Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Improving White Sox Rotation Could Use Return of Abreu

May 25, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Andre Rienzo (64) pitches against the New York Yankees during the first inning at U.S Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

The last eleven games have seen  a bit of  role reversal for the Chicago White Sox, with the normally impressive offense quite in the last few days while the starting pitching has turned in a string of impressive starts. That offense needs to pitch in, and it may be getting some assistance on Monday.

The White Sox rotation has had a down-and-up stretch in May. The 21 games previous to Saturday’s contest with the Padres illustrate this clearly.

Over the first 11 games of that stretch of action, White Sox starting pitchers had an ERA of 6.90. But over the next ten games and entering play on Saturday, White Sox starting pitchers appeared to be building momentum. The official Saturday game notes pointed out that White Sox starters had a 2.19 ERA over the previous ten games, allowing only 15 earned runs over 61 and 2/3 innings pitched, second only to the San Francisco Giants over that period.

John Danks, who had a rough start to 2014, has in his last two starts added depth to the rotation, serving as a useful link in the “chain,” as Doug Padilla of ESPN Chicago wrote Saturday:

Against the New York Yankees last week, the left-hander gave up only three hits and no runs over eight innings. And on Friday against the Padres it was another quality start as he gave up two runs and eight hits over seven innings.

Padilla quoted Robin Ventura explaining his thoughts on the rotation:

“They’ve come along,” manager Robin Ventura said. “I think as banged up as we were for a while there, with Johnny coming on the way he is, Hector [Noesi] and Andre {Rienzo] picking up the slack and starting to progress, I think they’re getting stronger as we go along. Where we’re at right now you stay with them and we have confidence when they go out there.”

Rienzo, however, did not perform well on Saturday,  lasting only three and one-third innings, while giving up three runs,  on seven hits and two walks, while striking out four. that makes a  Despite today’s poor showing, the White Sox rotation still has a 2.49 ERA over their past 11 games.

However, the problems the White Sox have had lately–and in particular in the first two games of their series with the Padres–relate to their lack of scoring rather than to pitching failures. White Sox batters produced little against Padre Starters Ian Kennedy and Tyson Ross, with Kennedy shutting down the Sox in Friday, and Ross did the same on Saturday.

The probable Monday return of Jose Abreau’s bat should deepen the lineup and hopefully make it less dependent on ninth-inning heroics. Abreu aims to return Monday against the Dodgers and their ace, Clayton Kershaw. He participated in a simulated game on Saturday. One eyewitness reported Abreu appeared “rusty“:

The 27-year-old slugger looked rusty facing the low-level minor league pitchers flown in by the White Sox for this weekend’s simulated games. Abreu was often late on fastballs and didn’t hit a home run, though he slammed a couple of deep fly balls and hooked a few breaking balls down the left field line that would’ve gone for singles in an actual game.

Rust should be expected as Abreu is not expected to undertake a rehab assignment.

Abreu ran the bases Saturday to test his ankle. Although able to “briskly jog” the bases, he left the field with a limp, as per this tweet:

Abrue was also hit by a pitch by converted-minor-league-shortstop Bradley Salgado, who was pitching in Saturday’s imulated game, hit Abreu above his left elbow. It must have hurt:

Abreu hopped out of the batting-practice cage and was doubled over in pain holding his arm. He was tended to by trainer Herm Schneider but returned to take his next turn in the cage, only this time with a pad on his left arm.

White Sox fans hope Sunday’s simulated game passes without any further incidents of this nature.

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Tags: Chicago White Sox John Danks Jose Abreu

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