With a 2-1 victory in Cleveland last night, the White Sox continue their respectable start, moving to 3-4. Even with Chris Sale gone and Carlos Rodon on the DL, to date pitching is the strength of the team. Theoretically a staff ERA of 2.54 would get you more than three wins in seven games, but here are their runs scored from greatest to least: 11, 6, 3, 2, 1, 1, 1.
1. Derek Holland had another strong outing, taking a no hitter into the 6th inning. Given that his best 3-year run of success was from 2011-2013 and he has lost multiple seasons to injury, it is easy to forget that he’s only 30 and was once quite good. The outing was an emotional one for the Ohio native, who lost his grandmother this spring and had family in attendance to watch his victory.
Comeback stories are always good, but from a selfish, organizational perspective it would a huge win if Holland can stay healthy and effective. It would mean he had covered much needed innings for the first half of the season and could potentially yield something meaningful at the deadline. For a rebuilding team that’s pretty much a best case scenario for a 1-year signing.
2. Center field may be a problem. Batting average isn’t everything, but it’s hard to ignore it when it’s zero. Jacob May got the day off last night in favor of Leury Garcia. One imagines that the plan was for these two to cover center until Charlie Tilson came back, but it’s still unclear how long that is going to take. And even though wins and losses are a secondary concern this year, there are limits to what a team can tolerate in good faith for the sake of its fans and the other players on the roster.
It’s still early, but even before his 0-for-17 start there was reason to doubt that May was ready for the majors. And as much as I’d like to see Garcia get regular at bats now that he’s conquered AAA, being a full-time center fielder might be too much to ask. Unfortunately, short of going outside the organization, their options are rather limited. Charlotte offers Adam Engel–who, outside of one great Arizona Fall League appearance–has never really hit at all, despite being old for every level, and Jason Bourgeois, a 35-year-old who has not played in the majors since 2015.
Here’s hoping it doesn’t come to that.
3. Geovany Soto was scratched yesterday with a sore right elbow and is headed to the 10-day DL, with Kevan Smith getting a shot at a few more big league games. This illustrates some of the potential logic behind Soto getting more starts than one might have anticipated to this point. Sure, Omar Narvaez is the player who will be with the organization after this year, but you don’t want him catching 140+ games, and Soto is so injury prone you might as well use him while he’s healthy. Narvaez will still get plenty of reps.
UPDATE: Immediately after this piece ran, it was announced that Soto’s right elbow inflammation was sufficient to place him on the disabled list, and Kevan Smith has been called up to take his place. Smith, as you’ll recall, was one of the many rookies last year who was injured immediately, indeed, injuring his back before he could even make his debut. Smith is listed at 6’4″ and he was a two-sport athlete in college. There’s still a chance there’s a backup catcher in here.
So far this year he has mashed at AAA to the tune of .438/.500/.562 in very limited action.
4. Avisail Garcia and Matt Davidson can both still boast an OPS over 1.000. Their track records and identical 1:7 BB:K ratios throw cold water on any undue enthusiasm, but a good start is a good start. Davidson has languished for so long in AAA after his Top 100 Prospect ascent to the majors in 2013 with the Diamondbacks. He has alluded to putting too much pressure on himself before, so one hopes that hitting the ground running (and ideally not breaking his foot) can allow him to recover some of his old prospect shine. After all, the criticism on him coming up was that it didn’t look like he could handle third defensively, meaning his bat would have to move to 1B/DH where it was much less impressive. Davidson then improved his defense to the point where it could play at third and his bat promptly imploded. Perhaps it isn’t too late to get his bat on track to pair with a serviceable glove at the hot corner.
5. Anthony Swarzak made his White Sox debut last night and posted two strikeouts in one perfect inning. Swarzak, Zach Putnam, and David Robertson have combined for 10.33 scoreless innings this year, striking out 16 and walking none. Yet another area to monitor for potential trade assets at the deadline, and another way in which the White Sox still do not wholly resemble a “tanking” roster.
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