Chicago White Sox: Freddy Garcia
Look ahead to 2011: Even if Peavy doesn’t start next season on time, the rotation looks promising. If Peavy can regain his health after surgery to repair a detached muscle and come back by May 1, the rotation would be in good shape. But no pitcher has ever undergone this kind of surgery and returned so doubt remains until Peavy has success again. If Chris Sale doesn’t open the season in the rotation in place of Peavy, he figures to start at some point in 2011. Danks, Buehrle and Floyd all are back. Buehrle will be a free agent after the 2011 season.
Key stat: The rotation went 0-9 with a 6.45 ERA during an important 18-game stretch late in the season, setting a White Sox record for most consecutive games without a victory from a starter.
Quote: “The biggest headache for every manager, every organization, every general manager, is putting together a [starting] pitching staff. We've got it done. We even have one guy we don't know what to do with, Sale. He could be a starter or a reliever, we don't know yet.” -- Buehrle.
TUESDAY: Relief pitching.
From in-fighting to a slow start to an improbable comeback and then a slow fade back into obscurity, the White Sox went through plenty this season. Jake Peavy’s season-ending injury was a tough blow, Paul Konerko’s MVP push was a highlight and Chris Sale’s emergence was a revelation.
Bullpen injuries, a dreadful start in April and May and some scathing Twitter critiques (mostly from Guillen’s son Oney), kept the drama flowing. By the end of the season Guillen and general manager Kenny Williams had kissed and made up, Brent Morel emerged as a talent for the future and nine victories over the final 11 games removed at least a little bit of the sour taste from a wild ride in 2010.
Here is what went right, what went wrong, questions for the offseason and what to look for in 2011:
What went wrong: Pierre was brought aboard to spark the offense in Guillen’s small-ball vision, but a .260 on-base percentage and a .193 batting average in April was a major reason for the team’s slow start offensively. Sure Quentin had his red-hot run when the ballpark was playing small during the hottest part of the summer, but nagging injuries continued to cost him playing time, which ruined his consistency at the plate.
INFIELDWhat went right: Omar Vizquel. Omar Vizquel. Omar Vizquel. With all due respect to Konerko, Vizquel’s unexpected contributions, especially on defense, were what made the White Sox click on the infield this season. Vizquel’s steady hand at third base came when the starting pitchers made huge improvements, and it was no coincidence. Shortstop Alexei Ramirez showed Gold Glove ability, while second baseman Gordon Beckham fought through a sophomore slump to post an impressive second half (.310 after the break). Konerko put up MVP-type numbers in what could be his final season on the South Side: .312, 39 HRs, 111 RBIs.
ROTATIONWhat went right: Freddy Garcia’s 12 victories (a number that could have been as high as 16 with some help from the bullpen) gave the starting staff much-needed stability from the front end to the back. When Gavin Floyd was posting a 0.80 ERA in five July starts, he was pitching as well as anybody in baseball. John Danks might not garner any Cy Young votes, but he was a leader of the 2010 staff, going 15-11 with a 3.72 ERA. Mark Buehrle just keeps on churning out solid seasons, becoming the only active pitcher with 10-consecutive seasons of at least 10 victories, 30 starts and 200 innings. Edwin Jackson was an animal in his first four White Sox starts, posting a 0.96 ERA over 28 innings.
What went wrong: The starting pitchers can be forgiven for their slow start to the season, but when it was time to make up for it in September, they were nowhere to be found. With the season on the line, the White Sox’s staff set a dubious club record by not winning a game in 18 consecutive starts. The starters were 0-9 over that stretch with a 6.45 ERA. Sure Floyd was terrific in the middle of the season, but he has a career ERA of 6.30 in April, a 5.47 mark in May and a 4.44 mark in September. That trend continued once again this season.
What went wrong: Calf, back and forearm injuries left Jenks with 27 saves, the least in any of his five full seasons. Jenks wasn’t the only reliever whose injuries hampered the team. Thornton and Putz were on the disabled list at the same time during a key stretch during the second half. Other issues: Santos allowed 32.2 percent of inherited runners to score, while Tony Pena had a .341 batting average against vs. first batters.
What went wrong: From the day Guillen’s son Oney left his position with the team during spring training, the manager and Williams were on shaky ground, only repairing the relationship during the final week of the season. Williams took a chance on Teahen that didn’t work well in Year 1 of a three-year deal. Sure it was admirable that Williams took a chance to make the team better down the stretch, but Manny Ramirez didn’t come close to reviving his 2008 magic, and the White Sox were left holding a $4 million invoice.
If Konerko doesn’t return, then who plays first base? Could they use the Konerko money to convince Adam Dunn to come to Chicago? Who will close if Jenks isn’t brought back, as expected. Putz is a free agent and Thornton has a team option, leaving a number of decisions to make in the bullpen. If the team doesn’t want to commit to free agent A.J. Pierzynski for multiple years, would they be willing to bring him back for just 2011?
WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2011
Konerko’s return is 50-50. The team is interested and so is Konerko, but the veteran said that even if the White Sox are the highest bidder, it won’t guarantee that he comes back. Sale is expected to be converted back into a starting pitcher and could be the No. 5 starter if Peavy isn’t ready to return from a shoulder muscle injury by Opening Day.
Starting Brent Morel at third base and Dayan Viciedo at first leaves too many offensive question marks, so if Konerko doesn’t re-sign look for the White Sox to make a push for a veteran first or third baseman. The same goes for catcher if Pierzynski isn’t re-signed: look for the White Sox to bring aboard a veteran backstop for one or two years. Expect the White Sox to quickly exercise Thornton’s $3 million option for 2011.
CHICAGO – It takes Juan Pierre but a split second to analyze his season and sigh.
He has a .270 batting average, a team-leading 172 hits and the most stolen bases in baseball with 63. He is trying to become the first White Sox player to lead the league in steals since Luis Aparicio in 1961.
“Stolen-base wise, I did decent, but offensively, I haven’t had the season I wanted to, with the consistency,” Pierre said. “I haven’t done it consistently. I’m going to fight to the end and try to finish strong and take it into my work in the offseason.”
It takes manager Ozzie Guillen but a split second to analyze Pierre’s season and the first word out of his mouth is, “Awesome.”
Why such differing opinions?
For Pierre it’s all about the black and white of production. He might not know exactly that he had a .193 batting average in April, but he knows it wasn’t good. He knows he was part of a big group of underachieving White Sox players that doomed the club with a slow start.
“He’s showing a lot of people how to play the game,” Guillen said. “I don’t see him hitting a ground ball and walking to first base or dogging it halfway through it. He plays the game right. Maybe because he didn’t have that much talent when he grew up and [this is] the way he learned how to play.”
Guillen said that if just 40 percent of the players in baseball played the way Pierre did, the game would be better for it.
“I wish this kid [Jared Mitchell] wouldn’t have gotten hurt in spring training,” Guillen said. “He would be here with us right now, just to see [Pierre]. I told them to send Juan Pierre tapes to this kid.”
Pierre is under contract for one more season and then perhaps Mitchell or somebody else will take over at the top of the order. But as far as Guillen is concerned, Pierre has handled the spot just as he had hoped.
“He never gives up at-bats, he always shows up to play, he’s always positive,” Guillen said. “It’s a shame we [don’t] have more players like him, not just White Sox, but baseball period like Juan Pierre.”
So what if that lead-by-example style won’t exactly translate into being a manager one day.
“He’d never be a manager; he never likes to talk,” Guillen said. “To be a leader, you have to talk. You see a lot of crazy leaders, all kind of leaders out there. A leader has to talk. If he can’t talk, he can’t be a leader. That’s why I’m a leader.”
So what can Pierre be when his playing days are done?
“I wish he’d be a coach,” Guillen said. “He’s a very smart man. … He plays the game right. He criticizes his teammates the right way.”
Guillen knows, though, that it doesn’t seem likely that he will have Pierre on his staff one day.
“He’s got like $100 million in the bank,” Guillen said. “Why you want to coach? Stay home, relax and spend your money somewhere. Don’t put yourself in that position.”
Maybe the game ends up having too much of a handle on Pierre for him to just walk away, although it’s probably not a decision he will have to make anytime soon. At 33 and in his 11th major-league season, Pierre isn’t a young man anymore. But he continues to run hard this late in the season even though the White Sox aren’t in contention.
It goes back to what Guillen talked about of Pierre being a guy that is always prepared and always works hard. It’s the only way Pierre knows.
“You never want to go into the offseason with too much of a sour taste,” Pierre said. “It’s going to be sour because we are going to be watching others in October. We can end on a good note and carry it over to spring training and get ready for next year.”
By the numbers
8: Years since Freddy Garcia last lost to the Red Sox. After defeating Boston on Wednesday during his last start of the season, Garcia is now 8-2 with a 4.40 ERA lifetime against the Red Sox and 2-0 with a 4.68 ERA in four career starts at U.S. Cellular Field. Garcia’s last loss to Boston was May 19, 2002, when he gave up three earned runs in eight innings at Fenway Park.
“I’m really happy with the way I pitched tonight. We got second place, at least. I finished strong and I showed them and everybody else I can still pitch. I missed two starts but I battled. I’ve always been that way. I do my job.” – Garcia, who finished the season 12-6 with a 4.64 ERA and helped the White Sox clinch second place in the AL Central.
White Sox left-hander John Danks (14-11, 3.74) will make his final start of the season Thursday, looking for his first career victory over the Red Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. Danks will be opposed by Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester (19-8, 2.96), who is trying to become Boston’s first 20-game winner since Josh Beckett(20-7) in 2007.
Out since Sept. 7, when a sore lower back cut short his second consecutive outing, Garcia felt it was a priority to return to the mound before the season ended.
A free agent after this season, Garcia wanted to show that the back injury, which required an epidural shot at one point, was nothing to worry about for teams shopping for starters this offseason. The White Sox are included in those teams looking for pitching.
“It was important to me because now I have one more start to show everybody that I’m 100 percent and that’s what I did,” said Garcia, who didn't sit on the bench between innings to make sure his back didn't tighten up.
Not only did Garcia pitch through rust and any lingering discomfort, he survived a line drive off the side of his right thigh in the second inning, a ball he actually caught on the rebound for the out. After wincing, and in some serious pain, Garcia stayed in the game.
Garcia ended up allowing just one run on four hits over six innings with two walks and five strikeouts. Afterward he showed off a raised welt on his leg that was starting to turn purple.
So why does he still need to improve himself after 28 starts and a 4.74 ERA this year?
“You never know what they’re looking for,” Garcia said. “For me that’s fine. I have to pitch against Boston [next week] and I know that’s the last one.”
The right-hander has now pitched 150 innings this season, easily his most since throwing 216 1/3 in 2006. He turns 34 in a few weeks and despite a history of injuries, with the way Garcia redefined himself as a control pitcher this year, manager Ozzie Guillen knows his starter will have his share of pursuers this offseason.
“There is no question,” Guillen said. “I think this kid showed people he can still pitch. When guys can still pitch and throw strikes and is a veteran [pitcher] who can give you everything he has out there, if there is any scout out there saw the way he threw for us, I don’t see why he wouldn’t pitch next year. I see guys who do a lot less than he does.”
By the numbers
18: Games the White Sox have gone without getting a victory from a starting pitcher. The streak is a club record, with the old mark of 15 set during the 1985 season.
“You take a little pride about it. If you don’t make it where you want to make it, you still want to finish the best you can. My priority was to always finish first. … If you finish second, it’s better than last.” –- Guillen, on the team’s desire to still finish strong this season.
White Sox left-hander John Danks (13-11) will make his next-to-last start at Angel Stadium, where he is 1-0 with a 1.47 ERA in three career starts. Danks will be opposed by Angels left-hander Scott Kazmir (9-14, 5.84), who has just two victories at home this season.
Freddy Garcia (back), Bobby Jenks (forearm) and Gordon Beckham (hand) all could be candidates to become spectators over the final few weeks of the season. Guillen, though, isn’t ready to go that route with anybody just yet.
“Nobody is shut down,” Guillen said. “They are still making a lot of money. I still have a shot. Maybe it sounds impossible or crazy but yes, I still have a shot. I’m not giving up until the shot is over. Even when the shot is over with, you will continue to play unless you are hurt.
“As soon as this thing is over and the players don’t want to play, they know where to find me and say they are going to shut it down. I get paid to win games and win the most games we can. Players have to go out there for different reasons. There are a lot of different reasons to go out and play.
“I promise we will play hard and the right way no matter what.”
It’s enough to make manager Ozzie Guillen hit the bottle.
Guillen will need to decide on one of his two rookie pitchers to pick up a start Saturday for the injured Freddy Garcia. And how will he make such a decision?
“Let me talk to my vodka,” Guillen said.
As for Garcia, who has been out for over a week with lower back pain, he still is feeling some discomfort and there is a good chance he won’t pitch again this season. Guillen would hate to see the free agent not get another turn on the mound before the season ends.
“I think Freddy should go out there and at least give it a shot for one or two outings because a lot of people out there they don't know what happened,” Guillen said. “I think it will show people that nothing bad happened.”
A bullpen session Thursday will go a long way in determining if Garcia even pitches again this season, but he did say that he isn’t interested in starting his offseason a few weeks early.
Garcia is still feeling lower back pain when he lands on his left leg during his delivery. He received an epidural shot after his start last Wednesday at Detroit, but it hasn’t done much for him. He said he won’t be getting another.
“I don’t think Freddy is going to pitch,” manager Ozzie Guillen said. “Yesterday, he didn’t sound good with what he told me. He was throwing on the side still feeling that a lot. Coming from Freddy, that means he can’t tolerate the pain because he’s been pitching with pain. Then we got to go Plan B.”
With the White Sox essentially out of the race for the division title, Saturday’s start will go to Tony Pena, Lucas Harrell or Carlos Torres.
CHICAGO -- Freddy Garcia is going to miss his scheduled start on Sunday. The right-hander's bothersome back, which caused him to leave a game after just two innings against Detroit on Sept. 7, hasn’t healed to the point that manager Ozzie Guillen and pitching coach Don Cooper were ready to let Garcia back in the rotation.
The White Sox bullpen has been a relative m*a*s*h* unit of late. Guillen once again addressed the status of reliever Bobby Jenks on Saturday.
“Bobby’s not my closer right now, he’s not, I’m very happy with [Chris] Sale,” Guillen said.
“I’m not saying [Jenk had] lost his job, I have to wait to see to put him in the game to see how he’s doing, how he feels, he’s got to throw on the side. It’s another process, it might take a little while, maybe one day, two days, three days … a week.”
As for what he’d seen so far from the young Chris Sale, Guillen was effusive in his praise.
“He’s shown me a lot of nerve, obviously everybody feels comfortable when they have the stuff; with that stuff I’d be comfortable too,” Guillen remarked with a slight chuckle. “I think mentally he’s prepared for it, do I think he’s ready to be the closer? I don’t know, but he’s doing it right now. I don’t know if it’s going to be a long term thing, but right now he’s doing a great job there.”
Guillen was hardly surprised by Sale’s apparent natural ability to come up with the big strikeout when needed.
“He’s got three strikeout pitches,” Guillen said. “If you’re a lefty and you throw strikes, you will survive.”
Clearly at the moment, Sale is doing more than surviving. As far as his long term future was concerned, Guillen was unsure if the youngster would be used as a starter or in relief. However, Guillen left little doubt that he had the utmost confidence in Sale’s ability to handle high pressure situations.
Freddy Garcia, who left each of his last two starts with a bad back isn’t expecting to be ready to pitch when his spot in the rotation comes up Sunday.
Garcia had an epidural shot in his lower back Thursday, but said he won’t know if it was effective at least until Saturday. He said he could use a between-start bullpen session, before he returns.
Bobby Jenks, who has been out of action this week because of a forearm strain, said he has no timetable for a return. Because he took anti-inflammatory medicine for a back injury last month, it’s too early to have another dose, meaning he will have to heal the natural way.
Beckham, who was out of the lineup for all three White Sox defeats at Detroit because of a sore hand, played second base Friday against the Royals and was in the No. 8 spot of the lineup. His usual No. 9 spot went to September call up Brent Morel, who was playing at third base.
If Garcia doesn't end up pitcing Sunday, Lucas Harrell is the leading candidate to pick up a spot start.
Matt Thornton would likely pick up a bulk of the save situations if Jenks is out for an extended period, although manager Ozzie Guillen said he wouldn't be afraid to use rookie Chris Sale in that role.
DETROIT -– The end of a seven-game win streak shouldn’t feel like a crash landing.
This one did, though, as the White Sox’s winning ways came to a close, with a game lost in the standings to the Minnesota Twins.
As the White Sox were being crushed by the Tigers 9-1 on Tuesday, the Twins were putting a similar beating on the Kansas City Royals. By the time both games ended, the White Sox were facing a 4 1/2-game deficit in the American League Central standings.
The concept that perhaps the White Sox’s recent run could start affecting the Twins was destroyed. And despite losing just once so far on this 10-game road trip, the White Sox have nothing to show for their efforts.
While the White Sox have gone 7-1 so far on their trip, the Twins have done the same over their last eight games. Now it’s up to the White Sox to not become demoralized over spinning their wheels.
“We won seven games in a row and the only game we picked up was the day we didn’t play and they lost,” A.J. Pierzynski said. “What can you do? You go out and play as hard as we can. Nobody is giving up. Nobody is panicking.
“Everyone is busting their tail every day and we are trying to win every game. If it works out, it works out. There’s nothing you can do. When you are behind, you have to hope for help and win every game.”
Ramirez declined to comment after the game for the second consecutive day, but when asked if the pitch caught bone, he said it hit the “meat.”
Manager Ozzie Guillen didn’t sound too worried about his new designated hitter.
“I have to see tomorrow if he’s stiff or whatever,” Guillen said. “No, he was fine.’’
Garcia could be the bigger issue. The right-hander said he was feeling fine all week but as soon as he put in maximum effort in the first inning, the pain he felt last week returned. He said certain movements trigger the discomfort like raising his arms and putting his left leg forward like he does on his delivery.
“I should be [worried] I guess, but I don’t know,” Garcia said. “I was warming in the bullpen fine and the game is different. When you throw in the bullpen, you go 70 percent. But when you go in the game you want to go harder. Obviously, I wasn’t able to do it.’’
On top of all that, Gordon Beckham was a late scratch because of his injured right hand. Beckham was hurt Aug. 30 at Cleveland when he was hit by a pitch. He returned to the lineup Friday at Boston, but after playing four games, he could barely grip a bat before Tuesday’s contest.
Guillen was trying to remain upbeat.
“Well, I will take 7-1 again. I will do that,” Guillen said. “I will take 7-1 and see what happens. That’s part of the game. We all know that Minnesota is playing well now. They got a good ballclub, but like I said, I will take 7-1 and take a chance with that.’’
On the bright side of all the injury news, Paul Konerko (back) and J.J. Putz (knee) should be back soon. Konerko is expected to play Wednesday.
By the numbers
83: Plate appearances before Dayan Viciedo earned his first major-league walk. Recalled before Tuesday’s game, Viciedo entered in the ninth inning as a pinch hitter for Mark Kotsay and earned his first free pass, offering a modest fist pump while looking toward the White Sox dugout.
2: Number of White Sox players who were able to make their major-league debuts in Tuesday’s runaway game. Right-hander Gregory Infante gave up a hit and a walk in two-thirds of an inning but did not give up a run. Brent Morel came on as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning and struck out.
“It better be. It can’t be better than this. They better show up and support the club. They did it in the past. I think in the past when we had the last trip last year, we went in the tank quick. We’re done. It was over. I kept saying, ‘I hope, I hope, I hope.’ Deep inside it was hard when we play New York, Boston and Minnesota.” –- Guillen, when asked if he expects an electric atmosphere from White Sox fans when the team returns home this weekend to face the Royals and then the Twins.
White Sox left-hander John Danks (13-9, 3.56) will face the Tigers Wednesday night on just three days of rest. Danks won his last outing in Saturday's doubleheader at Boston by throwing 103 pitches over seven innings. He is 3-3 with a 3.58 ERA in nine career starts against the Tigers, losing his last outing at Comerica Park on Oct. 4 last season.
Danks will be opposed by Tigers right-hander Jeremy Bonderman (7-9, 5.25), who returned from a rib injury and threw a season-high 7 1/3 innings against the Royals on Friday. Bonderman has struggled since the All-Star break, going 2-3 with a 6.22 ERA.
Designated hitter Manny Ramirez also left Tuesday's game after getting hit by a pitch on the left wrist in the eighth inning -- the second time he was hit in the game.
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