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I know, you know, we all know there’s plenty to bitch about, but I’m going to urge you to wait until at least Monday morning for the general kvetching. I’m planning a Week One Wrap (WOW!) tomorrow night, which should address all various concerns, woes and maladies.
Today, we’re gonna get ultra-specific.
I was at Wednesday’s game in my preferred relatively affordable seat (left field, by the Sox bullpen so I can watch the relievers warm up), which gave me a great view of Juan Pierre as he tried flagging down a high pop fly in the waning foul territory down the line.
He got a great jump, but he took what could best be described as a false step, like when you’re climbing stairs in the dark and you think there’s one more step than there actually is. That brief stumble cost him, as he came up a couple steps short of where ball fell.
It looked inexplicable, because he was still about 20 yards or so from the ball. But it had been raining all day, and maybe he caught a loose patch of sod.
Then I watched it happen during a cold-but-dry night on Friday with Pierre kick-ball-changing over the foul line as the ball hit the warning track along the side.
Then, he did it again on Saturday, and this time it almost cost the Sox dearly — the ball landed in fair territory and loaded the bases with nobody out. Against all odds, Scott Linebrink entered the game and put out the fire with a mindblowing effort.
Thanks to Linebrink, Pierre’s error didn’t cost the Sox anything in terms of runs. But now that I’ve seen it three times in four games, I’m thinking that Pierre is more frightened by walls than Scott Podsednik. Maybe even more so, because Pods would usually have to hear the crunch of the gravel beneath his feet before short-circuiting. Pierre is heeding the hell out of the warning track, pulling up 10, 15, maybe even 20 feet before the chalk.
I’m sure some of it is due to the new ballpark. Dodger Stadium’s angular foul territory is a decidedly different shape from The Cell’s, which gradually decreases along the outfield. The Cell gives a little more room for deceleration, which Pierre hasn’t taken advantage of thus far. Give him some time, and it’s quite possible he’ll learn and attack the territory like Carlos Quentin did on Saturday, and Jermaine Dye did before him (when he could get there).
It’d just be nice if he started showing some sort of upgrade. His reads on flies not near fences have been questionable, too, and we’ve seen Alex Rios and Alexei Ramirez have to call him off late and awkwardly to make up for his lack of an arm.
Pierre did show some potential in his third at-bat, fouling off four consecutive pitches with a full count before lining a single to center. And he hasn’t gotten picked off yet. So … that’s something.
Freddy Garcia gave the Sox something they desperately needed — innings the bullpen didn’t need to pitch. He threw seven strong ones, and even though he walked five batters, he didn’t rack up any kind of troublesome pitch count. Ozzie Guillen pulled him after just 95 pitches, which is the same amount Mark Buehrle tossed during his easy seven innings on Opening Day.
Considering two of those walks were intentional — one true IBB to Justin Morneau, one half-IBB to Joe Mauer — I don’t think control was an issue.
More surprising was that velocity didn’t seem to be an issue, either.
The White Sox’s feed had Garcia’s fastball registering in the low 90s early on, which Gameday verifies. He was at 90-91 m.p.h. and topping out at 92.76 before settling on 89 as the game went on.
Garcia’s average fastball velocity on the day was 89.78 m.p.h. Garcia’s average fastball last year: 88.3 m.p.h. Adding one mile per hour to the slowest right-handed fastball in the league isn’t much, but he felt good enough to throw fastballs more than half the time against a predominantly left-handed lineup, and aside from one mistake to Jason Kubel, he had great results to show for it. That’s certainly encouraging.
It’s important to not get too caught up in any early Garcia success, because he hasn’t thrown more than 58 innings in any season since 2007. However, if he can sustain this surge in velocity, it certainly does bolster his chances of standing tall when the ball starts carrying in June and July. You know, should he make it that far.
Minor league roundup:
- Gwinnett 5, Charlotte 1
- Jordan Danks went 1-for-4 with a triple (no strikeouts).
- Tyler Flowers singled and struck out in four at-bats.
- C.J. Retherford and Dayan Viciedo each went 0-for-3.
- Jeff Marquez allowed five runs on eight hits over five innings; no walks, one strikeout, one homer allowed.
- Nice day for Wes Whisler — two perfect innings, three K’s.
- Carolina 3, Birmingham 2
- Charlie Shirek had the ideal start: 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K, 11 groundouts.
- Brent Morel singled, walked and struck out in four plate appearances. He was caught stealing.
- Lee Cruz singled, walked twice and earned the lone RBI.
- Christian Marrero went 1-for-3 with a HBP, and stole his first base.
- Kinston 4, Winston-Salem 1
- Charles Leesman had control issues, both on the mound and on the field. He walked three in three innings (three runs, one earned) and committed a throwing error. He struck out one, but got eight groundouts to zero flyouts.
- Dylan Axelrod threw three scoreless innings, with two strikeouts to one hit allowed.
- Tyson Corley dodged danger, walking two and allowing a hit but escaping his inning unscored upon.
- Jon Gilmore went 2-for-4 with a double.
- Eduardo Escobar went 1-for-4, but struck out three times and was caught stealing for the third time this year.
- Rome 6, Kannapolis 3
- Nick Ciolli rebounded from his terrible debut with a single and a triple in four at-bats. He was picked off, though.
- Miguel Gonzalez went 1-for-5 with a strikeout.
- Brady Shoemaker drew two walks and struck out twice.
- Ryan Wagner had three hits; Juan Silverio went 1-for-4.
- Cameron Bayne was roughed up for six runs (four earned) on nine hits and two walks over 4 2/3 innings.
- Drew O’Neil (1 1/3 IP), Matthew Hopps (2 IP) and Garrett Johnson (1 IP) provided scoreless relief.