For Chicago White Sox pitchers Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel, the 2021 season was one both would like to forget. Well, at least they would like to forget the second half.
Keuchel’s lead-up to the All-Star break was pretty good as he posted a 7-3 record and 4.25 earned run average in 97.1 innings. Kimbrel was lights out as the Chicago Cubs closer before heading over to the southside, notching 23 saves with a minimal 0.49 ERA and 64 strikeouts in 36.2 innings.
However, the second half was a nightmare for the duo. Kimbrel earned one save and saw his ERA balloon to 5.09 in a set-up role with the Sox, while Keuchel went 2-6 with his ERA jumping up to 6.82 which led to his not being on the playoff roster.
With a new season comes renewed hope for teams and players alike. Each pitcher will be using the shortened spring training to work on fixing what went wrong during the back half of the year. Those remedies could come in the form of anything from grip on the ball to mental preparation to position on the mound.
The Chicago White Sox needs all of their pitchers to step up big in 2022.
Pitchers say they don’t think a lot about the box score results of spring games as much as they focus on the work they are putting in toward getting ready for the season. While it’s nice to think that, the stats from those games can have both fans and management a little concerned.
Kimbrel’s performance this spring is important to the White Sox for several reasons. If he can regain his form during his time with the Cubs and can fit into the set-up role for closer Liam Hendriks, it will only serve to strengthen the team’s bullpen.
Also, if he performs well over the spring, it may also open up the number of potential trade partners the team can work with to fill needs in the lineup.
The problem for Kimbrel is he looked like the guy from the second half of last season in his first spring outing. He allowed two runs on five hits in two-thirds of an inning. That’s not exactly the type of stuff that instills confidence in the team or excites other clubs looking to add a closer.
Keuchel has had a rough go of trying to regain the form that made him a valuable commodity for the White Sox in 2020 when he posted a 1.99 ERA over his 11 starts in the COVID shortened season. Kimbrel has thrown two and a third innings, giving up three runs on five hits while striking out four and walking two.
Penciled in as either the fourth or fifth starter, Keuchel knows he has work to do to help the club:
"“It doesn’t really bother me. I feel great. I’m ready to go and my stuff is pretty crisp for what it is right now.” Keuchel said. “Outs are outs, so I would expect Tony not to be pulling me in the fifth or taking the ball in the second or third inning like it was the second half of last year.”"
Granted, each has only had one appearance thus far, so is it too early to panic? Yes. Is it something to keep an eye on and be a little worried about? Yes.
There is time to turn things around and both will keep working at trying to get things right. How much they will be able to contribute remains to be seen, but the White Sox need production from and depth in the pitching staff if they want to make a run through the playoffs.