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Decision time has arrived for White Sox

7/18/2015

CHICAGO -- The day started with a celebration of the 2005 Chicago White Sox World Series champions and ended with more evidence of the troubles the 2015 squad has faced.

The current club tried to keep the cheers going after a pregame ceremony to recognize the 10-year anniversary of the White Sox's only championship in nearly 100 years. It worked for a stretch, as they put together some uncharacteristic offensive rallies, but fell short in the end. Again.

The drama following the 7-6 defeat in 13 innings to the Kansas City Royals, though, was splintered in two directions.

The first mini-drama was centered around the career-high 3 2/3 innings reliever Dan Jennings was asked to throw when closer David Robertson was still left in the bullpen. The next was what to do with the roster after manager Robin Ventura said that an additional reliever is expected Sunday morning.

As for Robertson, Ventura was trying to wait as long as possible before using his closer and last man standing. The bullpen has been one man short since the club added an additional position player for an interleague series across town against the Chicago Cubs to close out the first half.

Ventura was gambling on getting through the 13th inning Saturday, then using Robertson for one inning in the 14th and going to starter-as-a-reliever Carlos Rodon if the game continued on into the 15th. None of that materialized when the Royals' Lorenzo Cain hit a home run off Jennings in the 13th.

"Once you go there (to Robertson) you got nobody left," Ventura said. "Danny did a nice job. He battled as long as he could, he gave up one in that stretch and you end up losing the game. But he battled and he did what he was supposed to do. He gave us plenty of opportunities to score and it didn't happen. Guys battled. We were behind all day and we seemed to just chip away. We couldn't find that one to go ahead."

On a day when the offense actually showed some life, with Alexei Ramirez's game-tying home run in the seventh inning and J.B. Shuck's game-tying two-run double in the ninth against Royals closer Greg Holland, attention still focused back on an offense that couldn't rescue Jennings.

So as the White Sox get set to bring up another reliever to help a weary bullpen, what position player is the odd man out?

When Tyler Saladino was recalled before the Cubs series to give Ventura more lineup versatility in a National League park, his stay figured to be brief. Saladino, though, has handled himself well in his first major league stint, playing solid defense and giving the team somebody who can put the bat on the ball.

Saladino has actually looked good enough to stay, meaning the White Sox could end up parting with a player that made the Opening Day roster.

Conor Gillaspie started the season slow with plantar fasciitis issues, and hasn't played well on offense or defense. But he is out of minor league options. Utility man Emilio Bonifacio has rarely been used. But he is making $3 million this season. Fellow utility man Gordon Beckham has played some nice defense; he just hasn't hit much at all. But he is making $2 million and his defense still has value.

It seems to point the light on Gillaspie, who is making barely over the league minimum at $550,000. But in shedding Gillaspie, it would mean losing a left-handed bat, and one that was hitting well over .300 at this point last season.

Ventura was hoping to hold off the roster decision until the White Sox opened a two-game series Tuesday at home against the St. Louis Cardinals. He can't wait now.

"We obviously have some decisions there and it's difficult," Ventura had said before the game.

The only two position players not used Saturday were Gillaspie and Bonifacio. Perhaps adding to the intrigue, and maybe delaying the club's announcement of their decision, was the fact that Saturday was Gillaspie's 28th birthday.

Saladino's 26th birthday is Monday, for whatever that's worth. He has given the White Sox the kind of defense they have needed, while also collecting a hit in five consecutive games. He only has six games in the major leagues to his credit.

That doesn't sound like a player who is heading back to the minor leagues.

"It's been good so far," Saladino said. "I've been able to put some good swings on the ball, have decent at-bats and make some plays on defense. I just handle myself out there. At the end of the day, it's their decision so that's nothing I'm giving much thought. It's one of those things you don't control. You just go out like right now and get ready for today's ballgame."

It's more than likely the team already made its decision on a roster move before the final out was recorded Saturday. The decision will be revealed Sunday.