White Sox

Sox get relief, take Crain away from Twins

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Sox get relief, take Crain away from Twins

Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010
Posted 8:16 PM Updated 9:02 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

All indications late Wednesday were that the Chicago White Sox had signed Minnesota Twins free agent reliever Jesse Crain to a three year deal.

The signing, first hinted at by the Chicago Sun-Times and quickly confirmed by Peter Gammons of the MLB Network, fortifies the Chicago bullpen with a live, veteran arm who looks to slip right into the right-handed setup slot vacated by J.J. Putz.

The White Sox bullpen now shapes up to feature Matt Thornton and Chris Sale in a combination of lefty setup man and closer and Sergio Santos and Crain as right-handed setup men. Tony Pena, once ticketed to fill the role Crain now occupies, may well resume a long relief role, with another long man, preferably a lefthander, pending.

Crain had a career year in 2010 for the Twins, pitching in 71 games and amassing a 3.04 ERA, with a career-best 62 strikeouts out of the bullpen and an 8.21 K9. Stats guru Bill James projects Crain to regress in 2011, with an ERA jumping up to 3.55 and his K9 rate falling below 7.0.

Crain fits well in a Chicago bullpen filled with power arms, and features a wicked slider that has made a fool of many a White Sox hitter in the past. However, Crain has a tendency to give up flyballs, which could have a much more dangerous effect in homer-happy U.S. Cellular Field than at the Metrodome or Target Field in Minnesota.

While the closers role is open for the 2011 White Sox, dont expect Crain to throw his cap into the ring, with a dismal career save percentage of .188.

While the move could signify Sale assuming a starting role in 2011 (the status of a rehabilitating Jake Peavy for April is still up for question), unless Chicago wants to insert Santos as its closer, the addition of Crain means little.

Both manager Ozzie Guillen and GM Ken Williams have identified the likely 2011 closer as Sale or Thornton, and placing Sale in the rotation will leave Thornton (thus the likely closer) as the only late-inning lefthander in the bullpen. There is zero chance the White Sox will move forward with such an unbalanced relief corps.

Crain will join Matt Thornton, Sergio Santos and likely Chris Sale in the back end of the Sox bullpen in 2011.

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.

Ozzie Guillen offers his solution to PED use in baseball

Ozzie Guillen offers his solution to PED use in baseball

Ozzie Guillen is not one to shy away from having a strong opinion about something.

On NBC Sports Chicago’s Baseball Night in Chicago show on Tuesday, Guillen gave his view on how Major League Baseball can stop the usage of performance-enhancing drugs.

“Major League Baseball, you want to cut this thing down?” Guillen said on the show. “You cancel the contract to this kid. Then you’re going to see that. You get caught one time, you’re banned from baseball, then you’re going to stop with that. Because if you’re going to make $200 million and lose $11 million? I’m going to do it.”

Guillen is going off the idea that a player who used PEDs to get a big contract only loses part of it when he eventually gets caught and suspended. Canceling the rest of a contract takes away some of the financial incentive to use PEDs.

“If you get caught when you are young and you try to survive in the game, well, I don’t agree with them, but you can survive in this game that way,” Guillen said. “You know how hard it is right now. How Major League Baseball is on the top of this thing, day in and day out. They’re not going to play around with this thing.”

Marlon Byrd, who was twice suspended for PED use, was also on the show and talked about his PED suspensions.