White Sox

Sox Drawer: Buehrle, Obama & The Big Reunion

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Sox Drawer: Buehrle, Obama & The Big Reunion

Tuesday, Apr. 6, 2010
11:04 AM

By Chuck Garfien
CSNChicago.com

Mark Buehrle may not have thrown another perfect game, but it was certainly a perfect day Monday for the White Sox. So with the first game of 2010 in the books, here are 9 innings of observations from their 6-0 victory over the Indians:

1. MARK BUEHRLE = LEGEND

I joked with Mark before the game that he was making another ho-hum Opening Day start. Do something original for once! I said.

What do you want me to do? he replied. Skip it?

No, thats something Carlos Zambrano should have done.

Mark? He just went out and threw another Buehrle classic. Sure, he held the Indians to three measly singles over seven innings. But thats become ordinary for 56. Hes done it before. Oh, like the last time he won on Opening Day. It was also at home. Also against the Indians. Also a shutout. The year was 2005.

Omen?

So what does a pitcher do when hes already got a no-hitter, a perfect game, a major league home run, and a World Series ring?

You make a play that defies the laws of physics and causes Hawk Harrelson to pierce the eardrums of every CSN viewer from Alsip to Alabama.

MERCY!!!!

Buehrles no-look scoop through his legs into the barehand of Paul Konerko will go down as one of the best plays ever made by a pitcher.

Maybe the best.

You see the play happening, you run over there saying, Do I slide and spin, or do I grab the ball and throw it? Buehrle said. I think every thought went through my head. It just happened the way it did.

Yes, it did.

2. FRANK AND KENNY: LET THE HEALING BEGIN

Driving to the ballpark on Monday, I was a little nervous about having Frank Thomas and Kenny Williams sit side-by-side one another on our pregame show. In 2006, they both had an explosive falling out that fractured their relationship to the point where I thought they would never speak again.

But in a matter of hours, the two were going to be about an inch away from each other, live on television, and I was either going to be the host of this reunion or the referee.

What did I get myself into?

Fortunately, no whistle was needed. Or bandages.

As it turned out, they both wanted to put the whole thing behind them.

I began the segment by asking, Are you guys good?

Were fine, Thomas said.

Kenny went a little further.

We had our say. We certainly werent shy about expressing something at a given time. But prior to that we had a great relationship. We had that bump in the road, and are going on to the next phase in life.

And with that, Thomas sucker-punched Williams right in the kidney.

I kid.

3. PRESIDENT OBAMA REPRESENTS!

After the Sox First Fan was roundly booed last summer for wearing a White Sox jacket at the All-Star Game in St. Louis, youd think that he would learn his lesson.

Uh-uh.

There was Obama on Monday at the Washington Nationals home opener, taking the mound in a shiny new Nationals jacket, only to rub it in all of their faces by donning his scrubby old Sox cap for all eyes to see (including several White Sox players who watched with glee on TV before the game in the clubhouse).

Our President has some guts. No arm. But guts.

4. THEY DON'T PLAY BASEBALL IN CANADA.

Speaking of bad arms, we bring you the Chicago Blackhawk Olympians.

Gulp.

Who taught them how to throw a baseball? Charlie Brown?

Canadian Duncan Keith might be one of the best defensemen in the NHL, but theres no defense for his throw to John Danks which was about 10 feet short and another 8 feet wide.

Brent Seabrooks self-described fastball went straight into the dirt, but he did deliver a great line to Blackhawks TV afterwards:

Its hard throwing with a gold medal around your neck.

The third Canadian was Jonathan Toews, who like the captain that he is, threw the best pitch, which was still about 4 feet above the strike zone, but it at least hit Danks glove.

The one American, Patrick Kane, did the same, but he almost threw the ball to the backstop.

These are professional athletes, right?

5. CARLOS QUENTIN IS ON PACE TO GET HIT BY 236 PITCHES IN 2010

The White Sox better have a lot of ice in the trainers room. And their fingers crossed.

6. FRANK THOMAS A.K.A. "ROOKIE"

Monday was the Big Hurts debut on White Sox Pre and Post-Game Live. Frank will join Bill Melton and I for all Sox home games on Comcast SportsNet this season. Thomas obviously has a ton of baseball knowledge, which hell bring to the set. But Im just as interested in bringing out his sense of humor, and the off-camera daggers he and Melton can throw at each other.

It was on full display in the green room while they watched the game together. Its only a matter of time before it unfolds on the set.

Plus, Frank is letting me call him rookie. That is until he sits on me.

7. ALEX RIOS, HELLO AGAIN...HELLO

Not to take anything away from Buehrles gem, but what Alex Rios did on Opening Day may turn out to matter most for the Sox in the long run.

After his disastrous Sox debut last season (batting .199 in 41 games), Rios came to spring training with a clear mind and corrected swing.

If there was one guy on the Sox team who really needed a big game, it was him. And he delivered with that massive solo homer to center in the 8th, and that game-ending diving catch in the 9th.

Thomas played with Rios in Toronto in 2007, and was blown away by his five-tool talent. Before the game he said that Rios was his Comeback Player of the Year.

He could be right.

8. I NEED A HAIRCUT

Hows that for baseball analysis!

9. JERMAINE DYE: MISSING IN ACTION

Yeah, his game took a sharp nosedive in the second half of last season, but are you serious? Jermaine Dye sitting on the couch on Opening Day??

Teams have expressed interest. The Cubs, Brewers, and Nationals to name a few. But Dye has a lot of pride (as well as a ton of money in the bank), and hes not going to play for what he perceives is under his market value.

Hell probably stay in shape for the first couple months in case somebody gets hurt somewhere. But the longer that goes on without a phone call, the tougher it is to keep up training by yourself.

Big Frank learned this while sitting on the sidelines last season. By June, he knew he was done.

My prediction: if Dye doesnt sign somewhere soon, hell miss the 2010 season entirely. Then come the fall, hell realize how much he misses the game, hell swallow his pride, and sign a minor league contract with someone for next season.

In the end, Jermaine is a baseball player. Its what he does. Its what he knows. To just walk away cold turkey? Dont see it happening.

Chuck Garfien hosts White Sox Pregame and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet with former Sox slugger Bill Melton. Follow Chuck @ChuckGarfien on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox news and views.

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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