Through the first three games of the season, the Chicago White Sox have gotten outstanding pitching from their starters and solid offensive output. However, another positive the team can also point to was the performance of its bullpen.
The injuries suffered by pitchers Lucas Giolito (abdominal strain), Lance Lynn (knee), Joe Kelly (bicep), Garrett Crochet (Tommy John surgery), and Ryan Burr (shoulder), along with starters going limited innings due to the lockout-shortened spring training, has put a greater emphasis on the bullpen to produce when called upon.
Albeit a small sample size, the returns have been encouraging. Despite the Opening Day collapses of reliever Aaron Bummer and closer Liam Hendriks, the bullpen managed to hold the Detroit Tigers’ bats in check over the three-game series. The White Sox used nine different relievers who combined for 13 total appearances spanning 13.2 innings.
Relievers gave up 12 total hits over that time, six of which were given up by Bummer and Hendriks in game one and two more by Bummer the next day. In the third game, the combination of Kyle Crick, Matt Foster, Kendall Graveman, and Tanner Banks (who was making his major league debut) allowed no hits to the Tigers over five innings of work.
The Chicago White Sox needs their bullpen to keep up the good work in 2022.
A career minor leaguer to this point, Banks pitched well enough in the spring to make the opening day roster. The 30-year-old lefty paid dividends right away with two hitless and scoreless innings to go along with four strikeouts.
Another southpaw making an impact was Bennett Sousa who looked very good in his 2.1 innings. The 10th round pick in the 2018 draft didn’t allow a run or hit in his two appearances while recording one strikeout and zero walks.
Bummer and Hendriks’ forgettable first day accounted for four of the six total runs allowed by White Sox relievers. All total, bullpen arms struck out 13 and walked six over that stretch.
The walks, however, are a little concerning. Crick and Bummer each had one in the opener while Reynaldo Lopez and Banks had two each on Sunday. Lopez’s first time out saw him go one inning, giving up two hits and a run.
The effective starting pitching of Giolito, Dylan Cease, and Michael Kopech set the tone early and the bullpen did a nice job to follow up on it. Due to the shortened spring training, starters will take a while to get stretched out to go six and seven innings. The pen will have a pretty significant workload over the next few weeks as a result.
That workload will be something to keep an eye on due to injuries and how the back end of the starting rotation will work. Giolito could miss his next two starts and Lynn will be out until mid-May following knee surgery which puts manager Tony LaRussa in the position of having to juggle his rotation around.
LaRussa named Keuchel as his fifth starter and will pitch on Wednesday against Seattle. The White Sox opted to go with Vince Velasquez in the home opener after using Lopez on Sunday.
Neither Velasquez nor Keuchel were very influential in spring training and should that trend continue, the bullpen will be hard at work once again. The performances of the two starters could determine how quickly if at all, general manager Rick Hahn acts in making a move to bring in another starting pitcher.