kopech was on last year. Kopech debuted in late August of 2018, so the expectation could be a similar debut date for Cease. Could Cease be up quicker? It's unlikely in the event that the most compelling reason is that the big league rotation needs a boost. Hahn said throughout last season that what's going on at the big league level will have nothing to do with when the organization's top prospects make their jump to the majors. It would figure that Cease is no exception to that rule. Maybe he could beat Kopech's timeline a bit, should he continue to dominate and not go through the midseason struggles Kopech did at Charlotte last season. But it might not be so significant that it could qualify as "soon."

And so the eye turns to the rest of the Charlotte rotation, which is not well stocked with names that anyone would prefer to the veteran track records of Nova and Santana. There are some big numbers down there, too: Jordan Guerrero has a 6.87 ERA, Spencer Adams has a 8.31 ERA, Jordan Stephens has an 8.80 ERA, Donn Roach has a 9.50 ERA.

Of the non-Cease names starting at Charlotte, Dylan Covey would probably be the most logical choice to fill a vacated rotation spot at the big league level. He made the team's Opening Day roster as a bullpen arm before quickly being dispatched back to Charlotte to work on being a starter. White Sox fans have seen the Dylan Covey Show before, of course, and the reviews weren't great. As a major league starter, he has a career 6.26 ERA. He didn't last five innings in a Tuesday-night start in Charlotte but owns a 2.19 ERA after giving up a couple runs in that game.

There's Manny Banuelos, who has been pretty good for the White Sox out of the bullpen this season. He made a spot start in place of the injured Lucas Giolito in Monday night's drubbing of the Orioles, throwing four scoreless innings. He's got a 2.51 ERA on the year and could move from the 'pen to the rotation if need be, but then there'd be a need for a new long man in the relief corps. Carson Fulmer is unlikely to be moved back into a starting role after a shift to the bullpen last season in the minor leagues. He's had mixed results out of the big league bullpen this season, with a 4.76 ERA.

If you're a member of the "get rid of Nova and Santana" camp, it's unlikely you've made it this far without screaming Dallas Keuchel's name at your screen. Keuchel won the AL Cy Young Award in 2015 and was a featured player in the Houston Astros' resurgence from bottom-of-the-standings laughing stock to World Series champions just two years ago. He's also one of the two most noteworthy victims of this winter's glacially paced free-agent market, still jobless as baseball nears the end of the season's opening month.

Keuchel would be an obvious upgrade to this or any starting rotation across the game, and his unsigned status makes him an option in the strictest sense of the definition. But it would seem mighty unlikely that he would be added to the staff of a team not expected to reach the ranks of the contenders until next season at the earliest. I've heard the argument that the White Sox should offer up a two-year deal and bring Keuchel aboard for the remainder of this season and for the next, when Cease and Kopech start the season in what figures to be a much improved rotation. But if someone wanted Keuchel on a two-year deal, they surely could have had him by now, as reports have talked about a lowered asking price and his willingness to join a team for just what's left of the 2019 campaign.

In other words, if you're waiting for Keuchel to come to the South Side, it sounds like you might be waiting for a while.

Gio Gonzalez? He was a name that was bandied about as an offseason option and is once again a free agent after the New York Yankees recently passed on putting him on their 40-man roster. The White Sox have a history with Gonzalez, yes, but if even the banged-up Yankees don't see a place for him, there might be plenty of other teams that feel similarly.

This is all a fancy way of saying that there aren't many attractive options, and so it's far more likely that the White Sox will stick with Nova and Santana for now and hope they can iron out their struggles. Nova, in particular, doesn't figure to be going anywhere, as the team gave up a prospect to get him this winter and owe him a $9,166,667 salary, the second highest on the team.

These starts have not been fun to watch for White Sox fans — and the vets aren't the only ones who have had them, with Rodon, Lopez and Giolito going through their own early season ups and downs, too — but these are the guys the White Sox are set to keep sending out there, hoping for a turnaround. Because the other options just aren't good ones.

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