MLB: Chicago White Sox at Cleveland Indians

South Side Morning 5: Much Ado About Matt Davidson

1. Matt Davidson went 3-for-4 with his fourth home run of the season and four RBIs in the White Sox 12-1 thrashing of the Royals on Monday. He came a triple short of the cycle, and raised his batting line to .368/.375/.789 through 12 games and 40 plate appearances.

The game was also Davidson’s first appearance in the lineup since April 18 against the Yankees, as he sat out last Wednesday’s series finale in New York and all three of the White Sox weekend games against the Indians. His lack of playing time, especially when you factor in his hot start at the plate, is puzzling on the surface. Davidson is the exact type of player who could use plate appearances on a rebuilding team. Unlike, say, Cody Asche, Davidson is a bit of an unknown quantity with at least a non-zero chance of being around the next time the White Sox have aspirations of contending.

So why, exactly, isn’t Davidson playing every day? According to manager Rick Renteria, it has nothing to do with matchups, despite his four-day hiatus coinciding with the White Sox facing tough right-handers Masahiro Tanaka, Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Danny Salazar.

“It’s not so much the matchup,” Renteria said. “I think we have other guys we want to go ahead and give them the opportunity to face who they are facing today. Matty has shown he can hit anybody. It has nothing to do with it. It has more to do with putting the guys we have right now in a particular situation to experience this particular club.”

I think, at its core, this is an honest assessment. While I don’t believe the White Sox are opting for Asche over Davidson against tougher righties because they believe they have a better chance of winning with Asche in the lineup, nor do I think they view it as “protecting” him, necessarily. But I do think that, while the common thinking with young hitters is: the more at-bats, the better, in terms of development, there is some logical benefit to knowing A) the limits of your players, and B) their mentality.

And while making assumptions about the mental state of others is never wise, Davidson has been pretty open about the fact that he is prone to putting extra pressure on himself.

“I think sometimes you can put a little more pressure on yourself,” Davidson told me during spring training. “But you just try to stay the same and focus on your routine and what you can do.”

There’s also this: Davidson has had a hot 40 plate appearances, but he’s still probably not very good. He is still striking out in nearly half of his plate appearances. So while it would make sense to ride the hot hand, it also makes sense to not completely abandon whatever strategy was designed before the season began. Particularly in a season where the end goal isn’t to maximize your wins.

I’d like to see Davidson in the lineup as much as possible, particularly when the other option is Asche. But maybe …just maybe, the White Sox actually have a plan in mind. Renteria, at the very least, should still be given the benefit of the doubt in that regard for now.

2. Miguel Gonzalez is now on a two-start run of absurdly solid results after going eight innings without an earned run, allowing just two hits and one walk while striking out five. Gonzalez has been pretty pinpoint of late, particularly with his cutter and has kept hitters off balance with his change-up.

Obviously two great starts are just two starts. You can look across the league — or just across the diamond at Jason Vargas’ 0.44 ERA entering Monday’s start — to find mediocre pitchers finding success in small samples. But Gonzalez represents someone who could see his trade value increase quite drastically as we get closer to July and teams find themselves starving for starting pitching depth.

3. As certain as I am that Davidson isn’t going to continue to OPS 1.164, I am equally certain Jose Abreu wasn’t going to continue to OPS below .500 and Monday, he had his second consecutive two-hit day and is 7-for-17 in his last five games. He still only has three extra-base hits on the season, and zero home runs, but he demonstrated last year, when his slugging percentage was in the low .300s around this time, that the power will come with time. He’s not worth worrying about.

Tim Anderson, on the other hand, was at least a little bit worth worrying about after his slow start, and has now hit in six of his last seven games and is 9-for-29 over that span. Maybe I’m being overly cautious because of failed White Sox prospects of yesteryear — Anderson appears to be a different breed — but he’d do a lot to calm my nerves by just continuing to hit for about the next 10-15 years.

4. In the really important injury news department, the White Sox had an update on the status of Carlos Rodon Monday that, well, wasn’t much of an update.

Efforts to get Hahn to weigh in on the matter were declined and met with the same general sentiment: there is no statement on Rodon to give because there is no new information to provide. The Sox are almost avoiding offering a date because they don’t want to give a benchmark that they don’t have full confidence in and spark an unnecessary panic when Rodon doesn’t reach it.

A lack of updates is frustrating, but as James notes, giving updates just for that sake doesn’t serve any purpose. As badly as we all want to know when Rodon is going to get back on the mound, the White Sox history suggests he’ll be out there when he’s ready, whether that’s in a month or two or *sad face emoji* 2018.

5. In more conspicuous but still kinda uncertain injury news, Zach Putnam is still considered day-to-day with a tender elbow, but they still don’t seem to exactly know what is wrong with it.

“We don’t have a lot of concrete information right now,” said Putnam prior to Monday’s series opener with the Royals. “I’m going to do everything in my power to help [White Sox head athletic trainer] Herm [Schneider] and the medical staff avoid any sort of DL stint and any significant time missed, but we’re really day to day right now.

“I’m going to try to give it a day to cool down a little bit, but that doesn’t mean I’m necessarily unavailable. I’m just going to try to save some bullets as best I can.”

Given Putnam’s injury in 2016, as well as the fact that he’s awesome, a fully back-to-form recovery sooner than later would be greatly appreciated.

Lead Photo Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

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