White Sox

After White Sox bullpen shuts down Twins, who's in and who's out for 2020?

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USA TODAY

After White Sox bullpen shuts down Twins, who's in and who's out for 2020?

The White Sox bullpen did a splendid job Wednesday night.

A “bullpen day” against the Minnesota Twins’ high-powered offense had potential disaster written all over it. Instead, Ivan Nova and a parade of relievers held those Twins hitless through five innings and to just one run in a sweep-avoiding win.

It’s actually the second time a “bullpen day” went better than expected against one of the best teams in baseball, Wednesday’s effort joining the one back in May against the Houston Astros. The White Sox lost that night but gave up just three runs to the kings of the AL West.

While nearly every pitcher that trotted out from the visitors’ bullpen Wednesday night in Minnesota pitched well, it doesn’t mean that the White Sox will carry this exact unit into a 2020 season that could be one in which they make the long awaited transition from rebuilding to contending.

Certainly Alex Colome and Aaron Bummer have been among the many bright spots for the White Sox this season, and the retention of both at the trade deadline provides confidence in what the back end of the bullpen can be in a potentially contending season. But while the eighth- and ninth-inning jobs are easily projected, what does the rest of the White Sox bullpen look like heading into 2020?

While starting pitcher is definitely on the winter wish list for Rick Hahn’s front office, it would be no shock to see relief pitching get addressed, too. It’s hard to predict which of the tons of relievers could wind up in a White Sox uniform before the team heads to Arizona for spring training. But we can try to guess at the fortunes of the relief arms currently on the roster, many of whom appeared in Wednesday night’s game.

Late-inning arms for 2020

Even if the White Sox make no additions to their bullpen this winter, the back end is pretty easy to project.

Colome has one more year of team control after being acquired in a trade with the Seattle Mariners last winter. He’s been allowing more base runners as the season has wound down — including a walk-off homer to Omar Narvaez, the guy he was traded for, last weekend in Seattle — but he’ll finish the campaign with excellent numbers, still having blown only one save. That’s the best save percentage in baseball. He’s got 124 saves over the last four seasons.

Bummer, meanwhile, has emerged from a host of internal candidates to grab a pretty tight hold on the eighth-inning job. He has a 2.31 ERA on the season with a week and a half to play, and he’s a guy who could be a back-end reliever and a potential closer for years to come.

As for other late-inning guys, Jimmy Cordero seems to be a diamond in the rough uncovered in season. He’s got a 3.34 ERA since joining the White Sox and has been an oft-used arm by Rick Renteria. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the White Sox put even more high-leverage situations on his plate next season.

Evan Marshall, too, figures to be back next season. He was another quality addition to the ‘pen, and he’s actually been better in the second half, with a 2.59 ERA since the All-Star break compared to the still-very-good 2.86 ERA before it.

Is that a fearsome foursome at the back end of a contending bullpen? Certainly all four of those guys have been good to very good this season. The White Sox would probably express a great deal of confidence in that quartet, but adding another late-inning arm to that mix in free agency would make that confidence level even higher.

What do you do with these guys?

If those four are very likely to be in key spots in the 2020 bullpen, what about some of the guys’ whose futures aren’t so obvious?

Jace Fry threw 1.2 innings without giving up a run Wednesday, dropping his season ERA to 4.96. That’s not a very pretty number, and there have been stretches this season that haven’t been very pretty, either. In a five-outing span in late May and early June, he walked six of the 19 batters he faced and gave up four earned runs in just 3.1 innings. Over a 13-outing span in August and September, Fry gave up 12 runs in 10.2 innings, walking nine and giving up 13 hits to the 53 batters he faced. But the White Sox love Fry’s potential. It wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see him a part of the Opening Day relief corps. But if the White Sox are in contention mode, how long could they afford his inconsistencies?

Kelvin Herrera is almost certain to be back in 2020, considering the White Sox inked him to a two-year deal last offseason. But he’s going to need to improve dramatically from what he did in his first campaign on the South Side. He’s got a 6.51 ERA right now in 53 appearances. That’s obviously not good enough, and the White Sox will be hoping for something close to the kind of guy who mowed them down when he was a key piece on those back-to-back World Series teams for the Kansas City Royals. Another season removed from the foot injury that ended his 2018 season early ought to help.

Have the White Sox seen enough of Jose Ruiz and Carson Fulmer? Again, these guys have upside the team is excited about. Ruiz can throw the ball pretty hard, and Fulmer is a former top-10 draft pick. But the results have not been good, to say the least. Ruiz has a 5.87 ERA in 39 games. Fulmer, who threw 2.1 scoreless innings Wednesday, has a 5.33 ERA in 18 big league appearances. If there are free-agent additions to be had, these two could be squeezed out of the picture. But for right now, the White Sox aren’t done with them just yet.

Where art thou, minor leaguers?

If you cast your mind back to last season, you’ll remember a bunch of young arms that looked like candidates for the bullpen of the future. For various reasons, those guys didn’t do much impressing in 2019.

Injuries are to blame in certain cases. Ryan Burr was one of the many White Sox pitchers to have Tommy John surgery this season, wiping out an audition of a 2019 season for him. Ian Hamilton was similarly knocked out for the year with a pair of freak injuries. He was hurt in a car accident during spring training and then suffered a number of grisly facial injuries when he was struck with a foul ball while sitting in the dugout at Triple-A Charlotte.

Under-performance struck, too. Caleb Frare only made 31 combined appearances between the majors and Charlotte, but he posted a 10.13 ERA at the big league level and a 7.66 ERA with the Knights. Thyago Vieira had a 10.29 ERA in six major league games and a 6.27 ERA in 39 games at Triple-A.

But all four remain on the 40-man roster, for now.

Then there are three other guys who were highly thought of a year ago who didn’t help their cases for a major league promotion. Zack Burdi, the former first-round pick, was routinely rocked pitching in only 20 games at Class A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham, with a 6.75 ERA in his first season back from Tommy John surgery. Tyler Johnson had good numbers but only pitched 31.1 innings in 22 games. Zach Thompson had a 5.23 ERA in his 45 appearances with Brimingham and Charlotte.

None of that screams must-include pieces of the 2020 major league bullpen. A lot can change between now and Opening Day, as well as now and any later point in the season when reinforcements to the relief corps could still make a big difference. But as we stand here right now, it’s hard to say any of these guys will be in the Opening Day ‘pen.

Unlikely bullpen arms?

The other internal options for relief arms in 2020 might come from an unlikely spot: the starting rotation.

There are only five spots on the 2020 starting staff, and Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech and Dylan Cease figure to have three of them spoken for. The White Sox will make at least one offseason addition, speaking for a fourth spot. And despite a bumpy 2019 season, it would not be surprising to see Reynaldo Lopez in that rotation, too, come Opening Day.

That doesn’t mean he’ll stay there all season, though. A contending White Sox team might not be able to put up with the kind of inconsistent results Lopez has delivered in 2019. Similarly, there’s a possibility Kopech could have to start the season in the minor leagues if the White Sox think he needs more time to work himself into game shape following a long layoff while recovering from his Tommy John surgery. Whether it’s multiple offseason acquisitions or simply Kopech returning and claiming a spot, Lopez might be squeezed out, in which case the bullpen would be a possible destination for him. The White Sox see him as a starter now, but there’s no reason that a squeezed-out Lopez, should it happen, couldn’t still help the team from the ‘pen.

Also, what becomes of other Tommy John recoverers when they return to full health? What happens if Carlos Rodon or Dane Dunning or Jimmy Lambert is available late in the year? Could they help in the bullpen even if they’re destined to be long-term starters? Maybe. It’s just speculation, but time will tell.

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Eloy Jiménez joins Mayor Lightfoot in campaign to slow COVID-19 spread

Eloy Jiménez joins Mayor Lightfoot in campaign to slow COVID-19 spread

Eloy Jiménez has some good advice for Chicagoans as the city attempts to manage the spread of COVID-19.

Jiménez filmed a video clip that the White Sox tweeted out Monday morning as part of Mayor Lori Lightfoot's campaign to convince Chicago residents to practice social distancing and stay in their homes.

"We are not playing right now. You shouldn't be either," the White Sox left fielder said in the video. "Be a hero. Stay at home. Do your part to slow the spread of COVID-19. Stay at home and save lives.

"Go Sox."

And of course, it wouldn't be a Jiménez appearance without a exuberant "HI MOM!"

The mayor's campaign, titled "We Are Not Playing," involves many other Chicago pro athletes who are reminding folks that there's a good reason sports are shut down right now and that everyone else should follow suit.

"We all have a role to play in meeting the challenge of COVID-19, and our success is directly tied to every Chicagoan making sure they stay home and save lives," Mayor Lightfoot said in her announcement of the campaign. "I am grateful to each of our hometown teams for stepping up and doing their part by joining in this call for every neighborhood and community.

"They’re not playing, and neither are we. The more we stay home and act responsibly, the more lives we’ll save, and the sooner we’ll be able to get our city back on track and enjoying the games we love."

RELATED: Anderson wants South Side to 'stay prepared' for Sox return

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Remember That Guy: White Sox reliever Donn Pall

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Remember That Guy: White Sox reliever Donn Pall

Donn Pall was in the Comiskey Park stands for Disco Demolition. Less than ten years later, the life-long White Sox fan was on the mound, pitching at Comiskey. 

Against all odds, “The Pope” lived his dream. Remember that guy?

Donn Steven Pall was born Jan. 11, 1962 in Chicago. He pitched at Evergreen Park High School, roughly 20 minutes south of Comiskey. He didn’t make the all-conference team in high school, and he was cut as a freshman walk-on at the University of Illinois (he enrolled as a math and computer science major), but didn’t give up. He made the team as a sophomore and went 5-12 over his next two seasons at U of I.

As a senior, Pall figured things out and started to draw some attention, going 13-1 (he started 13-0). He was drafted in the 23rd round of the 1985 MLB draft, by his hometown White Sox, no less. It was a dream come true.

Pall started his professional career in 1985 as a starter in rookie ball. After going 8-11 with a 4.27 ERA for Birmingham in 1987, he thrived in winter ball in Venezuela and settled into a new role as a reliever. In 1988, he used his signature pitches — a forkball and splitter — to go along with his mid-80s fastball and his slider, and blossomed into a fine reliever at Triple-A Vancouver, posting a 2.23 ERA before getting his shot in the White Sox bullpen in August.

Pall made his MLB debut on Aug. 1, 1988 at Comiskey in the ninth inning of an eventual 10-2 defeat vs. the A's. He pitched one inning, allowing one run on two hits, with a double play and one strikeout (Tony Phillips). Coming home to pitch for the team he grew up rooting for, he quickly became a fan favorite, signing an abundance of autographs for fans and earning a nickname from broadcasters Hawk Harrelson and Tom Paciorek. He was “The Pope, Donn Pall” after Pope John Paul II. In his first taste of MLB action, Pall posted a 3.45 ERA in 17 games.

Pall became a fixture in the White Sox bullpen, pitching 50+ times in each of the next three seasons, posting ERAs of 3.31, 3.32 and 2.41. In 1989, he earned a save in each of his first two games of the season, including Opening Day — the first two saves of his MLB career. Pall’s first big league win came on April 27, 1989, when he pitched the final four frames (scoreless) of a marathon 16-inning battle in Boston. He showed he could handle either long relief or setup duties and found success even without high octane gas or big strikeout totals.

“The Pope” rebounded from a shaky 1992 (4.93 ERA) to post a 3.22 ERA in 39 appearances for the Sox in 1993, but he was designated for assignment at the end of August to make room for Iván Calderón. On Sept. 1, the Sox traded him to the Phillies for a player to be named later, who turned out to be catcher Doug Lindsey (who had a grand total of one at-bat over two games in his Sox career). While Donn was saddened to leave his hometown team, he would end up on the NL East-leading Phillies. He pitched well (2.55 ERA in eight outings) but was left off the postseason roster.

Pall signed with the Yankees for 1994 and wasn’t bad, posting a 3.60 ERA in 26 appearances, but he was released at the end of July. The next month, he did the unthinkable; he signed with the Cubs, who needed a replacement on the roster for Jose Bautista, who had an ailing elbow. Pall pitched twice for the Cubs before the strike put an end to the 1994 season.

Pall tried to reunite with the White Sox in 1995, but didn’t make the team. He spent the entire season in Triple-A Nashville and then signed with the Marlins for 1996, starting out in the minors. On June 23, he made his first big league appearance since August 1994, tossing three scoreless innings. He struggled to a 5.79 ERA in 1996 and made only two major league appearances in 1997 for the world-champion Marlins (though he was given a ring anyway).

In 1998, Pall made the final 23 appearances of his MLB career for the Marlins. He was one of the few pitchers to throw to Mike Piazza during the future Hall of Famer’s five-game stint with Florida. Pall’s final MLB appearance was Sept. 27, 1998, when he allowed one run in three innings against the Phillies. The last batter he faced was Doug Glanville, who doubled in a run but was thrown out at third to end the inning.

After retiring, Pall was a financial consultant and retirement planner. He still makes it out the ballpark for White Sox games.

Like the late Ed Farmer, Pall was a Chicago guy who had the chance to come home and pitch for his hometown White Sox. We can’t help but to root a little harder for guys like that. Pall was cut as a freshman in college, but he’s currently 15th on the White Sox all-time relief appearances list with 255. Overall, he posted a 3.63 ERA in 328 career MLB games over 10 seasons.

“The Pope” Donn Pall. You remember that guy!