White Sox

Manny not needed; Rios, Sox's hot bats top Tribe

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Manny not needed; Rios, Sox's hot bats top Tribe

Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2010
Updated 12:14 AM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

CLEVELAND What began as a laugher got a little tense, and then nearly tragic.

Thankfully for the Chicago White Sox, already doing the equivalent of treading water while waiting for unbalanced slugger Manny Ramirez to be their sunrise out of the West, the club got its head back above water after slipping below the surface and nearly drowning in a fall-from-ahead, surge back in the 11th, 10-6 win over the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on Monday night.

With a 1-2 count and two outs, Brent Lillibridge launched a solo shot off of Rafael Perez to provide what would be the deciding run. It also answered a 2-for-27 stretch for the utilityman.

Thats an ugly game, no matter if you win or lose, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. I felt like I was in spring training at Tucson. It was a very bad game. Thank God we won it. You look up at the scoreboard and see 35 people left on base, 36 base hits but when you win, you feel a little bit better.

Lillibridge, whod earlier made an error that led to the tying run scoring in the ninth, had a decidedly brighter reaction: I just thanked God. I was squared up, got it over the fence. I just wanted to get us out of this game, get us home, get a win.

The White Sox added three more tallies in the 11th, including an RBI double from Alex Rios on his fifth hit of the evening.

Alex was huge for us, Guillen said. Rios has been very consistent all year long. Its been a very great year for him.

Manny will change a lot, but check the scoreboard and see how many hits were getting. Our offense has been pretty sturdy the last couple of weeks. We score one or two runs for a game here or there and everybody says, Oh, we need a hitter.

In the empty space of the glass, the White Sox stranded a wholly impeachable 15 runners, including leaving the bases full in three separate innings, with A.J. Pierzynski twice tapping out with the sacks packed, Juan Pierre once.

The White Sox jumped out to a 5-0 lead in just the first two innings, Paul Konerko supplying a two-run double in the first, and Mark Kotsay and Rios supplied three more runs in the second to pace what quickly looked like a runaway.

But the fourth inning featured the revenge of Jayson Nix, who rainbowed a two-run homer deep to left, and in the very next frame Travis Hafner plated another with a long double. But Chisox starter Mark Buehrle bore down, catching Nix looking and, after walking Andy Marte to fill the bases, got Jason Donald swinging.

It wasnt the last Cleveland rally of the night. After Rios clocked a solo homer in the sixth to restore the Chicago lead to three, the Wahoos again put runners on second and third in the eighth. But rather than walking them full, Bobby Jenks came on in relief of Sergio Santos to strike out Asdrubal Cabrera and end the threat.

Jenks would fail to succeed in a too-common inning-plus save. As nails were bitten to nubs, Jenks commenced his blown save with a dreaded leadoff walk to Shin-Soo Choo. After a defensive indifference placed him on second, Shelley Duncan looped a soft single to left, cutting the White Sox lead to 6-4. Hafner then doubled, and with runners on second and third Luis Valbuena singled, scoring Duncan. On Valbuenas Baltimore chop, Lillibridge threw wide to first, the error plating Hafner for the tie. With Valbuena moving to second on the error and third on a groundout, Jenks retired Trevor Crowe on a groundout to Lillibridge.

Im just trying to do my job, Lillibridge said of the game-tying play. It was an in-between play, whether I should have thrown it. Im still going to take a chance on it and be aggressive, but it was a barehand, awkward throw. Im just trying to get Bobby an out. It was a rough inning, and we battled through it.

Both manager and team saw Jenks' effort as heroic, rather than falling short.

Its not Bobbys fault, Guillen said. Our bullpen has to pick him up. Bobbys been throwing a lot of innings. Weve been short in the bullpen so for Jenks to go out and throw 30-40 pitches, thats not easy. Meanwhile, we fought back and score the runs we needed to come back.

What are you going to do, hes missing with balls downhes not catching too much of the plateand all of a sudden theres a trampoline in front of home plate bouncing balls all over the place.

Scott Linebrink relieved Jenks and earned his second win of the season with two perfect innings.

We didnt really plan on drawing the win up like that, Linebrink said. But they got some cheap stuff there in the ninth inning, high choppers and the bloops to the outfield. That stuffs gonna happen sometimes and we were able to battle back."

In what is becoming a tedious trend in White Sox contests as the team wheezes to the end of August, an apparent significant injury was suffered, even in this winning cause. Gordon Beckham, who entered the game hitting .342 over his past 43 games, was hit in his right wrist with a pitch in the seventh. After hitting the dirt and writhing in pain, Beckham walked off the field and was replaced by Lillibridge.

Beckham was in a great deal of pain postgame, but nonetheless felt he would be ready to play by the weekend, at worst. It looked uglier to begin with, when the X-ray technician initially told the second baseman that his hand was broken. Beckham was stunned, before learning that, no, in fact, his hand was merely bruised.

Rookie League, assessed the irritated sophomore.

But in spite of comebacks, fallbacks, injuries and heroism, there were silver linings on Monday night. They just took a little longer to see.

I know we were out here a little bit longer than we wanted to be, but to win a big game like thisif wed have lost this one, it would have been a heartbreaking loss, Linebrink said. So it kind of shifts the momentum right back around and hopefully well catch a wave here and ride it. You battle in games like this, especially on the road, and come up with a victory, that can give you a huge boost of confidence, just like how we strung those hits together in the 11th inning. The same thing can happen with a few games in a row here, with winning.

For all the doomsday scenarios that could have played out progressively, as tired heads hit pillows tonight, its a wonderful way to start a long and crucial road trip.

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

Luis Robert checks in at No. 3 in MLB Pipeline's final Top 100 Prospects list of 2019

Luis Robert checks in at No. 3 in MLB Pipeline's final Top 100 Prospects list of 2019

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Luis Robert is generating year-end buzz after a phenomenal 2019 campaign.

Three days after the official conclusion of the 2019 Minor League Baseball season, MLB Pipeline released its final Top 100 Prospects list of the year and, as expected, Robert made an appearance near the top. He didn’t quite nab the first spot, though. Despite taking home MLB Pipeline’s minor league hitter of the year award just over two weeks ago, Robert checked in at No. 3 in the site’s rankings, trailing only Dodgers middle infielder Gavin Lux (No. 2) and Tampa Bay shortstop Wander Franco (No. 1). 

Lux and Robert have vied for a number of Minor League accolades. In addition to being named Pipeline’s minor league hitter of the year, Robert also recently took home USA Today’s minor league player of the year. Lux edged Robert out for Baseball America’s MiLB player of the year, though, and now finishes one spot ahead of him in Pipeline’s Top 100. Franco spent 2019, his age-18 season, split between Class-A and High-A ball, slashing .327/.398/.487 with 18 stolen bases in 114 games between the two.

Robert jumped from No. 5 to No. 3 in the latest update to the Top 100, and this time last year was ranked No. 44. A season slashing .328/.376/.624 (1.001 OPS) with 32 home runs, 96 RBIs and 36 stolen bases will do that.

Michael Kopech (No. 18), who missed the 2019 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery last September, joins Robert in representing the White Sox in the top 20. Additionally, Robert and 22-year-old starting pitching prospect Jonathan Stiever were named the White Sox's 'Prospects of the Year' by MLB Pipeline.

News like this - and there has been an abundance of it recently - only adds to a burgeoning sense of optimism for the future around the White Sox and its fanbase. Now, to count the days until the 2020 season, and Robert’s eventual call-up.

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After White Sox bullpen shuts down Twins, who's in and who's out for 2020?

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USA TODAY

After White Sox bullpen shuts down Twins, who's in and who's out for 2020?

The White Sox bullpen did a splendid job Wednesday night.

A “bullpen day” against the Minnesota Twins’ high-powered offense had potential disaster written all over it. Instead, Ivan Nova and a parade of relievers held those Twins hitless through five innings and to just one run in a sweep-avoiding win.

It’s actually the second time a “bullpen day” went better than expected against one of the best teams in baseball, Wednesday’s effort joining the one back in May against the Houston Astros. The White Sox lost that night but gave up just three runs to the kings of the AL West.

While nearly every pitcher that trotted out from the visitors’ bullpen Wednesday night in Minnesota pitched well, it doesn’t mean that the White Sox will carry this exact unit into a 2020 season that could be one in which they make the long awaited transition from rebuilding to contending.

Certainly Alex Colome and Aaron Bummer have been among the many bright spots for the White Sox this season, and the retention of both at the trade deadline provides confidence in what the back end of the bullpen can be in a potentially contending season. But while the eighth- and ninth-inning jobs are easily projected, what does the rest of the White Sox bullpen look like heading into 2020?

While starting pitcher is definitely on the winter wish list for Rick Hahn’s front office, it would be no shock to see relief pitching get addressed, too. It’s hard to predict which of the tons of relievers could wind up in a White Sox uniform before the team heads to Arizona for spring training. But we can try to guess at the fortunes of the relief arms currently on the roster, many of whom appeared in Wednesday night’s game.

Late-inning arms for 2020

Even if the White Sox make no additions to their bullpen this winter, the back end is pretty easy to project.

Colome has one more year of team control after being acquired in a trade with the Seattle Mariners last winter. He’s been allowing more base runners as the season has wound down — including a walk-off homer to Omar Narvaez, the guy he was traded for, last weekend in Seattle — but he’ll finish the campaign with excellent numbers, still having blown only one save. That’s the best save percentage in baseball. He’s got 124 saves over the last four seasons.

Bummer, meanwhile, has emerged from a host of internal candidates to grab a pretty tight hold on the eighth-inning job. He has a 2.31 ERA on the season with a week and a half to play, and he’s a guy who could be a back-end reliever and a potential closer for years to come.

As for other late-inning guys, Jimmy Cordero seems to be a diamond in the rough uncovered in season. He’s got a 3.34 ERA since joining the White Sox and has been an oft-used arm by Rick Renteria. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the White Sox put even more high-leverage situations on his plate next season.

Evan Marshall, too, figures to be back next season. He was another quality addition to the ‘pen, and he’s actually been better in the second half, with a 2.59 ERA since the All-Star break compared to the still-very-good 2.86 ERA before it.

Is that a fearsome foursome at the back end of a contending bullpen? Certainly all four of those guys have been good to very good this season. The White Sox would probably express a great deal of confidence in that quartet, but adding another late-inning arm to that mix in free agency would make that confidence level even higher.

What do you do with these guys?

If those four are very likely to be in key spots in the 2020 bullpen, what about some of the guys’ whose futures aren’t so obvious?

Jace Fry threw 1.2 innings without giving up a run Wednesday, dropping his season ERA to 4.96. That’s not a very pretty number, and there have been stretches this season that haven’t been very pretty, either. In a five-outing span in late May and early June, he walked six of the 19 batters he faced and gave up four earned runs in just 3.1 innings. Over a 13-outing span in August and September, Fry gave up 12 runs in 10.2 innings, walking nine and giving up 13 hits to the 53 batters he faced. But the White Sox love Fry’s potential. It wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see him a part of the Opening Day relief corps. But if the White Sox are in contention mode, how long could they afford his inconsistencies?

Kelvin Herrera is almost certain to be back in 2020, considering the White Sox inked him to a two-year deal last offseason. But he’s going to need to improve dramatically from what he did in his first campaign on the South Side. He’s got a 6.51 ERA right now in 53 appearances. That’s obviously not good enough, and the White Sox will be hoping for something close to the kind of guy who mowed them down when he was a key piece on those back-to-back World Series teams for the Kansas City Royals. Another season removed from the foot injury that ended his 2018 season early ought to help.

Have the White Sox seen enough of Jose Ruiz and Carson Fulmer? Again, these guys have upside the team is excited about. Ruiz can throw the ball pretty hard, and Fulmer is a former top-10 draft pick. But the results have not been good, to say the least. Ruiz has a 5.87 ERA in 39 games. Fulmer, who threw 2.1 scoreless innings Wednesday, has a 5.33 ERA in 18 big league appearances. If there are free-agent additions to be had, these two could be squeezed out of the picture. But for right now, the White Sox aren’t done with them just yet.

Where art thou, minor leaguers?

If you cast your mind back to last season, you’ll remember a bunch of young arms that looked like candidates for the bullpen of the future. For various reasons, those guys didn’t do much impressing in 2019.

Injuries are to blame in certain cases. Ryan Burr was one of the many White Sox pitchers to have Tommy John surgery this season, wiping out an audition of a 2019 season for him. Ian Hamilton was similarly knocked out for the year with a pair of freak injuries. He was hurt in a car accident during spring training and then suffered a number of grisly facial injuries when he was struck with a foul ball while sitting in the dugout at Triple-A Charlotte.

Under-performance struck, too. Caleb Frare only made 31 combined appearances between the majors and Charlotte, but he posted a 10.13 ERA at the big league level and a 7.66 ERA with the Knights. Thyago Vieira had a 10.29 ERA in six major league games and a 6.27 ERA in 39 games at Triple-A.

But all four remain on the 40-man roster, for now.

Then there are three other guys who were highly thought of a year ago who didn’t help their cases for a major league promotion. Zack Burdi, the former first-round pick, was routinely rocked pitching in only 20 games at Class A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham, with a 6.75 ERA in his first season back from Tommy John surgery. Tyler Johnson had good numbers but only pitched 31.1 innings in 22 games. Zach Thompson had a 5.23 ERA in his 45 appearances with Brimingham and Charlotte.

None of that screams must-include pieces of the 2020 major league bullpen. A lot can change between now and Opening Day, as well as now and any later point in the season when reinforcements to the relief corps could still make a big difference. But as we stand here right now, it’s hard to say any of these guys will be in the Opening Day ‘pen.

Unlikely bullpen arms?

The other internal options for relief arms in 2020 might come from an unlikely spot: the starting rotation.

There are only five spots on the 2020 starting staff, and Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech and Dylan Cease figure to have three of them spoken for. The White Sox will make at least one offseason addition, speaking for a fourth spot. And despite a bumpy 2019 season, it would not be surprising to see Reynaldo Lopez in that rotation, too, come Opening Day.

That doesn’t mean he’ll stay there all season, though. A contending White Sox team might not be able to put up with the kind of inconsistent results Lopez has delivered in 2019. Similarly, there’s a possibility Kopech could have to start the season in the minor leagues if the White Sox think he needs more time to work himself into game shape following a long layoff while recovering from his Tommy John surgery. Whether it’s multiple offseason acquisitions or simply Kopech returning and claiming a spot, Lopez might be squeezed out, in which case the bullpen would be a possible destination for him. The White Sox see him as a starter now, but there’s no reason that a squeezed-out Lopez, should it happen, couldn’t still help the team from the ‘pen.

Also, what becomes of other Tommy John recoverers when they return to full health? What happens if Carlos Rodon or Dane Dunning or Jimmy Lambert is available late in the year? Could they help in the bullpen even if they’re destined to be long-term starters? Maybe. It’s just speculation, but time will tell.

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