White Sox

Sox Drawer: The Truth About J.J. Putz

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Sox Drawer: The Truth About J.J. Putz

Friday, Jan. 22, 2010
8:21 PM

Im sitting in a hotel room at the Palmer House, the site of Sox Fest 2010. 139 years ago, this was the site of the very first Palmer House (known as The Palmer), which only 13 days after being built, was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

Into the room walks J.J. Putz. He might not know much about Chicago history, or the fire that once erupted here, but if given the choice, the new White Sox reliever would torch his 2009 season straight to the ground.

It was a mess from the beginning, said Putz in an interview with Comcast SportsNet. He was traded from the Mariners to the Mets in a monster three-team, 11-player deal in December 2008. The former closer was supposed to be the 8th inning set-up man for Francisco Rodriguez, a 1-2 punch that on paper was also supposed to make the Mets unbeatable in the late-innings.

But soon after he arrived in New York, Putz knew that something was wrong.

When the trade went down last year, I never really had a physical with the Mets, said Putz. I had the bone spur (in the right elbow). It was discovered the previous year in Seattle, and it never got checked out by any other doctors until I got to spring training, and the spring training physical is kind of a formality. It was bugging me all through April, and in May I got an injection. It just got to the point where I couldnt pitch. I couldnt throw strikes, my velocity was way down.

And it was showing on the mound. The once super human reliever had suddenly become a broken down mess. After 29 games, he was 1-and-4 with a 5.22 ERA. He had 19 walks in 19 innings. And this was New York. The boos cascading from Citi Field could be heard across the river in Jersey.

Being hurt is never fun, especially when you go to a team like New York, where the expectation level is so high, and youre not able to do what you know you can do. (The Mets) gave up a lot to get me, so it was disappointing and frustrating.

Especially when the Mets told Putz not to talk about being hurt with the media.

I knew that I wasnt right. I wasnt healthy. The toughest part was having to face the media and tell them that you feel fine, even though you know theres something wrong and they dont want you telling them that youre banged up.

By June, Putz was concerned that the pain in his elbow would start affecting his shoulder, so he had surgery to remove the bone spur, and was supposed to miss 10-to-12 weeks. However, when he tried to come back in August, he felt some tightness in his right forearm.

Thats when (the Mets) told me that I blew my elbow out. That was kind of a shock because I never felt any pain in it.

It didnt matter. The Mets shut him down. Putzs season was over. And he learned a very important lesson.

That its my career, and when you know something doesnt feel right, and they want to take these little sidesteps to do something, and just wait and wait and wait, you got to get it taken care of instead of trying to prolong the inevitable.

In November, the Mets chose to wipe the slate clean, declining J.J.s 9.1 million option for 2010.

Putz says that the first team to call was the White Sox.

They wanted to do a physical right away, said Putz. They took an MRI. The elbow looked clean.

Which was exactly what Sox GM Kenny Williams wanted to see.

When our doctors finally got their hands on him, he passed his physical with flying colors, said Williams after the signing. We couldn't be happier with what was communicated to us by our doctors.

The Sox quickly signed Putz to a one-year, 3 million contract.

One person who couldnt be happier was Matt Thornton. The fellow reliever and Michigan native placed a call to Putz to gauge his interest, but Putz says that Matt didnt put on the kind of hard sell that has been reported. The two are close friends and huge fans of the Wolverines. But Putz is quick to point out that only one of them has maze and blue in his blood.

I went there. He went to some Grand Valley State University Technical Ranch Dressing School or something like that. Hes a poser.

Friday at Sox Fest Putz said that his arm feels great, and he will be throwing off a mound in two weeks.

But when he walks to the mound at U.S. Cellular Field when the season begins, hes going to need a new song announcing his arrival. Putz has always used Thunderstruck by ACDC, but that's been the White Sox team song since their 2005 World series title.

So, clearly Putz needs a new song and hes asking you for suggestions. That's right...you!

Email me your ideas (SoxDrawer@comcastsportsnet.com) and Ill be sure to pass them along to J.J. If he chooses your song, you'll get White Sox tickets for this season!

And no offense to Gordon Beckham, but no more songs by the Outfield.

Daily White Sox prospects update: Gavin Sheets hits his first homer of 2018

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Daily White Sox prospects update: Gavin Sheets hits his first homer of 2018

Here's your daily update on what the White Sox highly touted prospects are doing in the minor leagues.

Class A Winston-Salem

Gavin Sheets hit his first home run of the season in a 12-4 loss. While it's taken him this long to hit his first ball out of the park, Sheets has a .380 on-base percentage and his 24 walks make for one of the top 10 totals in the Carolina League. Blake Rutherford doubled in this one, while Sheets, Rutherford, Alex Call and Luis Alexander Basabe combined to draw five walks.

Class A Kannapolis

Luis Gonzalez and Evan Skoug each had a hit in a 9-3 win.

Triple-A Charlotte

Charlie Tilson had two hits in a 9-3 loss.

James Shields is having a stellar May and making comeback wins possible for the White Sox

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USA TODAY

James Shields is having a stellar May and making comeback wins possible for the White Sox

If you haven’t checked in with what James Shields is doing in a while, your opinion of the veteran pitcher’s performance might need some updating.

Shields didn’t exactly win the confidence of White Sox fans during his first two seasons on the South Side. After arriving in a midseason trade with the San Diego Padres in 2016, he posted a 6.77 ERA in 22 starts, during which he allowed 31 home runs. He followed that up with a 5.23 ERA and 27 home runs allowed in 2017.

And the 2018 season didn’t start out great, either, with a 6.17 ERA over his first five outings.

But the month of May has brought a dramatic turn in the vet’s production. In five May starts, he’s got a 3.27 ERA in five starts, all of which have seen him go at least six innings (he’s got six straight outings of at least six innings, dating back to his last start in April).

And his two most recent starts have probably been his two best ones of the season. After allowing just one run on three hits in 7.1 innings last Thursday against the Texas Rangers, he gave up just two runs on five hits Tuesday night against the Baltimore Orioles.

The White Sox, by the way, won both of those games in comeback fashion. They scored four runs in the eighth against Texas and three in the eighth against Baltimore for a pair of “Ricky’s boys don’t quit” victories made possible by Shields’ great work on the mound.

“That’s what it’s all about,” he said after Tuesday’s game. “It’s our job as starters to keep us in the game as long as we possibly can, no matter how we are hitting in a game. At the end of the game, you can always score one or two runs and possibly win a ballgame like we did tonight.”

The White Sox offense was indeed having trouble much of Tuesday’s game, kept off the scoreboard by Orioles starter Kevin Gausman. Particularly upsetting for White Sox Twitter was the sixth inning, when the South Siders put two runners in scoring position with nobody out and then struck out three straight times to end the inning.

But Shields went out and pitched a shut-down seventh, keeping the score at 2-0. Bruce Rondon did much the same thing in the eighth, and the offense finally sparked to life in the bottom of the inning when coincidentally presented with a similar situation to the one in the sixth. This time, though, the inning stayed alive and resulted in scoring, with Welington Castillo, Yoan Moncada and Yolmer Sanchez driving in the three runs.

“I’m out there doing my job,” Shields said. “My job is to try to keep us in the game. And we had some good starters against us that have been throwing well. If I can keep them close, we are going to get some wins and get some wins throughout the rest of the year like that. That’s the name of the game.”

Shields’ value in this rebuilding effort has been discussed often. His veteran presence is of great value in the clubhouse, particularly when it comes to mentoring young pitchers like Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, among others. Shields can act as an example of how to go about one’s business regardless of the outcomes of his starts. But when he can lead by example with strong outings, that’s even more valuable.

“I’m trying to eat as many innings as possible,” he said. “We kind of gave our bullpen — we taxed them a little bit the first month of the season. We are kind of getting back on track. Our goal as a starting staff is to go as deep as possible, and in order to do that, you’ve got to throw strikes and get ahead of hitters.

“Not too many playoff teams, a starting staff goes five and dive every single game. My whole career I’ve always wanted to go as deep as possible. I wanted to take the ball all the way to the end of the game. And we’ve done a pretty good job of it of late.”

It’s a long time between now and the trade deadline, and consistency has at times escaped even the brightest spots on this rebuilding White Sox roster. But Shields has strung together a nice bunch of starts here of late, and if that kind of performance can continue, the White Sox front office might find that it has a potential trade piece on its hands. That, too, is of value to this rebuild.

Until that possibility occurs, though, the team will take more solid outings that give these young players an opportunity to learn how to come back and learn how to win.