White Sox

White Sox report card: Cutting down

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White Sox report card: Cutting down

Thursday, March 17, 2011
Posted 7:25 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. The Chicago White Sox opened camp with fewer players in the mix than in past years, so the fact that 15 players have moved out of the major league clubhouse means that time is getting tight for those remaining in the fight to head to Cleveland for April Fools Day.

There are 38 players remaining, but the big questions leftquestions that manager Ozzie Guillen claims will unlikely be made until the end of the monthare which of 15 players will fit into the final bench spot and as the 12th arm in the bullpen.

Fifteen players, two slots. Those are the long odds bubble players face when the big club goes All-In.

Stats are through games of March 16.

12th Bullpen Arm

Seven pitchers remain, and Guillen has recently added intrigue to the proceedings with his backing of Gregory Infante despite the righthanders 6.00 spring ERA. Heres a guide on how to handicap the arms race as time begins to run short in camp.

The Pick: Jeff Marquez

Marquez has pitched under the radar so far, using his wild streak (two hit batters, two wild pitches in 7 13 innings) to great effectiveness (10 Ks and a 0.00 ERA). The 26-year-old can be stretched out for more than an inning, a plus given the only multi-inning reliever guaranteed a spot in the pen in Tony Pena and his 4.91 spring ERA. Finally, some recompense for the abomination that was Nick Swisher.

Runners-Up: Phil Humber, Infante, Josh Kinney

Both pitchers had .258 batting averages against, and Humber has every right to the 12th spot as Marquez. But the former bonus baby has less of a wow factor with his arm than Marquez, and we know GM Ken Williams likes a power pen. Plus, the White Sox wouldnt mind seeing him devote his time to starting, in case there are any injuries in the five-man, big-league rotation.

Infante was crisp in his September audition in 2010 and has done nothing to hurt his chances of eventually being a short man in the White Sox pen. But he could use another year of seasoning after pitching nearly all of 2010 at Double-A Birmingham.

Kinney has been sharp in four spring outings, compiling a 1.80 ERA over five innings and a .278 batting average against, just not sharp enough to merit inclusion in the bullpen out of camp.

They Gone: Jeff Gray, Brian Bruney, Shane Lindsay

Gray got off to a splashy start with 1 13 innings of scoreless baseball in the White Sox opener, but has gone downhill since. Hes at 0-1 with a 7.36 ERA and a .333 average against. Wednesdays poor outing vs. the San Francisco Giants likely sealed his fate as one of the next wave of drops, likely coming on Friday.

Lindsay has been one of the most heartwarming stories of camp, a native Australian once knocked out for a year by shoulder problems. And Lindsay has impressed, to the tune of a 0.00 ERA until getting rocked for three runs in one inning on Thursday. But hes pitched in just three games, an indication that the team is not seriously looking at him to turn a strong few Cactus League weeks into a major-league roster spot.

Bruney started strong but also has been roughed up recently. Bruney has thrown better than Gray, with a 4.50 spring ERA, a save, and a terrific .217 batting average against. But thats not going to be good enough.

4th spot on the bench

There are eight players vying for this last bench spot alongside Ramon Castro, Mark Teahen, and Omar Vizquel. Whats sad, if not unsurprising, is that some of the best performers in camp come from this group of players, fighting for their major-league lives.
The Pick: Lastings Milledge

The pick could easily be at least five of the other seven players, but Milledge brings a wow factor to the White Sox that could prove crucial in the case of a prolonged slump or injury. The onetime first-rounder has proven nearly as sound defensively as Brent Lillibridge and Alejandro De Aza and is every bit the baserunner. He also brings more pop as evidenced by his pair of home runs on Thursday to bring his Cactus league total to four.
Lastings Milledge has displayed all of his "five-tool" potential that made him the top prospect of the New York Mets farm system only a few seasons ago. (AP)
Fundamentally (bunting), he might trail the competition, but the White Sox have enough bunters on the roster. It also helps that as the fifth outfielder (given that Teahen will likely see a healthy chunk of time spelling Carlos Quentin in right), Milledge balances the bench as a right-hander, which gives him an advantage over De Aza. Perhaps the biggest advantage Milledge has over the competition is five walks against five strikeoutsall of the other aspirant outfielders are much heavier on the Ks.

The Runners-Up: Tyler Flowers, Lillibridge, De Aza

If the Cactus League was a true, open competition, Flowers would not only break camp with the White Sox, hed probably start on Opening Day. But thats not the way the major leagues work, and Flowers largely disappointing 2010 necessitated the return of both A.J. Pierzynski and Ramon Castro. The 25-year-old has proven worthy with his glove and arm, and the White Sox staff is really impressed with his maturity, especially in calling a game. But Flowers calling card has always been his lumber, and with a 1.233 OPS this spring, hes been mashing beyond expectations.

For his defensive flexibility alone, Id tabbed Lillibridge as the 25th man, but the reemergence of Teahen and continued strong play of veteran Vizquel has minimized such flexibility as a pressing need. Lillibridge has an outrageous eight RBI already on the spring, but hes not going to be looked to as a run producer. A .772 OPS isnt horrible, but two walks against seven strikeouts is not what the Chicago coaching staff is looking for.

De Aza is a Guillen favorite, and he does a little bit of everything well, with wheels of fire. But again, plate discipline is a key for the little guys, and De Aza is walking just once for every five Ks.

They Gone: Donny Lucy, Dallas McPherson

Lucy is the catching equivalent of Jim Gallagher for the White Sox, an everyman who just puts his head down and does his job each day. His bat has cooled, but with Flowers raking, hes no better than fourth on the catching depth chart anyway.

McPherson was an extreme insurance policy, in case both Brent Morel and Teahen disappeared in a windstorm. The 30-year-old veteran impressed Guillen early in camp, but slowed considerably after the first week. He has an unimpressive 10 Ks in 13 gamesyoure only allowed rates like that if you can launch moon shots like Paul Konerko or Adam Dunn.
Wild Cards: Jordan Danks, Dayan Viciedo

Before breaking his thumb last week, Viciedo was perhaps the biggest surprise of camp so far, with surprisingly intuitive defense in right field and continued stop-what-youre-doing-and-watch pop at the plate (.500.478). Thankfully he is back to baseball activity and could be ready to hit the field about the time the team breaks camp. That means ifwhen Quentin is hurt this season, Viciedo has earned the first look as his medium-to-long-term replacement.

Danks even has owner Jerry Reinsdorfs attention as an up-and-comer. He had every right to have been moved out of major league camp one or two cuts earlier, and Danks isnt just hanging around because his big brother is an easygoing lefty ace named John.

Like Viciedo, Danks isnt big on patienceone walk in his first 20 at-batsbut his revamped swing also has yielded just four Ks in that time as well. Danks has pop and catches everything launched his way. Charlotte is going to have fun watching an outfield of Stefan Gartrell, Danks, and Viciedo this summer.

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

Aaron Bummer latest to join big White Sox contingent on injured list

Aaron Bummer latest to join big White Sox contingent on injured list

In the last eight days, the White Sox have put four players on the injured list.

Aaron Bummer, arguably the team's best and most important relief pitcher, became the latest to join the sizable contingent of banged-up South Siders when the team sent him to the 10-day injured list Saturday morning with a biceps strain.

Bummer departed Friday night's game against the Cleveland Indians with biceps soreness after noticing something was amiss when he threw a pitch in the seventh inning. That pitch was immediately preceded by a throwing error, Bummer spiking a throw to first base into the ground and putting two men on base with two outs. Bummer got a visit from the trainer and left shortly thereafter.

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The 26-year-old lefty emerged as a key cog in the White Sox bullpen with an excellent 2019 campaign, posting a 2.13 ERA in 67.2 innings of work. He's off to a similarly terrific start this season, with a 1.23 ERA in 7.1 innings.

The White Sox added Bummer to the group of young players they've locked up with long-term contracts in the last few seasons, and after getting that deal in spring training, he's under team control through the 2026 season.

Without him, manager Rick Renteria will have to turn to other options for high-leverage situations. Closer Alex Colomé, as well as Evan Marshall and Jimmy Cordero, have been strong in continuing their late-inning roles from a season ago. Rookie Codi Heuer and veteran Ross Detwiler have also been mighty impressive as part of a generally strong White Sox relief corps so far this season, and both could see more action in higher leverage spots.

Bummer's injury adds to a lengthy list for the White Sox. The team has 40 percent of its Opening Day starting rotation on the injured list along with its starting middle infield and top relief arm.

The injury updates from general manager Rick Hahn earlier this week were relatively positive, and none of the current injuries — aside from that of young pitcher Jimmy Lambert — seem to be of the long-term variety. However, in a season such as this one, which is already more than 23 percent over and done with, even missing the minimum 10 days of an injured-list stay is akin to missing a month during a normal campaign.

RELATED: White Sox in the thick of it as AL Central race with Indians, Twins heats up

Per Hahn, injured starting pitchers Carlos Rodón and Reynaldo López, both on the IL with shoulder soreness, could be back in the next few weeks. Shortstop Tim Anderson, put on the injured list last weekend with a groin strain, is expected back when his 10 days are up in the coming days. Second baseman Nick Madrigal, whose Tuesday-night shoulder separation looked like it could have been something significantly worse, could be back in action in just a couple weeks. And designated hitter Edwin Encarnación, who also left Tuesday night's game early, missed an IL trip altogether, even though he remains out of the lineup for a fourth straight day with SC joint inflammation.

And now Bummer. It's a long list of maladies for these White Sox, worrisome in any scenario but perhaps more costly in a short season in which numerous players talked about staying healthy as a hopeful competitive advantage. But the White Sox are certainly not the only major league team bitten by the injury bug through the first couple weeks of this most unusual season, the months-long layoff and a brief ramp-up period before Opening Day figuring to have something to do with that.

The White Sox, expectedly, will continue to soldier on with pro sports teams' favorite mentality: next man up. The team called on a pair of arms from its alternate training site in Schaumburg, bringing local favorite and 2016 first-round draft pick Zack Burdi to the major leagues, along with Drew Anderson. The bullpen churn also saw the White Sox designate Brady Lail for assignment Saturday morning.


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White Sox in the thick of it as AL Central race with Indians, Twins heats up

White Sox in the thick of it as AL Central race with Indians, Twins heats up

This AL Central race is going to be fun.

It looked like the Minnesota Twins might have blitzed right past the White Sox in the season’s first weekend, issuing a 14-2 clubbing on their way out of Chicago in the decisive third game of that series. The White Sox went on to Northeast Ohio and dropped the first two of that three-game set against the Cleveland Indians, and a 1-4 start threw some chilly Great Lakes water on the preseason thought of the South Siders running with the class of the division in this season’s 60-game sprint to October.

But the White Sox turned their 1-4 start around with a six-game win streak. And after a 2-0 nail-biter of a win over the Indians on Friday night that reshuffled the standings, the Pale Hose have now won their last five games against division foes, including a pair against these Clevelanders.

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The intensity’s been there all week. After a sweep of the Kansas City Royals, the first three of the White Sox four games against the Milwaukee Brewers had a distinct playoff-style feel to them, well pitched, closely decided contests that struck as the most intense games the White Sox have played in years.

Be it the compressed nature of this season’s schedule or the fact that these White Sox are finally equipped to compete for a division title, this is unlike anything that’s graced the South Side in some time.

“We're treating every game like a must-win,” White Sox starting pitcher Dylan Cease said Friday night. “These games definitely don't have the same feeling as Game 15 of a 162-game season. We're coming to the ballpark to win every day."

When it comes to the Twins, atop the Central standings with 10 wins — one of only two major league squads to hit double digits to this point, even with back-to-back defeats at the hands of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Royals — it seems the White Sox will have to win a few more home run derbies the likes of which we saw in that opening weekend.

But runs have been somewhat scarce for the White Sox after they scored a combined 20 runs and banged out a total of 35 hits in winning the final two games of that series last weekend in Kansas City. They’ve scored just eight times in their last four games combined. There’s more than one way to win a game, of course, and as injuries continue to make the White Sox dugout look like the Tune Squad bench late in that game against the Monstars, the South Siders have figured out a few others besides blowing up the scoreboard.

Friday night’s playoff feel brought the Indians’ sensational pitching staff to Guaranteed Rate Field, and Aaron Civale was just about as good as he was against the White Sox last week in Cleveland. He didn’t pile up the strikeouts this time, but he still pitched seven innings of one-run ball, the lone run he gave up coming home on a first-inning double-play grounder.

Cease, somewhat miraculously, countered with five shutout innings of his own despite putting nearly the entire city of Cleveland on base. He walked five guys, including issuing four leadoff walks, hit another and allowed a couple of hits. Thankfully for Cease and the White Sox, though, he also came up with multiple clutch, inning-ending double-play balls, and the defense was excellent behind him and a trio of relievers, the first two of which had as much trouble keeping the bases clear as Cease did.

You want playoff-style drama? Scatter the bases with potential runs every inning and watch the pitchers dance their way out of one jam after another.

RELATED: White Sox confident Eloy Jiménez will improve defense after outfield miscue

That’s not going to fly on a regular basis, obviously, but it sure made for some heart-pounding baseball, which is — as anyone who was pulling double duty with playoff hockey Friday night knows — fun.

“I can't expect those kinds of results if I'm going to have that many base runners all the time,” Cease said. “Fortunately, we were able to get out of here with a 'W,' but it's not something that's going to be sustainable. So I have to do a better job of getting ahead and not doing that.”

The onslaught of high-caliber Cleveland pitching continues the rest of the weekend, and who knows if the White Sox will be able to solve it as they barely did Friday. Zach Plesac, who stymied the White Sox with 11 strikeouts in eight shutout innings last week, is up Saturday. Then it’s a heck of a pitching matchup Sunday, with Lucas Giolito facing off against current AL Cy Young front-runner Shane Bieber, who’s struck out 35 hitters in his first three starts of the season.

That game ought to be another dandy, and with a frequently showcased rivalry between the Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals waved off this weekend, the White Sox will step into the nationally televised spotlight Sunday night, the perfect spot for such a pitching matchup and a division race that’s heating up like this one is. The White Sox swapped spots with the Indians on Friday, into second place and two games back of the Twins. The Indians are just two and a half games behind the division leaders.

“Both of those teams are very good clubs,” White Sox outfielder Adam Engel said of the Twins and Indians. “Two totally different makeups, they win games differently. We have a pretty balanced attack ourselves. It’s fun playing good baseball against good teams.

“The Indians, it seems like every time they come to town or we go to Cleveland, we are facing some pretty good arms. Makes it fun. You just have to stay disciplined, stay really focused in your work. It always feels like you’re going to be part of a good baseball game.

“Those are two tough teams, and hopefully we can keep playing them well.”

RELATED: Rick Renteria: Tim Anderson, not Luis Robert, will be White Sox leadoff man

Obviously, everything’s felt different this season. There are no fans in the stands, COVID-19 is constantly threatening the completion of the campaign, and a brief ramp up to Opening Day has made for a high number of injuries across the league.

But there’s a different feeling on the South Side, too, for much more positive reasons. This team has been talking about its high expectations for months, and they’ve got a roster that looks capable of living up to them. While an expanded playoff field gives the White Sox a pretty good chance of reaching the postseason, they’ve still got their eyes on the biggest prizes, and the first one of those is the Central crown.

They’ve played just 14 games. But it sure feels like a pennant race.

“I don’t remember ever really watching scoreboards so closely as a team through the first couple of weeks in the season,” Engel said. “We come in off the field and we want to see what’s going on around the league, or we’re announcing what scores are postgame for different teams. You control what you can control, and you want to win as many games as you can. But we’re all keeping our eyes on the scoreboard, and I’m sure it’s like that league-wide.

“Everybody kind of feels like they’re in it right now, and 60 games, this is going to be a heck of a season. I’m excited that we’re playing good baseball right now. Hopefully we can keep it going.”


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