Dylan Covey

Dylan Covey attempting to right the ship via mechanics and mentality

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USA TODAY

Dylan Covey attempting to right the ship via mechanics and mentality

It was only a couple of months ago that Dylan Covey had an earned-run average of 2.22 and was being touted as a possible future stalwart in the White Sox rotation.

Fast forward to the present, when the 27-year-old right-hander is sitting on a four-game losing skid and sports a 6.06 ERA.

So what happened?

Location, location, location.

Covey has struggled to keep the ball down in the zone and has paid the price as hitters are teeing off on the high offerings.

“I just kind of got away from trying to keep the ball down in the zone and have that be my main focus,” Covey said. “Sometimes when I’m up in the zone I’m trying to be up there, but I need to get back to my bread and butter, which is pretty much being down in the zone with everything.”

The issues have been a combination of mechanics and mentality, according to Covey.

“Having good mechanics will lead to getting the ball down into the zone but more so it’s having the focus be down in the zone,” he said.

Covey’s next attempt to right the ship will be Saturday when he’s scheduled to pitch against the Royals at Guaranteed Rate Field. Despite his struggles, which include a 1-6 record and 7.71 ERA in his last seven starts, manager Rick Renteria has continued to give Covey the ball.

“I’ve kind of been given the luxury to have a couple of opportunities and I appreciate that,” Covey said. “They see me work and they see the stuff that I have. When I can harness it and get control of it, it can be pretty good.”

Renteria said the Sox are “confident and hopeful” that Covey can turn things around.

“In real terms, he’s the one that's got to do it,” Renteria added. “He’s worked and gained a lot of experience and knowledge and had some successes this year that I think will bode well for him. Getting it down, for him is really, really important because the ball has a lot of tremendous action below the zone. We need him to do that in order to be effective and we believe he will continue to progress in that regard.”

Covey said that a stretch from May 23-June 13 when he went 4-0 with a 1.53 ERA gave him the confidence he needs to get through this difficult stretch.

“I’ve seen it this year--I’ve had the success,” Covey said. “When things are working for me I know I can be a really good pitcher. I just need to limit the mistakes and then learn to make an adjustment sooner rather than later.”

With about six weeks remaining in the Sox’s season, Covey plans to use his opportunities on the mound to secure a place on the 2019 roster.

“That’s where a lot of guys on this team are,” Covey said. “Obviously, we want to win games right now but for me, I want to finish this season strong and get some momentum going into next year and leave off on a good note. Just to have that feeling of, ‘OK, this is what I did last year and how I finished and let’s just carry on from there and pick it up from where I left off.’”

Who knew? Chicago's weekend in walkoffs

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USA TODAY

Who knew? Chicago's weekend in walkoffs

A weekend wrapup in Chicago baseball in several bulletpoints

  • Friday night, Carlos Rodón continued his excellent run with 8 scoreless innings against the divisionleading Indians. His 1.27 ERA since July 1 leads the Majors among the 91 pitchers with at least 35 innings over that span. 
  • Unfortunately, Jon Lester is 91st out of those 91 pitchers with an 8.01 ERA in 39.1 IP over that span
  • Also unfortunately, Dylan Covey is tied for 89th (with Clayton Richard) out of 91 with a 7.71 ERA in 35 innings over that same span.

 

The biggest White Sox story of the weekend was arguably Jim Thome Night on Saturday. The Sox slugger made a nice speech and joined Jason & Steve in the booth during the game. 

  • Thome had 612 career home runs. That’s roughly 41.7 miles of baserunning. Which is about the distance from Chicago to Aurora.
  • Thome’s 612 career HR are the most of anyone born in Illinois (Thome was born in Peoria). The next highest total is 360 by Centralia’s Gary Gaetti. The gap of 252 career home runs between Thome and Gaetti is one more than the career total of Robin Yount (251 career HR), who was born in Danville.
  • Thome had enough home runs in an Indians uniform (337) to be their franchise leader. If you subtracted those from his career total, he still had 275, which is the amount of career home runs Roger Maris had.

 

The biggest White Sox story on the playing field over the weekend was Daniel Palka’s walkoff HR to give the White Sox a 1-0 win.

  • Palka’s blast was the second walkoff HR in White Sox history to break a scoreless tie. The other one was Sept. 14, 1967, by Don Buford (also against the Indians), but it was a 10th inning grand slam. If you like walkoff grand slams, keep on reading…
  • Palka’s walkoff HR was the first in White Sox history to win a game by a 10 score.
  • Palka is also the only player in White Sox history to strike out three times (as he did Friday) and hit a walkoff home run in the same game.
  • Palka’s 18 home runs ties him with Gleyber Torres for the American League lead among rookies this season.
  • Palka’s 18 home runs are tied with Jeff Liefer (2001) & Carlos May (1969) for second in White Sox history (behind Pete Ward’s 22 in 1963) among left handed rookies.
  • Palka’s 18 home runs since making his MLB Debut on April 25 is 4 more than any other White Sox hitter.
  • Adam Engel over a 7-day span robbed 7 runs worth of home runs – Greg Bird (with 2 runners on) Monday, Kyle Higashioka Tuesday, Yonder Alonso (with 2 runners on) Sunday. He even added a solo HR of his own in the same inning on Sunday. It’s particularly amazing given that the Sox were off Thursday, Engel played only one inning in the field on Friday, and he didn’t play on Saturday.
  • The Cubs won a game on Friday where their starter (Kyle Hendricks) allowed 8 hits in 6 innings, and the opposing starter (Jeremy Hellickson) allowed no hits in 5.2 innings.
  • Tyler Chatwood pitched three scoreless innings on Saturday, with 2 walks and 2 strikeouts. Chatwood has 8.13 walks per 9 innings and 7.68 strikeouts per 9 innings this season in 99.2 innings. The last pitcher to do that in at least 50 innings? Former Cub Carlos Marmol (7.32 BB/9, 11.71 K/9 in 2012). Only four times in MLB history has a pitcher finished a season with 100+ innings and at least 7 walks and 7 strikeouts per 9 innings. Bobby Witt & Mitch Williams (both with the Rangers) in 1987, and Witt & Eric Plunk in 1986.
  • Cole Hamels in three starts with the Cubs has a 1.00 ERA and in 18 innings has 11 hits and 20 strikeouts.
  • Cubs have had only 4 games all season in which the starting pitcher has had 9 or more strikeouts. Two of them belong to Cole Hamels (August 1 at PIT & August 12 vs WSH – 9 apiece) despite having made only three starts for the Cubs. Yu Darvish had 9 on April 7 at Milwaukee, and José Quintana has the only 10 K start for the Cubs this season back on June 6 vs. Philadelphia (the game Jason Heyward hit the walkoff grand slam).

 

David Bote’s walkoff grand slam was clearly the big moment of the weekend for the Cubs.

  • Bote hit the 30th “Ultimate Grand Slam” in MLB history – a walkoff grand slam where his team was down 3 runs.
  • It was the first Ultimate Grand Slam in the Majors since Steve Pearce of the Blue Jays did it last year on July 30.
  • It was the second Ultimate Grand Slam in Cubs history – the other was Ellis Burton 8/31/1963 against the Astros.
  • It was the second Ultimate Grand Slam in MLB history which came with the team down 30. The other was Sammy Byrd of the Reds on May 23, 1936, against the Pirates. Bote’s grand slam came with 2 outs, however; Byrd hit his with none out.
  • It was the first Ultimate Grand Slam by a pinch-hitter since Brian Bogusevic of the Astros hit one off Carlos Marmol of the Cubs back on August 16, 2011. However, Bogusevic’s home run came with only one out.
  • Bote’s was the first Ultimate Grand Slam by a pinch-hitter with two outs since Roger Freed of the Cardinals hit one May 1, 1979.
  • Bote was the first Cub to hit a pinch-hit walkoff grand slam since Earl Averill (the son of the Hall of Famer) on May 12, 1959.
  • Bote’s was the first Cub since Ron Santo on Sept. 25, 1968, to hit a walkoff grand slam to give his team its first runs of the game (Santo hit his trailing 1-0).
  • Bote & Heyward (June 6) give the Cubs a pair of walkoff grand slams in the same season for the first time since 1980 (Barry Foote & Cliff Johnson).
  • Bote joins Danny Kravitz as the only players to hit an Ultimate Grand Slam in the same season as their MLB debut (Kravitz’s was his first MLB home run – May 11, 1956 for the Pirates).
  • Both the Cubs and White Sox scored 4 runs in the bottom of the ninth on Sunday… unfortunately the White Sox were trailing 9-3, whereas the Cubs trailed 3-0.

As Dylan Covey's struggles continue, could a door open for Michael Kopech?

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USA TODAY

As Dylan Covey's struggles continue, could a door open for Michael Kopech?

Let’s make one thing very clear: Rick Hahn has said for months that what is occurring at the major league level this season will have no bearing on when the White Sox opt to promote their top prospects.

It’s been a very logical stance the entire time, with the big league team not expected to contend for a playoff spot, and that has indeed been what has happened, the White Sox dropping to 33 games below .500 with Sunday’s loss to the visiting Cleveland Indians. Rushing the promotion of someone like Michael Kopech or Eloy Jimenez — guys expected to make impacts for years to come — with the goal of improving the major league team’s chances in this one season simply made no sense and continues to make no sense.

But unless the White Sox are waiting until at least Sept. 1, the date rosters expand across the big leagues, to bring these guys to the South Side, there perhaps could be a major league factor to the promotion of, specifically, Kopech: Whose spot in the starting rotation would he take?

While success or failure among the team’s starting pitchers has nothing to do with where Kopech is in his development, in the event all five were pitching well, it would make finding a spot for him once he was ready difficult.

There was a thought that James Shields, a veteran who doesn’t appear to fit into the organization’s long-term plans, could draw trade interest and provide a boost to the pitching depth of a contending club. Such a move didn’t happen before the non-waiver trade deadline and it hasn’t happened since, though perhaps it still could before the waiver deadline at the end of this month.

So if Shields sticks around for the duration of the campaign, where would a promoted Kopech pitch?

Carlos Rodon, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez are all part of the those aforementioned long-term plans, which leaves only Dylan Covey heretofore unmentioned. Covey was pitching well enough earlier in the season to spur conversation that he could be a surprise addition to the teams of the future. But things have taken a sour turn since. His numbers of late have brought about speculation that he could be moved out of the rotation, even though manager Rick Renteria affirmed that Covey was still a part of the starting staff after Sunday's game. But should the White Sox bring Kopech up before the season ends, perhaps Covey could be the odd man out.

Covey was again roughed up Sunday, tagged for six runs in a brief, 2.2-inning outing that inflated his ERA to 8.94 over his last 10 starts. While Shields, Giolito, Lopez and the ace-like Rodon have shown positives on the mound this season and particularly in recent weeks, Covey’s been unable to produce quality results, with one or two exceptions, over the past couple months.

Again, going by what Hahn’s been saying all along, Kopech’s development is going to determine when he’s promoted. How Covey or Shields or anyone else is pitching at the major league level won’t have anything to do with Kopech’s readiness.

While Hahn has also repeatedly mentioned that there are things the team is looking at besides box scores when it comes to making a decision on Kopech, the right-hander’s numbers have been outstanding of late. Over his last six starts, he’s got a 1.89 ERA with 50 strikeouts and only four walks in 38 innings of work.

But while the Sept. 1 date might make sense and prevent some choices this rebuilding team doesn’t really need to make, Hahn has also described how the White Sox treated top prospects a season ago as a kind of template for how to look at Kopech and Jimenez this season. Yoan Moncada made his White Sox debut on July 19. Lopez made his White Sox debut on Aug. 11. Giolito made his White Sox debut on Aug. 22. That’s to say there’s a precedent for these highly touted prospects debuting in August, prior to that Sept. 1 date, and in one case just a week out from it.

The White Sox will not look at Covey’s struggles and make a move with Kopech with the goal of improving the big league rotation in 2018. But Covey’s struggles could force the team to find another place for him. And if that’s the case, there’s one very strong candidate to fill that spot pitching at Triple-A Charlotte.