White Sox

White Sox Notes, Nonsense: Where are they now?

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White Sox Notes, Nonsense: Where are they now?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Posted: 2:53 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

CHICAGO With a number of ex-Chicago White Sox turning up on the transaction wires as spring training camps broke, lets catch up on where some former Pale Hose are plying their wares:

Jose Contreras has just been named the closer in Philadelphia, as Phillies closer Brad Lidge has succumbed to a partially torn rotator cuff and will miss up to six weeks. Contreras is the rare pitcher whos found success outside of the White Sox and their pitching guru Don Cooper (although to be fair, it was Cooper who rescued Contreras career on at least a couple of occasions). With the Colorado Rockies in 2009 and Phillies last season, Contreras has, improbably, turned into a formidable reliever, starting just two of 74 games and notching four saves. His ERA since leaving Chicago is 2.58, compared to a healthy 4.66 in six seasons on the South Side.

In less sunny White Sox ex-pitcher news, J.J. Putz delayed the opening of his spring training work as the new Arizona Diamondbacks closerretiring just four batters in Cactus League actionwhile battling back stiffness. He had a so-so final tune-up against a Mexican League club Tuesday, recording three strikeouts but also allowing three baserunners and a run, with his fastball topping out at just 93 mph. Putz wasnt great with save opportunities a year ago, with far south of a 50 success rate, and that was when he was apparently healthy for much of the summer. He would have been better suited setting up or alternating save opportunities with best buddy Matt Thornton here in Chicago.
More from Ballantini: Konerko, not always the King?

Is it possible that Freddy Garcia refused to enter 2011 as a prospective White Sox long reliever, then changed his tune in Gotham, when he came close to being cut from the New York Yankees? Garcia and the White Sox were always a perfect match, and while the muculent hurler appeared to be squeezed out by a White Sox rotation that numbered six in the offseason, he signed on in New Yorkand a coaching staff unversed in treating him, both physically and emotionallyfor just 500,000 more than he made in Chicago during his resurgent 2010 campaign. Garcia did finish spring strong, allowing a run on four hits, with two walks and three strikeouts in 4 23 innings Tuesday in a win over the Detroit Tigers, but expect a scary summer from Sweaty Freddy under the bright lights of the big city.

Jon Garland, plying his wares as somewhat of a journeyman pitcher since being dealt from the White Sox to the Los Angeles Angels for Orlando Cabrera in 2007, signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers but will miss Opening Day with a strained oblique muscle. Garland is now 131-114 over 11 major league seasons, with a 4.32 overall ERA thats a touch lower than his 4.41 ERA over eight seasons in Chicago.

Jayson Nix, who scraped his way onto the 2010 White Sox before getting cut loose and left for the Cleveland Indians to employ, was dealt from the Wahoos to the Toronto Blue Jays, where Nix will occupy his perpetual bench spot. The 28-year-old put up a .677 OPS for the two teams last year, occasionally flashing say-what power but mostly being mediocre.

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Once a rising star for the White Sox, John Shelby was dealt to the Tampa Rays for future considerations. Shelby regressed last year at AA Birmingham, with a .705 OPS and just 15 steals in 440 plate appearances. In five seasonsnone above AA, Shelby put up a .785 OPS and compiled 105 steals.

On a similar note, former first-rounder Kyle McCulloch was sold to the Cincinnati Reds. The Texans five seasons were considerably less productive for the White Sox, going 33-40 with a 4.54 ERA and 1.48 WHIP. In his last-gasp season at AAA Charlotte, McCulloch put up a 5.94 ERA in 24 games.

Fan favorite Joe Crede had signed with the Rockies in February, but opted not to report to spring training, so hes a free agent, likely battling some form of back trouble, and looking forward to a new season of University of Missouri basketball hoops this winter.

Josh Fields, forever a part of White Sox lore for his grand slam to provide Mark Buehrle all the cushion he needed in his 2009 perfect game vs. the Rays, has bounced from the Pittsburgh Pirates to the Rockies, who are apparently bent on collecting Chicagos hot corner castoffs. Fields was dealt to Kansas City in the Mark Teahen trade two Novembers ago, and hit three homers in 13 games with the Royals while battling injury all season. Fields caught on with the Pittsburgh as a free agent, but failed to break camp with the Pirates.
READ: Who could the White Sox least afford to lose?

The other half of that Teahen trade, Chris Getz, is faring much better for the Royals. The 25-year-old is basically Kansas Citys Gordon Beckham, batting second (vs. righties, at least) and playing second. Of course, thats where the comparisons end, as Getz played only about half the time for the Royals a season ago, compiling a beyond-paltry .579 OPS.

And finally, Kip Wells, a key component of the worst trade Ken Williams has made as GM of the White Sox, has caught on with the Diamondbacks after last pitching for the Long Island Ducks of the Independent Atlantic League. Wells had been cut by Cincinnati prior to the 2010 season, and put up a 4.00 ERA in 27 innings in the northeast. Wells, who owns a 4.71 career ERA over 11 seasons, was dealt to the Pirates along with Josh Fogg and Sean Lowe for Todd Ritchie. None of the three pitchers dealt went on to superstardom, but Ritchie was so abominable in 2002 in Chicago (5-15, 6.06 ERA) that he would never pitch in the majors again.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute White Sox information.

Michael Kopech hasn't had a good June, but that hasn't changed White Sox optimism regarding top pitching prospect

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AP

Michael Kopech hasn't had a good June, but that hasn't changed White Sox optimism regarding top pitching prospect

It wasn’t long ago that the question was: “Why isn’t Michael Kopech pitching in the major leagues?”

The question is now firmly: “What’s wrong with Michael Kopech?”

The new script is of course a reflection of how quickly opinions change during a baseball season, when “what have you done for me lately?” tends to drive the conversation more than looking at the entire body of work.

But the body of work doesn’t look too awesome for the White Sox top-ranked pitching prospect these days. He carries a 5.08 ERA through 14 starts with Triple-A Charlotte. But it’s the recent struggles that have folks second guessing whether he’s ready for the big leagues.

The month of June hasn’t gone well for Kopech, who has a 9.00 ERA in four starts this month. That features two especially ugly outings, when he allowed seven runs in two innings and five runs in three outings. But for a guy who’s got blow-em-away stuff, it’s the walks that are of the utmost concern to box-score readers: He’s got 21 of them in 16 innings over his last four starts. That’s compared to 20 strikeouts.

More walks than strikeouts is never a good thing, and it’s been a glaring bugaboo for White Sox pitchers at the major league level all season. Kopech wasn’t having that problem when this season started out. He struck out 68 batters and walked only 25 over his first 10 starts. But things have changed.

With director of player development Chris Getz on the horn Thursday to talk about all of the promotions throughout the minor league system, he was asked about Kopech and pointed to Wednesday’s outing, which lasted only five innings and featured four more walks. But Kopech only allowed two earned runs, and Getz called it a good outing.

“Last night I was really happy with what he was able to do, and that’s really in comparison looking at his last probably four outings or so,” Getz said. “He did have a little bit of a hiccup, getting a little erratic. He was getting a little quick in his delivery, his lower half wasn’t picking up with his upper half. The command of his pitches was not there.

“But last night, although the line is not the best line that we’ve seen of Michael this year, it was still a very good outing. He was in the zone, commanding the fastball. His body was under control. He threw some good breaking pitches, a couple of good changeups. He was back to being the competitor we are accustomed to. We are hoping to build off of this outing. I know he’s feeling good about where he’s at from last night and we’ll just kind of go from there.”

It’s important to note, of course, that the White Sox are often looking for things that can’t be read in a box score. So when we see a lot of walks or a lot of hits or a small amount of strikeouts, that doesn’t tell the whole story nor does it count as everything the decision makers in the organization are looking at.

Still, this is development and growth in action — and perhaps a sign that the White Sox have been right in not yet deeming Kopech ready for the majors. Kopech perhaps needs the time at Triple-A to work through these issues rather than be thrown into a big league fire.

As for how these struggles will affect his timeline, that remains to be seen. The White Sox aren’t ruling anything out, not promising that he’ll be on the South Side before the end of this season but certainly not ruling it out either.

“If he builds off of what he did last night, commanding his fastball, his breaking pitches continue to kind of define themselves, I think we’ve got a chance to see him,” Getz said. “He’s going to find his way to the big leagues. He’s going to be an impact frontline type starter. I’m very confident in that.

“Now just like a lot of great players, sometimes it’s a meandering path. And to say that he’s gone off track is not fair because it’s only been a couple of outings. I think he’s in a really good spot. If he builds off of this, I don’t think it’s unfair to think he’ll be up here at some point.”

Dylan Cease promoted to Double-A as he continues to impress White Sox: 'He's more or less forced our hand'

Dylan Cease promoted to Double-A as he continues to impress White Sox: 'He's more or less forced our hand'

Rick Hahn’s been saying it all year: The good ones have a way of forcing the issue.

Consider Dylan Cease one of the good ones.

The pitcher acquired alongside top-ranked prospect Eloy Jimenez in last summer’s crosstown trade with the Cubs was one of the more than a dozen players promoted within the White Sox farm system Thursday. He put up stellar numbers during the first half with Class A Winston-Salem and because of it is on his way to Double-A Birmingham.

While many rebuild-loving fans could’ve forecasted Jimenez’s rapid journey through the organization, Cease’s acceleration is one that even the White Sox are considering a “pleasant surprise.”

“There’s definitely been some pleasant surprises,” Chris Getz, the White Sox director of player development, said Thursday. “For one, I think Dylan Cease was a guy, heading into the season, his first full year with us, the focus was: every fifth day, a full season’s worth of innings. He’s more or less forced our hand.

“He's really come on, he’s pitching with four pitches, four plus pitches, he’s commanding the ball, very mature kid. And he’s certainly ready for the next challenge at Double-A.”

Cease turned in a 2.89 ERA in his 13 starts with Winston-Salem, striking out 82 batters in 71.2 innings. Considering he made just 25 starts above Rookie ball during his time in the Cubs’ organization, the dominance in his first taste of High A is quite the positive for the White Sox.

The team’s starting rotation of the future is a mighty crowded one, with roughly a dozen different guys competing for those spots: current big leaguers Carlos Rodon, Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito; Triple-A arms Michael Kopech, Carson Fulmer, Jordan Stephens and Spencer Adams; Double-A hurlers Cease, Alec Hansen and Dane Dunning; and Class A pitchers Lincoln Henzman and Blake Battenfield, both of whom earned their own promotions Thursday.

There’s a lot of time before the White Sox have to settle on which five will make up that future starting staff. But Cease could be doing the work of making a name for himself, something that hasn’t been easy to do. With all the love he’s getting, he’s still the organization’s fourth-ranked pitching prospect. Heck, thanks to Jimenez, he wasn’t the top-ranked guy in his own trade.

But Cease is getting attention now, and if he keeps pitching like this, he could keep forcing the White Sox hand.