Somewhat lost in fans’ celebration over the White Sox bringing Nick Madrigal up for a Friday-night major league debut was the corresponding move.
The Kelvin Herrera experiment is over.
The White Sox designated the veteran reliever for assignment to make room for Madrigal on Friday, bringing to an end a tough stint on the South Side.
Herrera joined the White Sox on a free-agent deal before the 2019 season, a two-year, $18 million pact with a club option for 2021, the hope being that he could rediscover the magic that made him a member of an elite Kansas City Royals bullpen during the years that team won back-to-back American League pennants.
But things did not play out that way. Bothered by the lingering effects of a foot injury that brought his 2018 campaign to an early end, Herrera was woefully ineffective out of the White Sox bullpen in 2019, finishing the year with a 6.14 ERA in 57 relief appearances. That included him serving up 23 home runs in 51.1 innings of work.
Fully recovered from the injury heading into this season, there was a hope he could bounce back in 2020 and lengthen an already deep White Sox bullpen. Without much in the way of positive contributions from Herrera, the ‘pen was still a strength for the South Siders in 2019, and the key players all returned for 2020. The presence of Alex Colomé, Aaron Bummer, Evan Marshall, Jimmy Cordero and the newly added Steve Cishek made it so there was no pressure on Herrera to be a critical cog.
But he gave up multiple home runs during intrasquad and exhibition action prior to Opening Day, and he was tagged for two more long balls in a pair of regular-season appearances, with the White Sox deciding they’d seen enough when they called on Madrigal on Friday.
“We were hoping to see a little bit more out of him,” manager Rick Renteria said Friday. “I know everybody was kind of behind the 8-ball. But we gave him the whole year last year to kind of work through the foot injury and try to settle in. He left camp still right around 91 miles an hour, still wasn't the same guy that everybody was used to seeing the previous years of his service.
“Maybe he can get back to it again. Right now, we're able to open up (a roster spot) and get Nick here. He just happened to be the guy at the moment, right now, that ended up being the one moved to make that decision be able to play itself out.”
There was a chance for Herrera to be part of the White Sox bullpen as the team moved into the contention phase of its rebuilding project. Instead, other names emerged while he struggled, and Herrera is no longer part of the picture.
As for what that picture could look like moving forward, we’ll find out after this season. Colomé is set to hit free agency. The White Sox gave Bummer a long-term contract extension in spring training, potentially setting him up as the next man up at closer should Colomé depart. They could bring Cishek back on a 2021 option, though it will be interesting to see how they approach the decisions on Cishek’s options and the options of other veteran players with so little evaluation time in the shortened 2020 season.