White Sox

Former White Sox pitcher Danny Farquhar dreaming of making big league return and pitching on South Side

Former White Sox pitcher Danny Farquhar dreaming of making big league return and pitching on South Side

Unthinkable. Unimaginable.

Ask anyone nine months ago if Danny Farquhar would not only be back on a pitcher’s mound today, but would sign a minor league deal this season with the New York Yankees, that’s likely how they would have responded.

It’s a comeback story straight out of Hollywood. Farquhar’s life continues to write a script we haven’t seen before.

Last week, there was the former White Sox pitcher, whose life nearly ended at Guaranteed Rate Field on April 20 last year when he suffered a brain hemorrhage after pitching an inning of relief, walking into a local New York hospital to get his Yankees physical.

"They put me through everything possible. I saw three or four doctors. Got a lot of scans, got MRIs on my shoulder, my elbow," Farquhar said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "I knew I was going to pass, but it’s nice to have proof that I’m not the only one who believes that I can pass a physical."

Many teams reached out to Farquhar: "Probably half the league wanted to see my medicals," he said. "It was an awesome process sorting through the teams and picking one. It’s extraordinarily exciting."

One of the teams interested was the White Sox, who wanted to have him back.

"The White Sox gave me basically the same offer as the Yankees did. The White Sox said they had my medicals the whole time through. They liked me," Farquhar said.

So why did he choose the Yankees?

"There were a lot of factors. It wasn’t like one thing that stands out more than anything. Maybe opportunity. I feel like the Yankees are a win-now organization. They’ll go with the best arm. I know the White Sox are still in the rebuild. I’m getting a little bit older for the rebuild. I’ll be 32 in February. I just felt like the Yankees were my best opportunity," Farquhar said.

The time away from the game has allowed Farquhar’s body to heal. Not just his head, which still has some sensitivity on the left side of his forehead from nerves that were cut during surgery, but also his arm, which has reached velocities he’s never seen before.

"I got to train full go without the strain of pitching, without the stress of in-season results," Farquhar explained. "I’ve never hit 90 (mph) in one of those turf mounds, indoor bullpens, no batter situations, and I hit 90 a couple times. That’s a record that I set."

While throwing a three-ounce ball, Farquhar said he hit 107 mph.

"I know (Michael) Kopech hit 110 with his three-ounce ball a couple years back, and that was a big deal on social media. I was trying to catch him, but I never got an opportunity."

When Farquhar was discharged from Rush University Medical Center on May 7, his doctors said they expected him to eventually make a full recovery and that he could pitch again. But in the major leagues? As inconceivable as that might have sounded back then, it made perfectly logical sense to Farquhar, who has an iron will that burns deep inside him.

This seven-year journeyman with a wife and three young children has fought for every spot he’s ever had on a major league roster. He continued to fight soon after the surgery while still in the danger zone in intensive care.

"I was actually in the ICU in Chicago very upset when I found out they put me on the DL. Funny because there were tubes coming out of my head and staples holding pieces of my skull together," Farquhar said. "I was like, ‘They put me on the DL? Why would they put me on the DL? I’ll be ready to go tomorrow.’ So there was never a doubt in my mind. Maybe I’m naive. That played to my advantage that I’ll be back."

He faces some stiff competition if he hopes to make the major league roster on Opening Day. The Yankees have added relievers Zach Britton and Adam Ottavino to an already stacked bullpen that includes All Stars Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances.

"I just have to go out and prove to people that I belong in the big leagues, and that’s my goal again this spring," Farquhar said. "I’m going to give it my best shot. My wife is my No. 1 supporter. She believes in me, and she thinks I’m going to have one of my best seasons."

And Hollywood, if you’re watching, Farquhar has an ultimate dream for his baseball career. It involves a return to Chicago, the place where his life nearly ended, to create a moment that would truly mark a new beginning.

"Pitching at Guaranteed Rate Field in a Yankee uniform against my old teammates on the White Sox, that would be a dream come true, and I can’t wait for that to happen," Farquhar said. "Because it was the scene where my aneurysm ruptured. It’s almost like a redemption to get back out there and have a better day than that one."

The Yankees visit the White Sox for a four-game series from June 13 to 16. Is he a long shot to make the big league club and be in uniform for that series? Maybe. But if we’ve learned anything about Danny Farquhar, never count him out.

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White Sox, searching for starting pitching, reportedly in 'leading group' for Zack Wheeler

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USA TODAY

White Sox, searching for starting pitching, reportedly in 'leading group' for Zack Wheeler

Asked during the GM meetings last week in Arizona what kinds of pitchers he wants to acquire this winter, Rick Hahn had a snappy response.

"Good ones," he said.

Well, Zack Wheeler falls into that category, and the White Sox are reportedly in pursuit, with Jon Morosi reporting Wednesday on MLB Network that the South Siders are one of four teams — alongside the Los Angeles Angels, San Diego Padres and division-rival Minnesota Twins — in "the leading group right now" for Wheeler's services.

Wheeler, a free agent after pitching in five big league seasons with the New York Mets, had himself a very good 2018 campaign, finishing with a 3.31 ERA and 179 strikeouts in 29 starts. He made 31 starts in 2019, striking out more batters (195 of them) but finishing with a significantly higher 3.96 ERA. He closed the season strong, with a 2.83 ERA in his final 12 starts. Wheeler was terrific in his five September starts, posting a 1.85 ERA in the season's final month.

The 29-year-old right-handed hurler is one of the more attractive names on this winter's pitching-heavy free-agent market. He's not commanding the attention of Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg and Madison Bumgarner, perhaps, but he's still plenty high on a lot of wish lists. The No. 6 overall pick in the 2009 draft, Wheeler's dealt with injury issues throughout his major league career, missing the entire 2015 and 2016 seasons, first with Tommy John surgery and then with a right arm strain that did not require another surgery.

The White Sox got to see Wheeler up close in August, when he tossed a gem at Guaranteed Rate Field, throwing seven shutout innings, allowing just four hits and striking out seven.

Certainly it makes sense that the White Sox would be interested, as well as casting a wide net in their search for starting-pitching help this winter. Asked last week whether the White Sox are searching for top-of-the-rotation guys, such as the Coles and Strasburgs of the world, or middle-of-the-rotation guys who would slot in behind Lucas Giolito, Hahn didn't limit himself to one or the other.

 

"We have room for improvement in both spots," he said. "We'll continue to monitor the trade and free-agent market for all different types of starters, and any ones that we feel are going to make us better both short- and potentially long-term, we'll be in on."

The most Hahn revealed about the team's starting-pitching pursuits is that the White Sox are looking to add two arms to the rotation this winter. Those two arms would go along with Giolito, Dylan Cease and Reynaldo Lopez in the rotation. The White Sox, until they assess the situation in the spring, are uncommitted to how much Michael Kopech will pitch out of the rotation in 2020. If the goal is improving the rotation in the short- and long-term, Wheeler would figure to do the job.

 

"I don't think any team ever feels they have enough starting pitching," Hahn said. "And looking at where we sit, with (Carlos) Rodon on the IL to start the season and Kopech coming back from the injury, I think we feel good about potentially adding two arms to that mix. If it turns out once Carlos is healthy or how Michael shows up in spring training that, lo and behold, we have too many quality starters, we'll deal with that problem as it arises."

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White Sox move seven prospects to 40-man roster, protecting them from Rule 5 draft

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USA TODAY

White Sox move seven prospects to 40-man roster, protecting them from Rule 5 draft

The White Sox made some important decisions Wednesday, protecting seven players from selection in next month’s Rule 5 draft by moving them to the 40-man roster.

Dane Dunning, Blake Rutherford, Jimmy Lambert, Zack Burdi, Bernardo Flores, Yermin Mercedes and Matt Foster were moved to the 40-man roster, making them unable to be plucked away by other teams in the Rule 5 draft Dec. 12 during the Winter Meetings.

That’s obviously good news for the White Sox, who will hang onto those prized prospects regardless of what happens next month. But the team opted to leave plenty of other players open to selection, including Alec Hansen, Zach Thompson, Spencer Adams and Kyle Kubat.

The 40-man roster is now full at the maximum 40 players, meaning any offseason additions made from here on out will require a player being removed from the 40-man roster.

Dunning is ranked as the No. 5 prospect in the organization and despite undergoing Tommy John surgery earlier this season still has a bright future as a potential member of the White Sox rotation. In fact, he was moving along so positively in 2018 that general manager Rick Hahn said if not for the injury Dunning could have been part of the team’s Opening Day rotation in 2019. He last pitched in 2018, turning in a stellar 2.71 ERA and striking out 100 batters in 15 starts between Class A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham.

Rutherford remains ranked as the No. 9 prospect in the organization but finds himself one of many outfield prospects who had disappointing 2019 campaigns. He saw significant statistical dips playing at Birmingham from the numbers he put up in 2018 at Winston-Salem. In 2019, he slashed .265/.319/.365 in 118 games. He failed to do much of anything in the Arizona Fall League, either, slashing .179/.281/.385 in 21 games.

Lambert is ranked as the No. 18 prospect in the organization and, like Dunning, underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this year. If not for the injury, he might have factored into the big league starting staff by the end of the 2019 campaign. He followed up a strong 2018 season (3.67 ERA in 18 starts between Winston-Salem and Birmingham) with a 4.55 ERA in 11 starts at Birmingham in 2019.

Burdi is still ranked as the No. 23 prospect in the organization despite an injury-plagued last couple of seasons. A knee injury ended his 2019 season early, this after missing almost the entirety of the 2018 season (just a few appearances in Rookie ball) while recovering from Tommy John surgery. A first-round pick in 2016, Burdi struggled before the knee injury, with a 6.75 ERA in 22.2 innings between Birmingham and Class A Kannapolis.

Flores is ranked as the No. 28 prospect in the organization. He had a mighty promising 2018 season at Winston-Salem and Birmingham, with a 2.65 ERA in 25 starts. Those numbers jumped up in 2019, with Flores finishing with a 3.33 ERA in 15 starts at Birmingham.

Mercedes was one of the bright spots of the White Sox farm system in 2019, slashing .317/.388/.581 with 23 homers splitting time between Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte. Many fans hoped he would have gotten a September call-up. He didn’t, but Hahn mentioned him as a potential part of the catching mix when the team heads to spring training in February.

Foster had a solid 2019 season, finishing with a 3.20 ERA in 43 relief appearances at Birmingham and Charlotte.

As for those who are exposed to selection in the Rule 5 draft, Hansen was once one of the highest ranked pitching prospects in the organization, thanks to a phenomenal 2017 campaign, when he had a 2.80 ERA and 191 strikeouts pitching at three different levels. But a 2018 forearm injury derailed everything. That year, he didn’t even make his first appearance until mid June and finished with a 6.31 ERA and an outrageous 59 walks compared to just 55 strikeouts. In 2019, he didn’t fare much better, with a 4.64 ERA and 44 more walks (compared with 66 strikeouts). He’s still ranked as the organization’s No. 27 prospect.

Thompson was excellent in 2018, with a 1.55 ERA in 43 relief appearances at Winston-Salem and Birmingham. A year later, he was pummeled to the tune of a 5.23 ERA in 45 relief appearances, most coming at Charlotte.

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