Near the end of an enjoyable weekend of the White Sox playing satisfying baseball, Nick Schaefer had to come in and ruined this poor game recapper’s fun by reminding me that these games don’t matter and maybe the White Sox should be acting more accordingly than riding Matt Lindstrom for two innings in a three-run game.
Lindstrom recently cleared waivers, suggesting that attempts to showcase him for a trade, as much as he was in rare form Sunday, are likely in vain. And apparently, so were whatever hopes Jake Petricka had of making his major league debut in front of friends and family in Minnesota.
Not that the White Sox owe Petricka such an honor, but the list of reasons the White Sox have that would be more important is shorter than might be realized. The Sox don’t trade in blowouts, so the fact that they were winning on Saturday and Sunday meant the normal setup & save crew of Nate Jones, Matt Lindstrom and Addison Reed were trotted out.
Nate Jones has improved in every way that matters this season (strikeouts, walks, groundball rate, confidence in his slider) and assessing his readiness to be the primary right-handed setup man in next year’s bullpen has its purpose, and Matt Lindstrom’s $4 million 2014 option might still get picked up, but both could certainly use a break. Lindstrom leads the American League in appearances and Jones is fourth in innings for pitchers who have pitched exclusively out of the bullpen. The departure of Jesse Crain and Matt Thornton is not serving them well.
While the close situation of the game would seem to tilt the focus toward veterans, Robin Ventura himself boasted “There’s not going to be a breaking in period or anything like that. If he’s up, he’s throwing,” and a meaningless game against the Twins pales in comparison to Chris Sale making his debut in the eighth inning of a tie game in August with the Sox in the thick of a division race.
Arguing about the manager decisions of the Twins series can feel about as meaningful as the results (even if Hector Santiago‘s usage was curiously inspired), it’s more about the principle going forward: being 25 games under .500 should be the push Ventura needs to become as aggressive as a normal Ozzie Guillen.
While the lack of any MLB-ready offensive prospects besides the ones they could scrounge up at the deadline have limited how much the Sox could use the rest of the season handing out meaningless plate appearances to prospects, such a dilemma pretty much never applies to the bullpen. While Ramon Troncoso‘s heart problems are unfortunate and I wish him the best, his sliding to the DL and forcing up Petricka–whose immediate dominance as a reliever was the safety valve the White Sox had throughout his struggles to materialize as a starter since 2010–only shines more focus on how little purpose the continued use of the 30 year-old had.
Petricka earned his entry to the big leagues when Simon Castro came off the disabled list and allowed six home runs in 12.2 innings, kicking himself to the back of the line, and Daniel Webb, an intimidating fireballer who has struck out 34 hitters in 22 innings since being called up to Triple-A (while also walking 16) will probably be next in line to get a look after that. But Castro was originally sent down after an assuredly uneven and control-deprived 6.2 innings with Chicago, when the Sox were 37-55 and holding on to Troncoso and David Purcery, two guys over 30 who have since battled to keep their strikeout to walk ratio on the right side of 1:1 (and Purcey’s losing the fight).
September call-ups are going to settle this all soon, but the Sox lineups and bullpen usage, and being second in the AL in starters pitches and innings thrown, have leaned more toward playing out the string than specifically preparing for the future. There’s still six weeks to change that, and the bullpen has plenty room for exploration.
David Purcey is a journeyman LOOGY with control problems, I’d be interested in seeing if Charlie Leesman could be at least the same.
Ramon Troncoso misses the strike zone but not bats, I’m interested in Daniel Webb because he purports to solve one of these problems.
I’d be more interested in seeing Jake Petricka blow a game than seeing Nate Jones and Matt Lindstrom blow down appearances and innings records.
And so on, and so forth…Maybe these aren’t the most important desires in the world, but the Sox don’t have anything better to do.
Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan