MLB: Chicago White Sox at Cleveland Indians

South Side Morning 5: James Shields finds success in deception

1. At this point in his career, James Shields’ path to production lies more in his ability to fool hitters than with pure stuff. In Tuesday’s 2-1, 10-inning loss to the Indians, hitters looked downright clueless as Shields put together his second solid start of the young season, going 5.1 innings while allowing two hits, one earned run, two walks and striking out six.

While last Thursday’s win in his season debut saw Shields generate 13 swinging strikes, and all five of his strikeouts were of the swinging variety, Tuesday was a different story, as three of his six strikeouts were looking.

As Shields’ stuff diminishes, the key to him finding success will be in deception, something he did on Tuesday and talked about after the game.

“I’m trying to mix up speeds a little bit,” Shields said, “Create some new stuff. I’ve done this a long time, and every year I have to reinvent myself, change speeds and change locations, so we’ll see how it goes.”

There’s a fine line between scooting by and being unusable — the latter is what we saw a year ago — but through two starts there are signs that Shields’ approach should do well enough for him to eat innings and hopefully repair his value that diminished so rapidly in 2016.

2. Todd Frazier got off to a worrisome start to the season, but while his swing was generating an absurd number of pop-ups and weak contact early on, he had been seeing the ball well at the plate, as evidence by the four walks and two strikeouts through the first five games.

Tuesday, hopefully, provided a payoff for him at the plate, as he cracked his first two extra-base hits of the season, including a long solo home run that provided the White Sox their only run on the afternoon.

Frazier’s 2016 as well as the White Sox own history with aging sluggers provides some level of worry that this would be the season he plummeted to an unplayable, or at least un-tradable level. But if he continues to see the ball well and the solid contact we saw on Tuesday becomes more of the norm, those worries would hopefully be put to rest.

3. The White Sox bullpen is and will continue to be one of the few bright spots in a rebuilding season, but Tuesday was not its finest day, as Dan Jennings, Nate Jones, and Tommy Kahnle combined to walk five with Kahnle eventually taking the loss on Michael Brantley’s walk-off double.

The performance was hardly one to signal any sort of long-term worry, and for their parts, Zach Putnam and David Robertson looked downright un-hittable in their 2.2 combined innings of work. On a day when the White Sox stranded eight Indians, and induced two bases loaded double plays off the bat of Edwin Encarnacion, taking a loss because their injury-replacement reliever got beat by a good hitter on a good pitch isn’t the worst result in the world.

4. Geovany Soto got the start behind the plate on Tuesday, and has now started four of the White Sox’ six games this season. Similarly, Cody Asche has started four times to just two by Matt Davidson.

It would be foolish to draw any sweeping conclusions about lineups just six games into the season, but one does have to at least wonder what Rick Renteria’s long-term plan is for playing time at those two positions. Neither Davidson nor Omar Narvaez have much more than a fleeting chance to be solid, regular contributors in the majors in the long run, but in Soto, even with his early-season power surge, and Asche, who has one hit to his credit, the White Sox know what they have.

I guess what I’m saying is, let the kids play!

5. Our own Nick Schaefer hosted a chat over on the main site on Tuesday and if you missed out, you’re a failure of a human being. However, the good news is that you can read the entire transcript here.

Lead Photo Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

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