I don’t want to say the White Sox are desperate for bullpen help, but I couldn’t help noticing the communications department updated its recent press release regarding community efforts:
“This is going to be the last major setback I think,” said Threets, who could be out as long as 12-18 months. “I’m going to work real hard to make this is the last one and if that doesn’t work then I’m going to find another occupation. But I know for a fact I can get outs and I know for a fact I can be effective when we have leads. The timing of this is unfortunate. I feel a little embarrassed, actually.” […] “[A] very, very sad moment,” manager Ozzie Guillen said. “This kid had some injuries in the past and now he’s throwing the ball much better. I got the feeling when that happened, he knew because when I went out there and he didn’t know what to say. I got the bad feeling that ‘Wow, I think this kid know what he’s got.'”
This one feels like more of a punch to the stomach than Matt Thornton’s forearm or J.J. Putz’s knee. On a personal level, Threets’ emergence was another one of those classic journeyman tales of perseverance. He had been injured in the past, bounced between a few organizations, and seemed to finally find a foothold with the White Sox. I don’t know if he had the goods to be more than a second lefty, but he showed the ability to locate his fastball in the very small sample size he provided.
Taking a step back, it certainly feels like the last straw. Teams of destiny usually have a guy who steps up when the stars get misaligned. The Sox offense got its boost from Omar Vizquel, whom nobody expected to bring sustained value with his bat. I thought Threets might be the guy to keep the ‘pen together with a strong two weeks, buying time until Thornton returned.
Now, the White Sox bullpen is effectively the Breakfast Club. In order from most reliable to least reliable, you have:
- A guy whose velocity, back and calf muscles abandon him occasionally.
- A guy who just started pitching last year.
- A guy who was just drafted two months ago (as of this moment, Guillen’s only lefty).
- A guy who cost a solid prospect only to be completely unpredictable, not just from outing to outing, but pitch to pitch. (He looked awesome striking out Marcus Thames on Saturday night, and then…)
- A guy who is stealing $5.5 million, and recoils at every instance of contact like he’s dodging sniper fire.
- A guy who talked to himself in his batting helmet before his at-bats when in high school.
- A guy who is so non-descript, I was originally going to write “Carlos Torres.”
And watching Boone Logan struggle in his first game against the Sox, it’s a reminder of how pitching is harder than it looks. Logan has a major-league fastball and, at times, a major-league slider. He has an advantage in handedness and delivery, and yet he’s never been able to keep it together for more than a couple of months.
It feels an awful lot like 2000, when Mike Sirotka and Jim Parque’s labrums began calling it quits, Cal Eldred’s elbow had a gigantic screw in it and no help was ready on the farm. The Sox were forced to try Ken Hill, that’s how dire the situation became. This year, it’s the same phenomenon, except it’s in the bullpen, and the Sox actually have a quality divisional rival to contend with.
When the Sox went three-and-out against Seattle in the ALDS, I can’t say I was surprised. There was a reason why new GM Kenny Williams thought David Wells and Todd Ritchie would be gamechangers over the next two years.
Likewise, this roster situation seems shrugworthy. The bullpen was this team’s best side until late July, and those struggles looked like a blip, or a minor correction. When a team loses the league’s best lefty and an ace setup man nee All-Star closer, and then a good flash-in-the-pan candidate who replaced the league’s best lefty, what can be done? There’s waiver-wire fodder, but the Sox need a guy who can record four outs, and there aren’t many of those floating around — especially if Toronto ain’t in a trading mood.
There is a lesson to be learned here, but it’s a long-term one — drafting and development. This current situation isn’t a crisis because the Sox didn’t add enough a day, a week, a month ago. It goes back five years, with their draft philosophy of picking “safe” pitchers. High-round picks like Lance Broadway, Kyle McCulloch, Matt Long, Ricky Brooks and Justin Edwards are back-of-the-rotation or bust. They don’t have one great pitch to power past three batters at a time, so if they can’t cut it for six innings at a time, they — and the Sox — are screwed.
Doug Laumann’s doing a better job of picking guys who could fail into a relieving role if starting doesn’t work out. Selecting power arms like Aaron Poreda, Daniel Hudson, Dexter Carter, Chris Sale, Jacob Petricka, and others is a start, but now they actually have to start finishing them. It would also help if they would get their Dominican ducks in a row and start adding international players to the system, but that seems even further off.
Sergio Santos might be a start, but those circumstances aren’t exactly common. The Sox need to start graduating their Petrickas and their Addison Reeds, so they don’t have to go outside to overpay for generally unimpressive relievers (Tony Pena, Scott Linebrink), or trading for other systems’ vaguely interesting arms (Jhonny Nunez, Jon Link, Michael Dubee, etc.), all because they look better than the options the Sox hold.
It’s a shame, because relief shouldn’t have been the (or an) undoing of this team. Williams did his job in the offseason in terms of the 25-man roster. A team can only pay so much for relief before it’s throwing money away; the lack of year-to-year consistency and truly important innings render large investments unwise, in most cases. Adding Putz for a relative pittance was absolutely the right move, and getting Santos ready for the majors so quickly was icing on the cake.
The Sox just don’t have anything to throw against the wall when mass injuries hit, and that’s not something that can be solved in one year.