Bright spots haven't been difficult to locate through the first week-plus of White Sox baseball in 2019. Yoan Moncada looks like a changed hitter. Tim Anderson is on absolute fire. Eloy Jimenez is here.
But the truth is that these White Sox are just 3-5 in their first eight games of the campaign. And though two crowds bigger than 30,000 packed into Guaranteed Rate Field this weekend and got some things to cheer about, South Side pitching was obliterated by the visiting Seattle Mariners, who scored 29 runs and smashed 10 home runs in three games.
The M's moved to 9-2 with Sunday's 12-5 win. That's the best record in baseball. The White Sox shouldn't exactly be embarrassed that they were bested twice in three games by a team that's swinging really hot bats: The Mariners have hit a major league leading 27 home runs.
But there were pitching questions entering the 2019 season, and the White Sox staff has done little to answer them in the first handful of games.
"I was telling one of the guys that we have to keep pumping each other up. Don’t let this be something that deters them from the direction that we’re all trying to get to," manager Rick Renteria said Sunday. "The reality is that it is a long season. We would have rather had a much better outcome over the last couple of days, but we haven’t. That does not deter myself or us as a club to where we believe we’re going to be moving. ... We’ll continue to make the adjustments or work on the things that we need to in order to continue to improve."
The bullpen looked to be much improved thanks to the additions of Alex Colome and Kelvin Herrera, two All-Star relief pitchers who could not only lock down the back end of the South Side 'pen but strengthen it by pushing back other late-inning guys and easing the high-leverage burden on young arms. Unfortunately for Renteria, he's been unable to get a grasp on his relief corps to this point because most of the pitchers not named Colome and Herrera have struggled.
Small sample sizes are to blame for gigantic ERAs in the bullpen — like the 40.50 mark owned by Jose Ruiz after he gave up two runs and recorded just one out Sunday — but the bottom line is that everyone besides Colome, Herrera and Manny Banuelos has an ERA north of 7.00. Banuelos is at a not-much-better 6.75, and Colome gave up his first run of the season in the ninth inning Sunday.
As a quick aside — but also a good example of how unreliable this relief corps has been to this point — the reason Renteria gave for using both Herrera and Colome in the final innings of a lopsided game was "necessity." And though it seemed like a head-scratcher in the moment, it's understandable. Renteria had already used four relievers after starter Ivan Nova lasted just 2.1 innings. Banuelos was fresh off a three-inning outing in Saturday's game. And Renteria essentially revealed Sunday that while the White Sox want to use Nate Jones on back-to-back days, doing so isn't really in the cards at the moment.
Renteria would've liked to stay away from his late-inning guys at the end of a blowout loss. But the pitchers who would have prevented that didn't record enough outs.
"It was a necessity," Renteria explained regarding his usage of Herrera and Colome. "We got to the point where we tried to stretch everybody out as much as we could. We were pressed into using them, obviously, in the eighth and the ninth. Both of them, unfortunately for me, don’t like working as much in the 'pen. They would rather pitch in games when they are not used. So, it kind of fit both purposes today. But I’d rather not do it. You risk the outing getting too long. But fortunately for us it was relatively under control."
The bullpen has perhaps been more glaring, but the starting rotation has had its own share of ups and downs. Carlos Rodon has had two fine outings, one of them excellent. Lucas Giolito's first start was terrific, followed by a 4.1-inning effort Saturday. Reynaldo Lopez struggled in each of his first two outings of the season, giving up three home runs to Mariners hitters in Friday's home opener. Nova pitched well in his first outing and couldn't get out of the third after giving up seven runs Sunday.
What to do? For Nova, the answer is easy.
"Pitch better," he said.
It was a response that sparked a few chuckles, but fans might agree. The White Sox team ERA after Sunday's game was an ugly 6.52. Only one team in baseball, the 2-7 Cubs, had a worse mark as of this writing.
The pitching staff will see at least one addition in the coming days. The White Sox optioned outfielder Ryan Cordell to Triple-A Charlotte after Sunday's game, freeing up a roster spot that will get filled prior to Monday's series-opener against the Tampa Bay Rays. Ervin Santana is soon to join the starting rotation, the team needing him to fill Tuesday's "TBA" on the list of probable pitchers. But that could have kept Cordell in town another day. Instead, with a taxed bullpen, the White Sox might replace Cordell with another relief arm. So perhaps there's another alteration to the bullpen coming Monday. That remains to be seen, of course.
But something's going to have to turn around for the guys who aren't going anywhere.
Yes, it's still early. And yes, not every lineup the White Sox go up against from here on out will belong to baseball's best team. But crooked numbers against the South Side staff and Renteria's strolls to the mound have been all too common in recent seasons. If the team wants to turn the corner in the rebuilding process, as it so often has talked about, there will need to be progression from more than just a few position players.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.