If you didn’t buy White Sox Outsider 2010 (and why didn’t you? Did I do something wrong?), here’s an excerpt from Freddy Garcia’s season outlook:
Let’s look at it this way — Garcia’s main goal will be to give Guillen and Kenny Williams the option of doing whatever they want with Daniel Hudson. If Garcia can get through the cold bats of April and early May, Hudson can either add polish to his slider at Charlotte, or gain experience against major-league hitters in medium-leverage situations out of the bullpen.
The Sox shouldn’t plan around Garcia beyond the first five or six weeks of the season. That’s not saying he can’t survive when summer rolls around, but he has no history of doing so over the past three seasons. Banking on that is one of the many, many things that got the Mets in trouble last year.
Five weeks into the season, Sweaty Freddy has given the Sox exactly what they needed — three quality starts in five outings, and a fourth that was good enough. It was nice to see him rewarded for his efforts with his first victory on Wednesday, and Ozzie Guillen recognized this as well. He let Garcia warm up before the seventh inning, and then took him out — to a warm ovation from the fans, with a wad of Guillen’s gum on the front of his home black jersey.
But slowly, discreetly, we should turn our attention to Daniel Hudson, because the cracks in the levee are beginning to show.
First, there’s the matter of his fastball velocity. He’s been on a downward zig-zag so far, losing, then rallying, then losing some more:
There is some silver lining in that he’s not as much of an American League outlier as he was last year. He has some company in the 89-and-below range, including Justin Duchscherer, Shaun Marcum, Joel Piniero and Doug Fister. The first is hurt, the third is struggling and the fourth screams “fluke,” but I’m just saying. I’ll also say that Garcia is the only one of the group who doesn’t throw a cutter.
And then there are the hits. Garcia entered having allowed just a .217 batting average against him (and a .216 BABIP), both of which were bound to rise. That they did on Wednesday, with the Royals racking up 10 hits over just six innings. He was lucky to escape having allowed just two runs, thanks to Chris Getz’s screaming liner finding the webbing of Garcia’s mitt instead of center field.
One could soften this point as well by pointing out Garcia’s zero walks, as well as the low-trajectory and velocity of many of the batted balls. He may have only been facing the Royals, but they’re (currently) a middle-of-the-pack offense with a history of forcing him to exit early.
This is the precarious balance Garcia the Junkballer (cue music) has struck at this point in his career. He has turned in 10 quality starts in 14 outings since returning to the White Sox while living on the edge.
It’s entirely possible that Garcia is some kind of sorcerer. There aren’t many right-handers who can baffle ’em with BS, but exceptions pop up from time to time, and I find it absolutely fascinating when they do.
He’s contending with reality, though, and right now it’s not of his own making. The Sox are four games below .500; the Minnesota Twins are now 10 games above the break-even mark. That’s a big, big early deficit, and it’s going to require some aggressive decision-making.
Reading Garcia will be at the center of it all. He’s given the Sox what they need, and now the Sox will see if they can get what they want from him. They can’t get greedy. If he gets lit up two starts in a row like certain factors suggest is likely — and Hudson has officially righted the ship — the time for change will be nigh. Whether Guillen can and will act on it could be the first half’s biggest question.
What about the second half’s biggest question?
While discussing Andruw Jones, Hawk Harrelson said that he would like to see Jones hit his 500th home run as a member of the White Sox. Jones just hit his 397th, so he’s got just a little bit of work to do, but Harrelson suggested that the joie de vivre is back, and his numbers will make the same return.
The conversation reminded me that Jones is a Scott Boras client making $500,000. He didn’t wait to sign his contract with the Sox, going about his business unusually fast for a Boras client. He said he liked the fit, and while he may have defined “fit” as “major-league contract,” we won’t know for sure.
It seems to be gravy so far. Jones is turning on fastballs and turning on the South Side with his smile. Should he carry it through to the trade deadline and beyond — not his current 1.000 OPS, but even .800-.850 — that’s going to be all sorts of fun, with lots to be learned. It’s hard to consider it anything more contentious, because it’s a problem everybody would love to have.
Christian Marrero Reading Room:
*Mark Teahen admits he has a problem, which is at least remotely encouraging. He says he needs to work on his pre-pitch setup.
*Mark Buehrle places the blame on the starting rotation; Guillen thinks it’s more on the offense.
*Ramon Castro will make his debut tonight against Toronto lefty Dana Eveland.
Minor league roundup:
- Mississippi 7, Birmingham 6
- Brent Morel went 2-for-5 with an RBI and a strikeout.
- Christian Marrero went 2-for-4 with two RBI, but committed an error in left.
- John Shelby had one hit in five at-bats, striking out once.
- Winston-Salem 3, Frederick 0
- Justin Edwards threw six shutout innings, allowing six hits and two walks. He struck out just one, but induced 11 groundouts.
- Kyle Bellamy threw two shutout innings, striking out two. He allowed just a hit.
- Jon Gilmore and Brandon Short each went 1-for-4.
- Eduardo Escobar had two singles and a strikeout in four at-bats.
- Justin Greene was held hitless, striking out twice.
- Gregory Infante worked a scoreless ninth, with a hit and a strikeout.
- Lexington 17, Kannapolis 4
- Kyle Colligan went 2-for-5 with an RBI.
- Nick Ciolli, 1-for-4 with a K. Trayce Thompson did the same, and drove in a run.
- Justin Collop was rocked for 10 runs on 11 hits and two walks over three innings. He walked two and struck out two.