MLB: Chicago White Sox at Detroit Tigers

South Side Morning 5: Derek Holland is Sliding Back Into Relevancy

1. When Derek Holland is at his best, as he was in Thursday’s 8-3 win over the Royals, he’s keeping hitters off balance with a fixture of perfectly placed fastballs and offspeed stuff out of the zone. During his peak seasons, 2011 and 2013, the whiff percentage on his curveball was 21 percent and 23 percent, respectively, according the Likewise, when contact was made, it rarely resulted in damage, with batters hitting .186 and .157 against the slider in those seasons.

Thursday’s start was vintage Holland. He jammed hitters with the fastball on the inner half of the plate to generate soft contact, while fooling hitters on a regular basis with the slider. Six of his seven punch outs were swinging, and three of those six came on sliders.

It’s obvious to say that when a pitcher’s command is shaky, his performance drops off, but Holland’s margin for error is slim, and Thursday he demonstrated, albeit against an underwhelming offense, just how effective he can be when his stuff is working.

He’s been an asset to the White Sox through the first month of the season, and if he’s able to demonstrate this kind of ability with some consistency, it’s not inconceivable that he could rebuild his value even more ahead of the trade deadline. We’re still several starts away from that happening, and injury or decline are still probably more likely, but the stuff is clearly still there.

2. Nate Jones was placed on the 10-day disabled list Thursday after experiencing minor nerve irritation, and reliever David Holmberg was called up to take his place on the roster. Elbow injuries are scary for any pitcher, and particularly so for Jones, who had Tommy John surgery in 2014. But the White Sox say they are confident it isn’t anything major after an MRI showed no major damage.

Jones’ 2016 season was sneakily great, and along with David Robertson entered the season as the White Sox reliever with the most trade value. Hopefully, this absence doesn’t hinder that too badly, but with Jones joining Zach Putnam and Jake Petricka on the DL, the the White Sox are fortunate in having the two greatest relievers in major league history emerge out of nowhere in Tommy Kahnle and Anthony “Backdraft” Swarzak, which should make these absences less cumbersome.

3. On the subject of injuries, Carlos Rodon was transferred to the 60-day DL in order to get Holmberg on the 40-man roster, a move Rick Hahn said was purely administrative because, by the time he’s ready to play it will be at least 60 days from when he was initially placed on the DL.

“Based upon the program we have laid out ahead of him, at this point, we don’t believe he’s going to be completed with all of his eventually rehab starts by June 1,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “So, from an administrative standpoint, it made sense to go ahead and transfer his DL placement from 10-day to 60-day DL. He continues to progress in Arizona. At this point we do not have a specific when we know he’ll begin a rehab assignment, but he’s getting closer to that.”

Rodon’s injury and the uncertainty that surrounded his status for so long has led to some anxious feelings. Getting to the point where a return date is actually known would be a step in the right direction, and while we aren’t quite to that point yet, things seem to at least be progressing.

4. Thursday’s game marked the end of a season-opening stretch where the White Sox played 24 of their first 27 games against American League Central teams, as they open a three-game set against the Baltimore Orioles on Friday. They went 14-10 in those 24 games, with the only outlier a three-game set in New York against the Yankees. The White Sox have been dreadful against AL Central teams in recent years, finishing below-.500 against those teams in each of the last four seasons. From 2013-16, the Sox went 123-181 against the AL Central, a .404 winning percentage, so it’s only fitting that the one year they’re not supposed to contend is the year that luck seems to be turning around.

There’s still a long way to go, but the White Sox have already played 31.5 percent of their AL Central schedule this season. And even if it doesn’t amount to much, seeing wins against the Indians, Tigers, and Royals is nothing if not gratifying.

5. Avisail Garcia went 2-for-5 with a pair of RBI in Thursday’s win, and his slash line is currently at .371/.419/.598. This has been your semi-regular “Avisail Garcia is still unfathomably hot” update of the week.

Lead Photo Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

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