ARLINGTON, Texas – The mood was somber in the Chicago White Sox’s clubhouse after a 5-2 road win against the Texas Rangers on Saturday night.
Eduardo Escobar had just heard the news that he had been traded to the Minnesota Twins after going 2-for-5 with two doubles in the White Sox’s winning effort. He struggled to hold back tears as he hugged his teammates and said goodbye to the only professional organization he had even known.
Escobar and Triple-A pitching prospect Pedro Hernandez were included in a deal with Minnesota to send LHP Francisco Liriano to Chicago to help bolster a pitching staff that has been bitten by the injury bug -- John Danks and Gavin Floyd have made just 27 starts combined -- this season. While the 28-year-old Liriano could potentially be a great addition to the pitching staff, the White Sox admitted that it was hard to see Escobar go.
“I think it’s a little tough in here after a good win like this because Escobar’s a big part of what we’ve been doing,” Robin Ventura said. “It’s more than just numbers and how you play, it’s the attitude he brings. It’s a tough one team-wise. He’s kind of like a little brother or a son to most guys. He’s taking it hard. It’s just part of baseball. It happens to a lot of people. It will make us better though.”
The 23-year-old Escobar is hitting .207 with four doubles and three RBIs in 36 games for the White Sox this season. Teammates agreed that his contributions were much deeper and more intangible than just statistics.
“He’s such a good kid,” Adam Dunn said. “He’s such a good part of this team. He keeps everybody loose and we really enjoyed having him. He’s a lot of fun. They’re going to really enjoy him over there.”
“He’s definitely going to be missed,” Jordan Danks said. “When I first signed in ’08, he and I came up together so I’ve played with him pretty much at every level. He’s the same guy that I met whenever I first signed. He’ll be sorely missed.”
Liriano, an All-Star in 2006, has not lived up to expectations since receiving reconstructive elbow surgery. This year he is 3-10 with a 5.31 ERA in 22 appearances. He was demoted to the bullpen in mid-May when his ERA was 9.45. Paul Konerko hopes that a change of scenery improves Liriano’s fortunes.
“You’ve seen him come out and pitch well. You’ve seen him throw a no hitter,” Konerko said. “Hopefully a change of scenery will give him a shot of energy. We’ll just have to wait and see. He doesn’t need to throw shutouts, just come in and give us a chance to win.”
White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper said he does not know where Liriano will fit in the rotation. The addition of Liriano should provide some relief for John Danks and Floyd, as both attempt to return to Chicago’s rotation from the DL.
On Friday, the team said it was trying a different approach in Danks’ rehab. Instead of long toss he will throw primarily off the mound every third day.
“Obviously it would be ideal if we had a longer time to build up arm strength, but we just don’t have that time,” Danks said of his rehab on Friday. “I’m on board and kind of willing to do anything at this point to get back. I’ve been assured that I can push it more than I might want to. As long as I can get to a point where I can be effective, I’m going to try it.”
Adam Dunn, who saw Liriano pitch a no-hitter against his White Sox in 2011, believes that he will be able to live up to his potential in Chicago.
“I think it’s a great addition for us,” Dunn said. “When he’s right, he can be one of the most dominant lefties in the game. Hopefully he can kind of buy into what we’re doing over here and he can get back to what he’s capable of doing.”
If Liriano can get back to his All-Star level of play, there is little doubt that this could turn out to be one of the best sleeper trades of Kenny Williams’ stint as the White Sox GM. But in the words of Konerko, we’ll have to wait and see.