The Chicago White Sox bullpen can make a case as the best in baseball. They showed everybody why on Sunday afternoon with a dominating performance.
The results of Spring training games should be taken with a grain of salt. After all, you probably can’t tell me what the Los Angeles Dodgers’ spring training was last season before they went onto win the World Series. Heading into Monday’s game against the Chicago Cubs, the White Sox Cactus League record stands at just 3-8.
However, Tony La Russa doesn’t want to hear it. He is playing to win regardless of the situation.
"“I think you’ve got to practice winning,” the White Sox skipper said after the White Sox first loss of the spring a couple of weeks ago. “You get 30 chances. so you don’t want to wait until Opening Day. Whether the team or manager, you’re suppose to be using those games to anticipate and make decisions.”"
With that in mind, Sunday’s game must have been a breath of fresh air for the White Sox manager. It was a statement win that should have the rest of the league on notice. The White Sox bats are expected to power the White Sox to the majority of their wins this season. On Sunday the White Sox trotted out a lineup that had five starters in it. However, they were not the storyline on this afternoon. The bats were silenced for the majority of the game.
The pitching staff was the story and provided the blueprint for how the White Sox can produce a ton of victories this season. Lance Lynn kept the Athletics off the scoreboard in 3.1 innings pitched. It was a mixed bag that saw him strike out four hitters but give out three walks. He left a runner on first base when he departed the game.
That is when the bullpen stole the show. Evan Marshall was the first out of the pen. He struck out the first batter he faced then endured a flyable to keep Matt Chapman stranded at first. He then came out for another inning of work and struck out three of the four batters he faced. Marshall has been a pleasant surprise out of the White Sox bullpen for the past couple of seasons. In his first season with the White Sox, he had a 2.49 ERA in 2019. He followed that up with an even better 2.38 mark the following season. These innings included some high-leverage situations late in games.
The next man out of the pen was Aaron Bummer. Bummer may have the best stuff out of the entire White Sox bullpen. Ethan Katz called his sinker “the most impressive thing I’ve ever seen in my life.” His teammates don’t even like to play catch with him because the ball moves too much. He was as advertised firing a perfect 1-2-3 inning that was punctuated with a strikeout at the end. Bummer is expected to be the setup man for the White Sox but he has the talent to be a closer on most other teams in the MLB.
The White Sox second-year reliever, Codi Heuer then upstaged the previous two pitchers. He threw two perfect innings and sent four of the six batters he faced back to the bench on strikes. Heuer is yet another electric arm out of the White Sox bullpen. In his rookie season, he had a 1.52 ERA in 21 appearances.
Nursing a 1-0 lead Jose Ruiz came into the game. Unlike the other three pitchers that appeared out of the bullpen, Ruiz is battling for a roster spot. He looked sharp locking down the game with two strikeouts and stranded a man on first base to earn the save. Ruiz had some success last year for the White Sox. He pitched in five games and had a 2.25 ERA. He has the ability to light up the radar gun. If he is the White Sox worse option out of the bullpen, then the rest of the league better watch out.
This game turned out to be a masterclass in pitching and showcased why the White Sox bullpen will be so dangerous this season. Three of the four pitchers are expected to be major contributors late in games this season. I have yet to mention the illustrious list of pitchers the White Sox has stacked away in their bullpen arsenal. This list of power arms includes MLB Networks number one reliever in all of baseball, Liam Hendriks. Hendriks is the White Sox prized offseason accusation the will be closing out games for them this season. The list also includes flame throwers Micheal Kopech, Garret Crochet, and Matt Foster.
This has all been a long way to say that the White Sox may not lose a game if they have a lead after the sixth innings.
As Aaron Bummer put it:
"“At the end of the day, I don’t necessarily care if we end up the No. 1 rated bullpen or the No. 4 rated bullpen or No. 7. I want to be 90-0 with a lead after six innings.”"
The White Sox bullpen was a stretch of the 2020 team and it has only improved this offseason. So Aaron Bummer has every right to feel this confident. If teams were not paying attention to Sunday they should have because they can take away a valuable lesson. If you’re playing the White Sox you better jump on their starting pitching early.