MLB: Minnesota Twins at Chicago White Sox

South Side Morning 5: Sad News for Zach Putnam

1. The White Sox announced Monday that reliever Zach Putnam underwent Tommy John surgery last week and will miss the remainder of the season. The usual rehab time for Tommy John surgery, of course, is 12-18 months, meaning it’s unlikely he’ll be able to pitch again until the 2019 season.

Putnam emerged as as a legitimate late inning bullpen piece for the White Sox in 2014 when threw 54 2/3 innings with a 1.98 ERA, and became a sinkerballing strikeout machine a year later when he posted a 11.8 K/9 in 48 2/3 innings. He’s failed to stay healthy, however, as he reportedly tried to pitch with a weak ligament that was discovered last year when he underwent surgery to remove bone chips. He’s thrown just 36 innings the last two seasons because of injuries.

“When they removed the chips, the ligament was not in great shape but Zach and his doctors thought it was worthwhile for him to try to fight back and pitch through it, which obviously he was able to do for a short period of time but ultimately the ligament gave out,” Hahn said. “Zach deserves a world of credit for doing everything he could the last two years to fight his way back to contribute in the bullpen. Unfortunately it didn’t work out for him.”

Putnam’s injury is devastating for a pitcher who bounced around early in his career before finally seeming to latch on with the White Sox. Originally drafted by the Indians, he bounced around from Cleveland to Colorado to the Cubs before sticking with the White Sox. The fact that he’s unlikely to be healthy enough to contribute again until he’s 31, and even that being far from a given because of the injury, is a frustrating development.

From the standpoint of the present and future White Sox, the bullpen came into the season as an expected strength with Putnam joining David Robertson and Nate Jones to form a dynamic late-inning trio. Despite two-thirds of that trio being derailed by injury, the bullpen has obviously been as good if not better than expected. Putnam would’ve been a likely trade candidate if healthy, and while this injury rids the Sox of that potential chip, the uncertainty that surrounds any bullpen arm, whether injury related or not, means his injury does little to affect the rebuild.

2. We knew coming out of the weekend that Carlos Rodon was back in Chicago and expected to rejoin the White Sox rotation this week. On Monday, we got a date as the left-hander will make his season debut Wednesday against the Yankees.

As Ryan Schultz wrote Monday, what Rodon brings the White Sox in the immediacy is innings for a depleted pitching staff. The rotation’s inability to pitch deep into ballgames has taxed a bullpen that has performed far beyond any reasonable expectations given the circumstances, and cracks in their armor were finally seen in Sunday’s loss to the Athletics. Even if the White Sox bring Rodon along slowly — he threw around 90 pitches in his each of his final three rehab starts — his presence will be welcomed relief for the, uh … relief.

More importantly, Rodon’s season debut offers another glimpse at what is hopefully another piece of the White Sox future. Given the patience the White Sox have shown with their plethora of prized prospects — not to mention those prospects’ respective struggles — there has been nary a sign of players expected to make up the core of the White Sox next contender thus far in 2017, save for Tim Anderson. Rodon’s injury was a setback as 2017 was supposed to be the year he turned the corner from potential front end starter to bonafide front end starter, but a solid and pain free final three months of the season will go a long way in offering more hope for the future.

3. As to whose place Rodon will take in the rotation, that is still unknown. The obvious candidate would be Monday’s starter, David Holmberg, who has filled in admirably during the last month despite playing a role in which he’s likely under-qualified.

Holmberg made six starts and never allowed more than three earned runs in any of them. The problem, of course, is that he couldn’t pitch deep into ballgames. Monday’s 5 1/3 inning outing against the Yankees was, in fact, his longest outing of the season and only the second in which he was able to complete five innings.

Still, he did about as well as one could ask given the circumstances. Whether he’s shipped back to Triple-A on Wednesday or kept around as a bullpen piece, he should be given credit for hanging around in a tough situation.

4. Ozzie Guillen was present Saturday for Mark Buehrle’s jersey retirement, and is usually the case at Ozzie Guillen-attended events, he was among the most quote-worthy people in the house.

One of the more interesting subjects he touched on, however, was Avisail Garcia. Guillen mentioned running into Garcia during the Venezuelan Winter League and speaking his mind to him, as Guillen is wont to do.

“I saw him batting seventh and I was all over him,” Guillen said. “I said ‘You should be embarrassed you’re batting seventh in winter league, you have to be third, or fourth. This is winter league.’ When you go to there and you play in the big leagues, it makes it easier. Now he’s picked it up. Hopefully he will keep it up. Hopefully he’ll keep it up and make some money. That’s what we want. Some cash. Take it home.”

Speaking of Garcia, he’s up to fifth in American League All-Star voting for outfielders, ahead of the likes of Mookie Betts and Jose Bautista and a little more than 300,000 votes behind third place George Springer.

I’m hesitant to get too “fanned up” for the White Sox in this space too often, but while the prospect of Garcia representing the White Sox at the All-Star Game is an insane reality I have already come to grips with, the idea of him winning the fan vote and being a starter is within reach. This is the world in which we’re living. Screw it. #VoteAvi.

5. James Fegan interviewed every White Sox pitcher about their first career strikeout for a piece over at The Athletic. It’s worth your time for callbacks to former Braves catcher Javy Lopez and a few guys not remembering all the details of their first strikeout as well as one would think. It’s worth your time.

That piece coupled with Mark Buehrle’s jersey retirement got me wondering who Buehrle’s first career strikeout was. The answer is Jose Hernandez of the Milwaukee Brewers, pitching in relief in the ninth inning of a game the White Sox won 11-5 on July 16, 2000.

Lead Photo Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

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