White Sox

What White Sox 'fireman' Anthony Swarzak has done to increase trade value

What White Sox 'fireman' Anthony Swarzak has done to increase trade value

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Anthony Swarzak held a high-leverage audition for a potential contender on Sunday long before the Kansas City Royals walked off the White Sox.

The nonroster invitee to big league camp continued a stellar campaign as he took over in a critical spot midgame and helped the White Sox escape with the lead. The White Sox bullpen ultimately relinquished the lead and Brandon Moss sent them to their ninth straight loss — Kansas City won 5-4 — with an RBI double in the ninth inning.

But Swarzak continues to thrive in the opportunities handed to him and could make for an interesting trade chip before the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline.

“He’s been excellent,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. “He’s become for us, with (Nate Jones) going down and (Jake Petricka) going down he’s actually become a fireman. He’s come in in some of the highest-leverage situations we could possibly get. And then we use him for multiple innings.”

A free agent after the season, Swarzak has 50 strikeouts and a 2.30 ERA in 47 innings for the White Sox this season. He also has only allowed nine of 33 inherited runners to score (27.2 percent), including two on Sunday. The American League average for inherited runners scoring entering Sunday was 30 percent, according to baseball-reference.com.

All this has come in a season where Swarzak went to camp with the White Sox with no certainty of making the 25-man roster. The right-hander not only thrived in camp, he came out strong in April with 19 2/3 scoreless innings to start the season. Combined with early injuries to Jones and Zach Putnam, Swarzak’s performance helped him climb the totem pole in the White Sox bullpen from the outset. His stature has grown even more of late with the injury to Petricka as well as the trades of Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson.

“As far personal expectations, I’m right where I want to be,” Swarzak said. “More to accomplish for this year, absolutely. But I like what I’ve done so far and I like the opportunity that I have to accomplish even more.

“That’s the situation we all work so hard. That’s the situation we want and it’s why we all work so hard in the offseason in general is for situations like that.”

Swarzak took over for starter Derek Holland in the fifth inning with the White Sox ahead 4-3 and runners on the corners. He threw three straight sliders to Jorge Bonifacio and struck him out to strand the pair.

“It was huge, what he did coming in right there,” Holland said.

As significant as it was, it only held off the Royals for the time being. And as much as Swarzak has enjoyed things on a personal level, it isn’t making what the thinned-out White Sox roster is experiencing any easier to handle.

“Everything going on around here right now is pretty hard to swallow,” Swarzak said. “We’re going out there losing 8-0, 6-0, we’re up 6-0 and we end up losing. We lost a 1-0 game against the Dodgers and the next night we lose 10-1. We’re kind of losing all types of ways right now, which is really hard to swallow because as a bullpen guy we take pride in holding the lead and right now it seems like we’re not getting it done at all, any aspect of it, as a group.”

With eight more shopping days left before the deadline, chances are high that Swarzak may not be part of the current group much longer. He has already seen the departures of Robertson and Kahnle and knows his impending free agency could result in a trade elsewhere. But the veteran reliever is doing his best to keep his focus on the mound.

“It all comes back to quality pitches and getting guys out,” Swarzak said. “If you’re getting guys out, you’re going to get some attention from the league and if you’re not they’re going to close the book on you. It’s very straight forward for a pitcher, for a major league baseball player in general: Do better. Get it done and you’re going to play for a long time and you’re going to have the success that goes along with getting it done. That’s really all I’m worried about is continuing to make good pitches and hopefully get the results I’m looking for.”

Avisail Garcia, slated for offseason knee surgery, has been playing hurt since Opening Day

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USA TODAY

Avisail Garcia, slated for offseason knee surgery, has been playing hurt since Opening Day

While some players' seasons have been open for interpretation, it's been an undeniably disappointing one for Avisail Garcia.

Turns out there's a good reason for the big change in his production from 2017 to 2018.

Garcia's battles with injuries this year have been no secret, but the White Sox outfielder revealed Tuesday that it's literally been going on all season long. He said that he felt something in his knee on Opening Day and that he's played hurt throughout the entire season. He also reported that he'll have arthroscopic knee surgery on Oct. 2, two days after the end of the season.

"Opening Day, I feel something in my knee," he said. "I had been feeling something, something, something and then I started feeling my hammy because I think I was favoring it. Especially because it’s my right knee, and that’s where all my power is. It’s crazy, but it is what it is.

"It’s sore. Every time I go home, it’s a little swollen. But I’m going to fix it soon. It’s been a crazy year, not for me, but for the whole team. Thank god we are alive and we are here. We have a chance. Let’s see what happens next year."

Garcia did make two trips to the disabled list this season, both due to an injured hamstring, which he said stemmed from the hurting knee. He played in 88 of the team's first 154 games, with six remaining on the schedule heading into Tuesday night's contest with the visiting Cleveland Indians.

Entering 2018, Garcia had the tall task of repeating his breakout campaign from a season before, when he made his first career All-Star appearance and posted some of the best offensive numbers in the American League with a .330 batting average and a .380 on-base percentage. During this injury-filled season, those numbers plummeted to .238 and .278.

"It’s been difficult. Difficult year," he said. "Nothing that I can do. I’ve been playing like this the whole season. Just gotta play and get after it, so it is what it is. I can’t control that. I can control what I do on the field.

"(The knee injury has) always been there. Everybody knows it’s hard when you get injury and then sit down and then go play and then sit down again. It’s hard to be consistent like that. This game is difficult so you have to be out there every day so you get to used to it and it’s hard to play like this. But it is what it is. It’s not an excuse. Everybody knows that. I’ve been playing like this so I’m trying to do my best."

Obviously, it's tough to judge Garcia's follow up to his All-Star season knowing how much his knee bothered him. But it still leaves unanswered the question of what his place is in the organization's long-term plans. He's under team control for one more season. The White Sox have the flexibility to do one of many things this offseason: keep him for one more season, try to trade him this offseason, hold on to him and try to trade him to a contending club next summer or extend him and keep him in the mix for when rebuilding mode transitions to contention mode. Garcia is just 27 years old.

Garcia said he'll be "100-percent" ready for spring training next year, and should his health be back to normal, his prove-it campaign that was supposed to come in 2018 could come in 2019. But there's also a wave of outfield prospects making its way toward the South Side that includes Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Micker Adolfo and plenty of others. So no matter what statistics Garcia might be shooting for, the pressure will be on to show he's a safer bet than all that young talent.

White Sox Talk Podcast: Daniel Palka on Palkamania and his breakout season

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Daniel Palka on Palkamania and his breakout season

Chuck Garfien speaks with White Sox outfielder Daniel Palka who as a 26-year-old rookie has come out of nowhere to become one of the White Sox most popular players in 2018.  They talk about the time Palka gave a pitcher a black eye in Little League, how he used to be a relief pitcher at Georgia Tech,  why the Twins gave him up on him, the time when Chuck called Palka’s walkoff homer this year, his friendship with Kyle Schwarber and more.   

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below: