White Sox

Carson Fulmer's demotion and the current state of the White Sox rotation provide several rebuilding reminders

Carson Fulmer's demotion and the current state of the White Sox rotation provide several rebuilding reminders

Carson Fulmer getting sent to Triple-A following Friday’s game might be, to this point, the biggest development this season on the South Side.

Fulmer doesn’t carry the same expectations as higher-rated prospects like Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen or Dane Dunning, but this is a top-10 draft pick who the White Sox still believe can play a significant role in their bright future. And he’s struggling. Badly. Once his ERA jumped up past 8.00 thanks to his third straight brief and run-filled outing, the White Sox made the decision to send him to Charlotte.

It leaves the White Sox rotation looking like this: James Shields, a struggling Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Hector Santiago and either Chris Volstad or the recently summoned Dylan Covey.

Four of those guys (Shields, Santiago, Volstad and Covey) don’t figure to play a role in the team’s long-term future, and Giolito is dealing with his own significant struggles, leading the American League in walks heading into his Saturday-night start. Lopez has been the rotation’s bright spot, but even he watched his ERA climb more than a full point after allowing six runs in two innings his last time out.

It’s not a great state for the rotation to be in if you, like the White Sox, have your sights set on the long-term future of this team, though it probably won’t look like that for too much longer. Still, it provides a few valuable reminders about not only this rebuilding effort but rebuilds in general.

This season is about development, and this is what development looks like

For better or worse, this is what development looks like. The White Sox own baseball’s worst record, and general manager Rick Hahn has been among the large number of White Sox fans to voice their disappointment over play that has been sloppy at times.

Fulmer’s struggles fall into the same category and serve as a reminder that growing pains like this are going to happen. We’ve seen it with Fulmer. We’ve seen it with Giolito. We’ve seen it with Lopez. Heck, we’ve seen it with Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson, too.

But more than wins and losses, this is what this season is about. Hahn calls it “the hardest part of the rebuild” because it features guys getting lit up and games being lost. The hope is that Fulmer can figure things out in the minors and that Giolito won’t require a similar demotion to right his ship. And if everything turns out all right, then this will be an easily forgotten chapter in both of those players’ development.

In the moment, though, it’s another reminder that rebuilds take time and that the waiting game provides minimal fun.

Each player’s development has a different trajectory

Just because Fulmer is getting bumped down to Triple-A doesn’t mean he can’t still turn into a successful major league pitcher. Player development and rebuilds aren’t linear, as rebuilders like to say. And to expect every prospect to travel in a straight line from potential to big league stardom doesn't make much sense.

“We reiterate, ‘It’s not the end of your career,’” Renteria said Saturday. “This is simply a reboot, a reset. Ultimately, I think after the initial shock for any player, they settle down and they understand exactly what’s going on when you look at it logically and look in the mirror. I think it’s easy to logically look at it and say, ‘I need to work on x, y and z.’

“This is a good kid with a really positive attitude and a lot of confidence. I think he’ll look in the mirror and go, ‘You know what, I got things I can work on, I’ll settle in and get over this initial bump and get to work.’ Those are the guys that end up giving themselves a chance to return sooner rather than later and have success.”

Not all prospects pan out

The other side of that coin is the reminder that not every single one of the White Sox wealth of prospects will pan out. Hahn & Co. have prepared for that and built up an incredible amount of prospect depth, but when someone doesn't live up to expectations, it will be painful.

This isn’t to suggest that Fulmer, specifically, won’t pan out, but it’s to point out that not everyone will. That’s a crowded-looking rotation of the future with Kopech, Hansen, Dunning, Fulmer, Giolito, Lopez, Carlos Rodon and Dylan Cease all competing for those eventual five spots. Rather than the White Sox having to make tough decisions about who will be left out, certainly a possibility, the developments of those pitchers might make those decisions for them.

Renteria is confident that Fulmer will be back in the big leagues, and there’s little reason to think that this is the end of Fulmer’s opportunity. But not every top-10 pick reaches All-Star status.

The future is on the way

The current starting rotation might have fans asking why the heck it looks like it does. But a month or two from now it will look drastically different.

Rodon makes his first rehab start Saturday at Class A Kannapolis as he battles back from shoulder surgery last fall, and he shouldn’t be too far away from providing a serious jolt to the starting staff. Not to mention, he’s a guy who as good a chance as anyone as grabbing one of those front-end spots, and with him in the rotation, things will look a tad more futuristic.

Same goes for Kopech, whose promotion figures to be coming at some point this summer. Given the hype and the expectations there, his arrival will obviously be a really big deal.

But regardless of the results either Rodon and Kopech put up in their first tastes of major league action in 2018, they’ll make the rotation into something that way more closely resembles the rotation of the future. There’ll be plenty of development left for the Hansens and the Ceases and the Dunnings in the minors. But a rotation featuring Rodon, Kopech, Giolito and Lopez looks a lot different than one featuring Shields, Santiago, Covey and Volstad.

Patience. It’s not much fun. But it’s necessary to build a contender.

White Sox 2005 Rewind: Jermaine Dye's slow start yielded to World Series MVP season

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AP

White Sox 2005 Rewind: Jermaine Dye's slow start yielded to World Series MVP season

Generally, while the temperatures take their time to rise across the American League Central, the pitchers are said to have the advantage.

So perhaps it should be no surprise that at least one hitter on the 2005 White Sox got off to a bit of a slow start before eventually being named the World Series MVP.

Jermaine Dye was one of four new starting position players for the White Sox as they turned the page from 2004 to 2005, but he was no stranger to the AL Central. Though he arrived on the South Side after three and a half seasons with the Oakland Athletics, he spent the four and a half years before that with the Kansas City Royals.

In this lineup, he didn’t need to stand out as one of the most dangerous bats in the league, though by the time the White Sox were hoisting the trophy at the end of October, that’s what he’d become. In 2006, he was even better and finished fifth in the AL MVP vote.

But things didn’t start so hot for Dye. In April, he slashed a nasty .175/.205/.313.

The game against the Detroit Tigers on April 20, our latest edition of #SoxRewind, was an outlier, with Dye besting his RBI total to that point (three) in a single evening. He drove in four runs with a two-run homer in the first inning and a two-run single in the fifth inning.

The 9-1 White Sox romp was perhaps more notable for another sterling performance from Jon Garland, who tossed eight one-run innings. But it had to be a welcome reprieve for Dye, who was still settling into his new digs in the middle of the White Sox lineup.

Things obviously improved dramatically for Dye once the calendar turned to May, and he slashed an eye-popping .292/.355/.548 with 28 home runs in the other five months of the regular season. He hit .311/.415/.444 during the postseason. Come 2006, he slashed .315/.385/.622 with a career-high 44 home runs and 120 RBIs.

It’s safe to say Dye found his footing.

But for White Sox fans getting their first exposure to Dye in the home dugout, as opposed to him suiting up for the division-rival Royals, a big night like the one he had April 20 was more an exception than the rule in that early stage. Even if it was a sign of what was to come.

What else?

— Base-running gaffes hardly matter when your team wins by eight runs, but Dye made a pair of them in this game, twice getting caught in a rundown between first and second. He was picked off of first base to end the third inning. And after singling in a pair of runs in the fifth, he was again trapped between first and second, caught, thankfully for the White Sox, after those two runs had crossed home plate.

— As mentioned, Garland was again fantastic, following up his seven innings of two-run ball against the Seattle Mariners by holding these Tigers to just one run in eight innings. He ended up going at least eight innings seven times in 2005, including a trio of complete-game shutouts. The White Sox won the World Series because of their starting pitching, and nights like this one showed just how dominant it was.

— Joe Crede joined Dye in having a big night, driving in three runs of his own and extending his hit streak to 11 games. Crede homered in the sixth inning, capitalizing when gifted an extra swing by Tigers shortstop Carlos Guillen. Guillen tracked a pop up into foul territory but completely whiffed on the attempt. “Make him pay, Joe,” Hawk Harrelson said. That’s exactly what happened. Crede hit the next pitch for a three-run homer.

— Speaking of The Hawkeroo, he took the viewers on an emotional roller-coaster ride in the fifth inning. With one out and Tadahito Iguchi on first base, Paul Konerko drove a ball to deep right field, not far out of the reach of the right fielder. Hawk cheered the thing on the whole time, but his mood changed when the ball bounced over the wall for a ground-rule double. “Get down! Get down! Get down! It will! Dagummit!” Did I mention the White Sox were up three at the time?

— Scott Podsednik, another one of those new position players, kept making his presence felt by making things happen at the top of the order. He scored the game’s first run after stealing third base and coming home on a wild pitch. Sure, he would have scored anyway on Dye’s ensuing home run. But seeing how much difference that elite speed element made on a nightly basis makes you long for more of it in today’s game.

Next up

#SoxRewind rolls on Wednesday, when you can catch the April 23, 2005, game against the Royals, starting at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago. Some phenomenal work by the White Sox bullpen and extra-inning heroics from Aaron Rowand.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.

Lucas Giolito: Playing games in empty stadiums 'not the most enjoyable experience'

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USA TODAY

Lucas Giolito: Playing games in empty stadiums 'not the most enjoyable experience'

One of the many possibilities being discussed as baseball tries to figure out what the 2020 season could end up looking like? Playing games without fans present.

Obviously, no one would consider that the ideal scenario. But as uncertainty reigns during the global COVID-19 pandemic, any baseball might be preferable to no baseball at all, and if playing games in empty stadiums makes that a possibility, it’s under consideration as a potential outcome.

Chalk up Lucas Giolito as someone who wouldn’t find that scenario all that appealing. But also count him as someone who’d stomach it if it meant getting back on the field.

"That's definitely not the most enjoyable experience for a player,” Giolito said during a Tuesday conference call. “For me, personally, I really love to feed off the crowd's energy, whether that's at home and everyone's rooting for me or if we're on the road and I want to shut all the other fans up.

“I like that part of the game. I think it's a big part of the game. The more fans that are packed into a stadium, the more exciting a game can be, the more it adds to it.

“But at the same time, we're all used to playing those back-field games, chain link fence league games. We've done it coming up through the minor leagues. We even do it in spring training, at times.

“If things matter, if games matter, I think we'd be able to go and get it done with or without fans in the stadium. But I'd definitely prefer to have fans. We'll see what we'll be able to make happen.”

Like everything surrounding the game and American life in general, this is hardly a certainty. Baseball is following the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, which entail banning gatherings of at least 50 people until mid May. Any major league game, with two 26-man rosters going up against one another, is a gathering of 50 or more people, fans or no fans.

The recent agreement between the league and the union established certain criteria for returning to action, among them that no governmental edicts exist that make it impossible for teams to play at their home stadiums. Though there is a caveat that special arrangements could be made if there’s no better solution. Different local governments across the country could have different restrictions at different times, complicating things as baseball tries to figure out if it’s safe to play.

The New York Post’s Joel Sherman wrote Tuesday that the season is perhaps likely to start with no fans present as the league and the players aim to play as many games as possible in a short amount of time. But there are obvious reasons why all stakeholders would want that to be a last resort: The more fans in the stands, the more revenue the league can generate. But having any kinds of games to put on TV would provide revenue, as well, even if fans can’t attend.

Throughout his conversation Tuesday, Giolito repeatedly mentioned his realization that baseball needs to take a backseat at the moment. But even baseball fans who share that understanding of the national and global situation are curious about when — and where and how — they will be able to watch their favorite team.

Playing in empty stadiums would be weird for the players and weird for the fans who would be forced to watch on TV. But weird would be better than non-existent.

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