1. The White Sox 11-2 win over the Tigers on Thursday was just one start, but a positive sign for James Shields in his first outing after a disastrous 2016.
Shields’ final line — 5.1 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 5 BB, 5 K — is a pretty reasonable microcosm of what can be expected out of him this year. The five strikeouts, all of the swinging variety, showed his stuff is still good enough to miss bats from time to time. Per Gameday, he generated 13 swinging strikes in total on the afternoon, five of which came in the first inning when he struck out the side.
His command is still a mess, as evidenced by the five walks, and only 58 of his 106 pitches went for strikes. The one run he allowed came on a 90 mph two-seamer he left up in the zone that Tyler Collins took out to center, but other than that, when he missed his spot it was mostly out of the zone. Bad control is usually going to result in one of two things: walks or a lot of hard contract. The majority of 2016 saw the latter result and Thursday saw the former. The one run allowed was thanks to a combination of his swing-and-miss stuff and the Tigers’ inability to take advantage when he missed.
Still, it was a welcomed opening salvo from the much maligned veteran.
2. With apologies to Geovany Soto, the most noteworthy offensive performance of the day belonged to Matt Davidson, who finished 2-for-3 with a walk, triple, and mammoth three-run homer to cap a four-run fourth inning that officially put the game out of reach.
Davidson’s power was something to marvel, but it was his patience in his first two plate appearances that was perhaps the most shocking. In his first at-bat, he went ahead 3-0 before ripping a 3-1 triple on a 90 mph fastball that grabbed too much of the plate. And in his second trip to the plate, he walked on five pitches. The dinger was on the first pitch of his at-bat against Anibal Sanchez, a hanging slider he drilled deep into the left field seats.
We’ll be shouting about small sample size disclaimers for some time yet, but if Davidson can prove to be someone who can turn mistake pitches into dust, even that would be a welcomed development. And if he shows the patience to wait on those mistakes, it’ll go a long way toward him getting consistent at-bats.
3. There is relevant information to gather from the rest of the White Sox 11-run afternoon. Tyler Saladino followed up his 2-for-4 Tuesday with a two more walks on Thursday, despite failing to record a base hit.
Saladino’s placement atop the lineup is a little obscure — he’s never been an on-base specialist during his major league career to date — but the White Sox sans Adam Eaton don’t have an obvious leadoff candidate on the roster, and through two games he’s already only 10 walks shy of his 2016, when he walked 13 times in 319 plate appearances.
The obvious hero of the afternoon, however, was Soto, who went yard twice and walked once in four plate appearances, driving in four of the White Sox 11 runs. The expectations for Soto this season are minimal — provide Omar Narvaez some rest and don’t kill the Sox defensively nor offensively when he takes the field — so whatever he provides whenever he takes the field is something the White Sox can take as a bonus.
Tim Anderson, Jose Abreu, and Avisal Garcia each had two hits. Anderson did strike out twice, and five strikeouts in 10 plate appearances in pretty par for the course based on last season, but his reputation as someone who can hit the ball hard when he makes contact remains.
4. Thursday was not without its non-game related news, as the White Sox announced prior to the game that Jake Petricka was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a strained lat muscle and Tommy Kahnle took his place on the roster.
Petricka made his first appearance of the season on Tuesday after missing the majority of 2016 because of another injury, and the hope was that he’d join Zach Putnam, Nate Jones, and David Robertson as stalwarts in the White Sox bullpen this season. His injury is a bummer from that perspective, but hopefully Kahnle can show he has something worth keeping in the interim. He threw a scoreless inning, allowing one hit and striking out two in Thursday’s victory.
5. MLB.com came out with its list of the most stacked minor league rosters on Thursday and listed the White Sox Triple-A affiliate, the Charlotte Knights, No. 1. It’s easy to see why, considering their Opening Day roster consists of the likes of Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Carson Fulmer, and Zach Burdi, but the Knights did back up the hype — at least offensively — with an opening night, extra inning victory.
I’d be lying if I told you I watched the game, although the stacked roster does make the $25 for MiLB.tv seem worth it, but while Lopez struggled in allowing four runs, two earned, in three innings of work, he did strike out five, and Yoan Moncada’s debut, 3-for-6 with two runs scores, and Zack Burdi’s three strikeouts in 1.2 innings pitched, were a welcomed sign.
You’ll drive yourself crazy if you live and die based on the success of these prospects at the minor-league level all season, but seeing their growth throughout the season will be worth watching, undoubtedly.
Lead Photo Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports