Jake Petricka

Another trade candidate in the bullpen? Dan Jennings is next man up for White Sox in more ways than one

Another trade candidate in the bullpen? Dan Jennings is next man up for White Sox in more ways than one

Dan Jennings is the next man up for the White Sox.

On a couple different fronts.

Most logically, Jennings is the next person — along with the recently returned Jake Petricka — to slide into a late-inning role for a team that’s traded away three late-inning relievers in eight days. The White Sox trades of David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle to the New York Yankees and Anthony Swarzak to the Milwaukee Brewers has cleared the way for Jennings and Petricka to be the new late-game arms for the South Siders.

But that’s not all, as Jennings could also soon find his name on the transactions page, another piece of what was a pretty stellar relief corps that could entice contenders. If the White Sox make yet another move before Monday’s trade deadline, it’s possible it could include Jennings.

“You really try to push that out of your head,” Jennings said of trade buzz. “I mean, I’ve been traded once before, totally unexpected. You really try to push that to the side. Even if you get traded or you’re here, it’s still the same game. It’s still pitching, and I’ve always taken pride in taking the ball whenever, in any situation. I just hope to continue to do that.”

Jennings’ season ERA of 3.45 might not have impressed the same way those of Robertson, Swarzak and Kahnle did before they left town. But Jennings has been just as impressive of late, posting a 2.25 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 24 innings of work since June 6. That’s just six earned runs in his last 23 appearances, with opposing batters turning in just a .491 OPS against him during that stretch.

“I don’t think they tell the whole picture,” Jennings said of those season-long numbers. “I had a few outings where I felt like I threw the ball really well and the result didn’t dictate that. It’s all about how you feel throwing the ball, if you’re keeping the ball down, if you’re throwing strikes. Sometimes in this game it’s funny where it doesn’t necessarily work out in your favor despite how you throw the ball. I do feel like I’ve been throwing the ball well for a while now. You hope the results match that, but sometimes they don’t and you’ve just got to keep plugging away.”

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With plenty of contending teams looking for bullpen help, perhaps Rick Hahn can squeeze one more rebuild-centered acquisition out of a buyer in exchange for another bullpen arm.

Jennings, though, could also stay on the South Side and be a featured player in what is now a mighty different-looking bullpen. Petricka, just off the DL, as well as Tyler Clippard, acquired in that trade with the Yankees, figure to make up the new White Sox late-inning unit.

Jennings has a pretty good track record including a 2.08 ERA in 64 games last season with the White Sox and a 1.34 ERA in 47 games with the Miami Marlins in 2014. Petricka, meanwhile, converted 14 saves in 18 opportunities doing time as the White Sox closer in 2014.

“Everyone wants to pitch in that eighth, ninth inning,” Petricka said. “No matter how it comes about, you’re excited for it. So if my name’s called, I’ll be ready.”

The reason for those opportunities, the moves that have already been made and the continued trade rumors is that the White Sox bullpen has been very strong this season. Four guys turning in good performances has meant the White Sox have been able to strengthen their rebuilding effort. It could happen one more time, too.

“I think everybody knew we had the pieces,” Jennings said. “We’ve always had the guys. Since I’ve been here, since Day 1, we’ve had the guys. We knew we had a lot of talent in this room, and that is a good thing. Obviously, other teams want that talent and it’s unfortunate again to see friends and teammates go, but that’s the nature of this game.”

Is David Robertson's absence a preview of what's to come for White Sox?

Is David Robertson's absence a preview of what's to come for White Sox?

OAKLAND, Calif. -- In what could be a preview of the near future for the White Sox, David Robertson is off three days to attend the birth of his second child.

One of the team’s most sought after assets, the veteran closer was placed on the paternity list before Monday's 7-2 win over the Oakland A's and isn’t likely to rejoin until the White Sox reach Denver on Friday.

For now, the White Sox coaching staff must determine how to survive for three games without Robertson, who has provided stability to the back end of the bullpen. But if all goes according to plan, the White Sox could be in search of a new closer sometime later this month when Robertson is dealt to the highest bidder.

While the White Sox have several interesting internal options to fill the void -- and having a bonafide closer shouldn’t be a priority for a rebuilding club -- the lack of an anchor could leave the rest of the team’s bullpen in disarray. That’s a position the team has been in twice in the last decade, most recently in 2014, which led to Robertson signing a four-year, $46-million deal the following offseason.

“It’s no fun,” pitching coach Don Cooper said. “When you lose a guy or two or when a guy can’t handle his job there’s more asked of others, there’s more put on another guy’s plate.”

You don’t have to look very far back to recall a similar predicament.

After Addison Reed was traded, the White Sox went into 2014 with Matt Lindstrom as their closer with the hope that either Nate Jones, Daniel Webb or another young arm would emerge as the eventual replacement.

Lindstrom got the first shot and kept his head above water until he suffered a devastating ankle injury in May. That’s when the job went to Ronald Belisario, who excelled in the eighth inning but couldn’t handle the ninth.

Meanwhile, what began as a sore gluteal muscle injury for Jones eventually resulted in back surgery. During his recovery, Jones’ elbow blew out and he required Tommy John surgery. Webb never panned out and the position remained unstable until Jake Petricka and Zach Putnam -- both of whom are now injured -- pitched well over the final two months. By then it was too late for the White Sox, who briefly flirted with a run at the second wild card spot before the bullpen collapsed around the same time Frank Thomas was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

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“It was a crazy year,” Petricka said. “It was a fun year. It’s what you always dream of and normally it takes years to get there. I was kind of in the right place at the wrong time. You don’t want injuries, but when injuries happen there’s an opportunity for somebody else and me and Putnam obviously were the beneficiaries of the opportunities. We both did real well, but now we’re fighting through our own injuries.”

Without Robertson, the 2017 bullpen could suffer a similar fate. Having suffered a rash of injuries and a heavy workload, the current unit has hung on by a thread in the first half only because of the performances of Robertson, Tommy Kahnle and Anthony Swarzak, who also could be dealt to a contender in July.

If he’s healthy, some scouts thought in late 2016 that Jones and his nasty fastball/slider combo had the potential makings of a lower-tier closer. Though he’s made enough progress to travel with the club for the first time in three road trips, Jones hasn’t thrown off a mound in more than a month. Meanwhile, Putnam is out for the season and Petricka was placed on the disabled list again only last week with a right elbow strain.

In the midst of a breakout season, Kahnle has some experience as a closer having temporarily handled the role with the Rockies in 2014 and 2015. Kahnle entered Monday having struck out 55 batters and walked seven in 32 2/3 innings with a 2.20 ERA.

“It would be easy to slot Kahnle into the ninth inning if we wanted to,” manager Rick Renteria said. “As the game progresses we might have to match up. We’ll see how it goes as we move forward.

“Great opportunity. Absolutely. There’s no apprehension on our part to use him in that role. None whatsoever.”

But if Kahnle’s promoted, the White Sox would then be in need of a setup man. The White Sox also are trying to manage the right-hander’s workload

Zack Burdi, the team’s 2016 first-rounder, is as good of an option as any within the organization to step up and fill the void. But, his promotion would come with a learning curve.

Either way it would seem the White Sox could have some trying times ahead.

“(In 2014) we had to try and shuffle the deck and go with Belisario,” Cooper said. “I thought he was doing a good job where he was in the eighth and it goes to show you in the ninth he couldn’t handle it.

“As far as the future goes, I don’t know what people are thinking about who’s in the cards for us, who’s here or not. But we’re trying to win games.” 

Jose Abreu injured as White Sox fall to Indians

Jose Abreu injured as White Sox fall to Indians

CLEVELAND -- The White Sox may have suffered a bigger loss than just the ballgame on Friday night.

José Abreu exited Friday's contest at Progressive Field in the seventh inning with a bruised left leg after he was struck by a pitch near his knee. The first baseman is listed as day-to-day but wasn’t around to see the White Sox fall for the sixth time in seven games on their current road trip. They dropped a 7-3 decision to the Cleveland Indians 7-3 in front of 30,043. Miguel Gonzalez allowed four earned runs in 4 2/3 innings for the White Sox, who are a season-worst nine games below .500. 

“(Abreu) got hit pretty good but he’s going to be OK,” manager Rick Renteria said. “We’ll know how he is in the morning, but he’s fairly confident he’ll be OK. It got mostly muscle, just below the left knee. He’s got pretty big legs. The swelling is almost non-existent. This will truthfully be a day-to-day type.

“He’s pretty pain tolerant. That was pretty impactful. I think it just caught him, he couldn’t get away from it.”

Abreu received treatment after he left the game but didn’t require an X-ray, Renteria said.

The team announced the 2014 All-Star would be re-evaluated on Saturday. But Abreu looked to be in a lot of pain after Indians reliever Andrew Miller plunked him. Abreu fell to her ground for at least a minute and then hobbled to his feet. He appeared not to be able to put any weight on his left leg and was helped off the field by trainer Herm Schneider and Renteria.

Abreu had been involved in a pair of earlier White Sox rallies that allowed them to take the lead twice. Melky Cabrera tied the score at 1 in the third inning with an RBI single and Abreu walked and scored on Todd Frazier's two-out single.

Abreu also had a sac fly in the fifth inning to give the White Sox a 3-2 lead. 

Gonzalez couldn't hold either lead. He walked in a run in the fourth to force in a run before stranding the bases loaded. Gonzalez's next walk set up a two-out rally in the fifth inning that allowed the Indians to pull ahead for good. Carlos Santana walked with two outs before Edwin Encarnacion ripped a two-run shot to put the Indians ahead 4-3. Gonzalez yielded six hits and walked four batters in 4 2/3 innings.

“Just need to stay focused, keep working, and minimize those walks,” Gonzalez said. “There was what? Four two-out walks? That can't happen. That's not me. I got to change that. That's about it.”

Cleveland rallied for three eighth-inning runs on four hits against reliever Jake Petricka.