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Monday, April 14, 2014
Stock Watch: Ramirez in a better place

By Doug Padilla

Alexei Ramirez
Alexei Ramirez is leading the AL with a .420 batting average.

RISING

1. Alexei Ramirez, SS: The veteran was geared up for a big offensive season last year when his world came crashing down during spring training following the death of his father-in-law. Looking as if he has returned to a comfort zone, Ramirez has started 2014 in impressive fashion with a hit in every game so far, capped by the game-ending home run Sunday. Ramirez leads the American League with a .420 batting average, but more impressive is his league-leading 1.143 OPS. With hits in the next two games, Ramirez will tie Frank Thomas' franchise record for longest hitting streak to start a season.

2. Marcus Semien, 2B: The rookie isn’t necessarily dominating, but he has shown there is hope for a bright future if the White Sox decide to part ways with Gordon Beckham either this year or next. Sure there was Semien’s go-ahead home run in Sunday’s game, but his ability to extend at-bats has helped a new look offense. With 4.53 pitches seen per plate appearance, Semien is fifth in the AL in that category, and a big reason why the White Sox have been able to get into opponents’ bullpens so early this season.

3. Daniel Webb, RHP: In the barren wasteland that has been the White Sox’s bullpen, the rookie has been an oasis. He allowed an inherited runner to score in his more previous outing, but he leads the bullpen with 7 1/3 innings pitched and has recorded a 2.45 ERA in the process. He remains a closer possibility down the road, but the White Sox still hope veteran Matt Lindstrom will figure out the high-pressure role.

Lindstrom
Matt Lindstrom has a 5.20 ERA in a struggling Sox bullpen.

FALLING

1. Matt Lindstrom, RHP: A number of pitchers are struggling in the bullpen, but as the closer Lindstrom has been the face of the problems. His blown save in Sunday’s eventual victory was only a part of what has gone wrong. Lindstrom has a 5.40 ERA so far, while his 2.000 WHIP and his 1.000 strikeout-to-walk ratio are the worst they have been at any point of his career.

2. Felipe Paulino RHP:
When Paulino was signed this winter for a guaranteed $1.75 million, it looked like the classic reclamation project for pitching coach Don Cooper. So far, that project has yet to take hold as Paulino has posted a 7.98 ERA in three starts and has a 2.11 WHIP. His walks (nine) and his earned runs (13) lead the White Sox, and it has been clear that one has led to the other. The White Sox aren't ready to end this experiment just yet, but a long-man bullpen role could be next if the problems continue.

3. Scott Downs, LHP: In five outings so far, Downs has failed to record an out in three of them. He has a staff high 16.20 ERA and has allowed four walks in 1 2/3 innings. What to do? Cooper and manager Robin Ventura will continue to ease Downs through his early-season woes. The team certainly won’t quit on a guy that is making a guaranteed $4 million this season.