White Sox

White Sox closer David Robertson: 'I need to pick it up'

White Sox closer David Robertson: 'I need to pick it up'

KANSAS CITY -- David Robertson said an injury that sidelined him for 11 days in July has had no impact on his recent struggles.

If anything, the White Sox closer has felt good from a physical standpoint even as he has amassed a 7.36 ERA in his last 11 innings pitched. In that span, Robertson -- who didn’t pitch from July 7-17 because of a leg injury that occurred right before the All-Star break -- has blown four of eight save tries, including the past two games against the Kansas City Royals. Robertson, who converted 23 of his first 25 save chances this season, said he simply hasn’t been able to make the same kind of outpitches that he consistently has throughout his career.

“I’m in bad counts right out of the gate,” Robertson said. “Then I feel like whenever it’s time to make the quality pitch to get the out, I’m not making it. It’s frustrating for me because my whole career I’ve been able to escape jams. Whenever I make a mistake, I’ve been able to get out of it.

“It seems like it’s coming back to bite me in the ass. I can’t seem to get out of one lately.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]​

Robertson has walked five batters in his last 11 innings and has issued 4.75 walks per nine this season, his highest total since 2011. His career mark is 3.64 walks per nine innings.

Another noticeable difference is the damage hitters have done against him over the last month. From the start of the season to July 17, opposing hitters had a .163 slugging percentage when Robertson threw his curveball and a .369 slug against his cut-fastball. Only two of the first 164 hitters Robertson faced this season hit home runs.

Starting with his July 18 appearance, batters have a .556 slugging percentage when Robertson throws a curve and .652 versus the cutter. He has also allowed four homers in a span of 41 batters.

Pitching coach Don Cooper thinks perhaps Robertson’s delivery angle is the culprit.

“The only thing with David is he can get his angle too high,” Cooper said. “Last year when he wasn’t good, he got his angle too high, which did not allow the ball to cut as freely, didn’t allow the curve to curve as freely.”

Robertson said the only adjustment he has made is with where he sets his hands when he comes set. Meanwhile, the White Sox intend to keep Robertson, who is in the second season of a four-year, $46-million deal, as their closer. White Sox manager Robin Ventura said the team absolutely believes Robertson will rebound.

“(The role is) not going to change,” Ventura said. “Regardless if it’s him or (Nate Jones) in the eighth, you have to find somebody else to do it at some point. We’ve used these guys quite a bit so that is always the possibility of doing that. But not out of just sending him out of the ninth inning.”

Though disappointed by the past three weeks, Robertson is also confident his season will turn around.

“I’m not pitching the way I should be,” Robertson said. “I’m not attacking the zone and staying on the corners and keeping guys off balance. I feel like they are a little comfortable in the box on me. Walks are hurting me as well. I just have to pick up my game and start pitching better.

“I’m going to get more opportunities so at some point it’s going to turn for me and hopefully I’ll get on a roll. Right now I’ve been doing a poor job out there and I need to pick it up.” 

White Sox get lesson in why they need their own Justin Verlander type to finish off rebuild

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USA TODAY

White Sox get lesson in why they need their own Justin Verlander type to finish off rebuild

Who will be the White Sox version of Justin Verlander? Their version of Jon Lester?

The big-name veteran brought in from outside the organization to be the cherry on top of a rebuilding effort and push things into contention mode. Who will Rick Hahn & Co. bring in to play that role on the South Side?

The White Sox got a firsthand lesson in why such a player is a necessity, dominated in every sense by Verlander on Tuesday night in Houston. Verlander, who long tormented the White Sox when he played for the division-rival Tigers, took a no-hit bid into the seventh inning and finished with one run, one hit and one walk allowed in eight dazzling frames. Jose Abreu's solo homer that broke up the no-hitter in the seventh was the one moment on the evening in which Verlander looked human.

That's the kind of thing Verlander's been doing since the Astros traded for him during the 2017 season, which ended with them winning the World Series. They might do it again this year, the best team in baseball halfway through this four-game series against the White Sox. And he's a big reason they've stayed atop the list of championship contenders the last two years.

Verlander's acquisition was a little different than that of Lester on the North Side of Chicago. The Cubs needed to inject some legitimacy into their rebuilding project and got it by giving Lester, who knew Theo Epstein and his front office from the Boston days, a ton of money to top their rotation. The Astros needed a similar push from one of the game's best pitchers, and they got it by trading for Verlander in a waiver deal with the Tigers. But Verlander accomplished the same goal for the Astros that Lester did for the Cubs. Even in 2019, they're two of the more reliable arms around.

The White Sox might not be ready to vault into contention mode on Day 1 of the 2020 season. Michael Kopech's next start will be just his fifth as a big leaguer. Dylan Cease won't have much more than a month or two of big league experience. Eloy Jimenez has already missed a month of developmental time. Luis Robert will likely be getting his first taste of the majors.

But adding a Verlander type to that group could make a huge difference.

Now, Verlander is one of the best pitchers ever, plain and simple, a first-ballot Hall of Famer. To suggest that kind of pitcher will be available this offseason is perhaps unrealistic. Verlander was set to be among a loaded free-agent class before he signed an extension to stay with the Astros. He wasn't alone, and that thought-to-be-loaded free-agent class is now significantly less loaded. But there are still options, and perhaps more than ever a trade looks like it might be the way to go. If the White Sox do have a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher on their wish list, Verlander's teammate and Wednesday night's scheduled starter, Gerrit Cole, is on track to be among the available free agents.

So, too, is Madison Bumgarner, who more closely fits the mold of accomplished guys like Verlander and Lester. Bumgarner's got an unparalleled amount of postseason success, but he comes with plenty of questions, too. He pitched in just 38 combined games in 2017 and 2018, and while longevity hasn't been an issue this season — he's failed to go six innings in only one of his 10 starts — effectiveness has been an issue. He's got a 4.21 ERA through 62 innings. His highest single-season ERA prior to 2019 was 3.37 in 2012.

It doesn't have to be Bumgarner. And maybe it doesn't even have to be a pitcher. The White Sox have a list of potential starting-pitching options that includes Kopech, Cease, Reynaldo Lopez, Lucas Giolito, Dane Dunning and others. The Cubs and Astros couldn't craft rotations of homegrown players. The White Sox might be able to, though considering the injuries that have plagued those young arms and the current lack of major league ready starting-pitching depth, a big-time starting-pitching addition would really fortify things.

It could also add that kind of legitimacy that Lester brought to the Cubs. Get one big name to come aboard a still-emerging group, and that could draw more talent that could really kick things into high gear.

There might be no one way to do a successful rebuild, but if the White Sox want to follow the template the Astros and Cubs have used to win championships in recent years, a Verlander type would be a good way to go about doing that. The opportunity has to exist, but you'd have to imagine it's an opportunity the front office will be looking for this winter.

Certainly they're already motivated to do just that. Watching Verlander cut through their lineup Tuesday night should back that motivation up.

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Sports Talk Live Podcast: The White Sox are running out of starting pitchers. Should they bring up Dylan Cease now?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: The White Sox are running out of starting pitchers. Should they bring up Dylan Cease now?

Connor McKnight, Kevin Fishbain and Jay Cohen join Luke Stuckmeyer on the panel.

0:00- Ozzie Guillen joins the panel as the White Sox get ready to face the Astros. The guys discuss if there are any similarities between the Astros rebuild and the one the Sox are currently in.

4:00- The White Sox are running out of starting pitchers. Should they bring up Dylan Cease now?

7:00- Yu Darvish allowed 3 runs over six innings with 3 walks and 7 strikesouts. Is that considered a good start for him?

11:00- The Bears continue to unveil their top 100 players. Khalil Mack is 60th after just one season. The guys debate that and the fact that Jim McMahon is 32 spots ahead of Jay Cutler.

16:00- Scott Paddock joins Kap to talk about the fight in the NASCAR All-Star race and to preview a big few weeks at Chicagoland Speedway.

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

Sports Talk Live Podcast

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