While Kenny Williams’ overall winter strategy may have been sorely lacking, a couple of his minor acquisitions couldn’t be working out better, and both played a huge role in Tuesday’s 6-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Ramon Castro had a perfect day at the plate, going 1-for-1 with an RBI double and three walks. That raised his line to .296/.406/.556, and when you combine it with Donny Lucy’s work, White Sox backup catchers are hitting .310/.420/.619 this season.
That batting average is higher than the slugging percentage of White Sox backups over the last five years. Maybe A.J. Pierzynski’s culture of fear is coming to a close. Maybe he’s like an old lion on the Serengeti. Other animals that used to live in fear of him now smell the age and fear and are ready to pounce.
Whatever the case, it’s nice to see anything but a white flag in the lineup when Pierzynski needs a day off. Castro probably won’t keep that up — unless he plays so sparingly that he strings together mostly isolated good games. But with the way his pitiful performance in 2009 didn’t match up with his career averages, he did have the law in averages in his favor, and it’s treating him mighty kindly.
And then there’s the entertainment value. If you missed Castro scoring from first on Gordon Beckham’s double, try to find the highlight. He’s an oddly constructed guy — he seems to add onto his chin every time he starts, and he’s barrel-chested enough to disguise the fact that he’s pretty pudgy, and you don’t see until he runs. Or at least when he tries to run.
The White Sox are 5-4 when he starts, and unlike other catchers who have stumbled into wins incidentally, he’s actually contributed to the cause in his recent appearances. The Sox are definitely getting their $1 million worth of this investment.
And they’re definitely getting $3 million out of J.J. Putz.
Putz served as the eighth inning man on Tuesday and went three-up, three-down, which means that he hasn’t been scored upon in more than a month. He’s thrown 11 2/3 shutout innings over his last 11 appearances, with 13 strikeouts to just seven baserunners over that period.
And have you noticed his 2010 strikeout-to-walk ratio? It’s better than 7:1, with 29 K’s to just four walks, which is just a nudge better than when he was a lights-out closer for Seattle a few years back.
He isn’t quite the same pitcher, but while he lost a couple ticks off his fastball, he’s turned his splitter into a knockout pitch. In the process, he’s turned himself into the Sox’s best reliever of the moment, as well as the most tradeable White Sox around.
Investments like Castro and Putz can get lost in these frustrating seasons, but Williams’ minor moves have worked out pretty well. Along with those two, you have Omar Vizquel keeping Jayson Nix off the field and, of course, Pure Winner Freddy Garcia (he’s not exactly an offseason move, but they did pick up an option).
Their successes continue the main lesson of the winter, which was discussed in the Alex Rios post last weekend.
Williams handicapped his team by betting heavily on uninspiring track records, expecting Mark Teahen, Carlos Quentin and Andruw Jones to hold their own at crucial offensive positions. Their disappointing seasons have dragged down Juan Pierre’s value as well. He’s playing as expected, but the lack of power in two corner positions and the DH makes his weaknesses harder to absorb in left field.
Castro, Putz and Vizquel serve as a pleasant contrast. They were acquired for what they could bring — a decent bat behind Pierzynski, a late-inning arm and a versatile glove. Putz could have blown up in their faces, but given the Sox’s ability to manage pitcher health and the price tags attached to lesser relievers over the winter (how are the Cubs liking John Grabow?), it was a smart play. All of these moves could have turned out to be zeroes, but they wouldn’t be bench or bargain-bin players if they could guarantee value. The Sox mitigated the obvious risk by siding with history and are reaping the dividends.
Williams joined the Sox for a road trip for the first time all season. Williams denied that Jerry Reinsdorf discouraged or prevented him from doing so earlier, but Joe Cowley tries reading between the lines:
That storm included Williams bringing up the idea of firing Guillen to chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, only to find out that ”manager” is the title Guillen wears, but face of the White Sox is what he is.
Now that he’s aware of the power Guillen can wield, and the fact that Guillen has been on good behavior, saying all the right things the last week rather than burning bridges, Williams looks to be doing all he can to mend their relationship.
That meant all but putting on a flight attendant’s uniform and mixing Guillen’s drink on the plane ride.
It may or may not relate, but when Guillen was asked why D.J. Carrasco, his MVP last year, wasn’t re-signed, Guillen simply said it was Williams’ call.
Minor league roundup:
- Syracuse 5, Charlotte 4
- The “V” is for “Versatility,” as Dayan Viciedo hit a two-run homer and laid down a sac bunt over four at-bats.
- Jordan Danks went 1-for-4 with a solo shot.
- Tyler Flowers went 0-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout.
- Brent Morel (playing third) went 1-for-4 with a strikeout, and committed his second error at Charlotte.
- Carlos Torres had control issues, allowing four walks along with five hits over 5 2/3 innings, good for three runs. He struck out four.
- Clevelan Santeliz (1 1/3 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 HR) was the loser. Mike MacDougal earned the win.
- Winston-Salem 7, Frederick 6
- Jon Gilmore went 2-for-5 with two RBI; Eduardo Escobar had two singles, a sac bunt and an HBP over five PAs.
- Brandon Short went 1-for-4 with a double and an HBP.
- Terry Doyle suffered his first shelling, allowing six runs on 10 hits and two walks over 4 1/3 innings. He struck out two.
- Santos Rodriguez (2 2/3 IP) and Dan Remenowsky (2 IP) combined to strike out six over 4 2/3 shutout innings.
- Delmarva 2, Kannapolis 1
- Brady Shoemaker went 1-for-3; Nick Ciolli went 0-for-3 with a sac fly and two K’s.
- Miguel Gonzalez had a single over four at-bats.