Eight relievers aren’t enough when Bruce Rondon is one of them

He's still on the roster after a disastrous outing, and it's unclear why

The Minnesota Twins are 7½ games better than the White Sox in the actual, literal standings, but they’re running parallel to the Sox in the sense that they give you an idea of what this season might feel like if agonizing losses actually mattered.

The White Sox are 22-7 when leading both after the seventh and eighth innings, which is terrible (they were 51-3 and 53-4 last year). They added to the former column with another eighth-inning disaster on Monday night, this one with Chris Volstad on the mound.

The Twins have been plagued by the same issues. They’re 24-7 and 28-5 in such situations, and after the Sox stumbled in Cincinnati, the Twins suffered their ninth walkoff loss via shrimp. Fernando Rodney blew his second straight save in the ninth, and then rookie Zack Littell loaded the bases in the 10th …

… before issuing a four-pitch walk to end the game. He was sent to Triple-A Rochester afterward. The Twins fell back into third place in the AL Central, 10 games behind Cleveland and a whopping 17 games out of the second wild card spot.

Nobody counted on the White Sox to contend, and so nobody is counting how far they’ve fallen under .500 or how far back they trail the Tribe. Their bullpen was a big reason — it was counting on a healthy Nate Jones to be effective, and his absence, along with that of Danny Farquhar, has ravaged the Sox’ right-handed depth.

But they’re also doing it to themselves by carrying Bruce Rondon.

I felt fairly confident the White Sox were going to cut him loose after his ugly outing on Saturday. The week before, Rick Renteria pulled him after he issued a four-pitch walk to the only batter he faced, and Rondon argued against the move on the mound. He then faced a total of one batter over the next four games before coming in to pitch the eighth against Texas. Renteria wanted Rondon to finish the game, but Rondon could only retire one of the seven batters he faced, and Jace Fry had to close it out.

Rondon’s 33-pitch outing both inflated his ERA to 8.31 and rendered him unavailable for a few days. Even if the Sox wanted him to pitch, it wasn’t clear they could count on him to handle any situation. Saturday, therefore, had all the markings of a use-him-then-lose-him situation, because I’d doubt the league would have much interest in Rondon after this June: 8 IP, 17 H, 15 R, 15 ER, 13 BB, 12 K, 1 HR, and a .436/.566/.667 line allowed.

Three days later, he’s still on the roster, and Renteria has to use Volstad in high-leverage situations because all the other options have been worked too hard.

“We had to try to secure a game with some of the other guys,” said Renteria after a four-run eighth, punctuated by a two-run, pinch-hit Alex Blandino double, tarnished a night of Yoán Moncada heroics. “Even [Juan] Minaya we have had out there five of the last six days. We wanted to make it short, one hitter. You try to manage all those guys and make sure you don’t get anyone hurt.”

The Sox don’t have to play this short, because Charlotte is carrying at least three alternatives.

The proven option: Jeanmar Gomez. He has 40 MLB saves to his credit, so he’s no stranger to high-leverage situations or pitching above his pay grade. He has a 2.15 ERA and decent peripherals, although he’s had a rough last five games.

The on-roster option: Thyago Vieira. Vieira gave up walks in bunches through chunks of April and May, but everything seems to have stabilized for him. He’s issued just one walk over his last 12 innings, and nine of his last 10 outings have been scoreless. Whether he’s found an MLB-caliber secondary pitch is an open question, but that’s not the issue with …

The exciting option: Ian Hamilton. … whose fastball-slider combination the White Sox have talked up since last year. He’s had no issues with the jump to Charlotte, striking out seven to just two baserunners over his first four games. Like Aaron Bummer and Jace Fry, he seems like the kind of guy the White Sox can add to the 40-man earlier than expected since he’s likely to factor into future bullpen construction regardless.

None of these cases are perfect. Gomez might not help, Vieira might be flawed, and the Sox might be loath to rush Hamilton. Nevertheless, all seem more useful than Rondon, all seem like better eighth-inning options than Volstad, and the Sox are going to need a righty who isn’t Joakim Soria come August anyway. They may as well give one of them an audition before the deadline to understand what life might look like after dealing their proven closer, because maybe the additional depth will spare Soria some wear and tear, too.

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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KenWo4LiFe

What a terrible thing last night was. Why in the hell didn’t they call on hector sooner. 

metasox

Would Jose Ruiz be another possibility before much longer?

metasox

Yes, was wondering that as well. Though I believe he would be Rule 5 eligible so am guessing he ends up on the roster before year end

Greg Nix

I’m visiting my girlfriend’s family and haven’t been able to watch any games since Thursday. Highly recommend this strategy as an effective way to avoid the White Sox.

35Shields

I’ll have to try this at the bar this weekend.

“Hey, can I take you out to dinner so that I don’t have to watch the White Sox?”

“Uh, I have a boyfriend.”

“Great! He can come too!”

oljeto

Spot on!  Did the front office leave early for the holiday?
I would even get Kopech used to the pressure a la Sale.

lil jimmy

If we launch Bruce Rondon, we’re going to need a booster rocket. Bring up Hamilton. He looked great this weekend.

The Wimperoo

I have seen enough of Mr. Rondon. If Jeanmar Gomez was signed as insurance for such a time as this, then promote him. If not, he is taking up a roster spot that might better serve a prospect. Use him or loose him.

The Wimperoo

How so? I assumed he was signed as a potential rebuild/flip candidate.

The Wimperoo

Agreed. Gomez, by and large, has pitched well in Charlotte. Is it possible he could request his release if the Sox continue to pass him over? I would like to see him get a shot.

Marty34

If they wanted to win games Hamilton would have skipped Charlotte and been brought up.

Milky✌️

It wasn’t a bad idea to try and give him another shot to straighten up. Looked like there was an outside shot for a come-to-Jesus + change of scenery arc. But, yeah, I’m done with him and (mildly) surprised the Sox aren’t too.

Lurker Laura

Maybe they’d rather Rondon imploded against the Astros instead of somebody straight up from AAA.

The Wimperoo

In his last 3 IP he has surrendered 12 ER. 5 of his last 7 appearances were poor. I would posit the implosion has already happened.

Marty34

Having tinges of buyers remorse with Madrigal Thought Nolan Gorman was a guy the Sox should seriously consider and he has 4 homers already. If trading picks were allowed I wonder if the Sox would have traded down.

Lurker Laura

Let Madrigal play an inning of pro ball first.

lil jimmy

4 home runs is nice. Madrigal won the College World Series. Nicer

Eagle Bones

Other than Eloy and Kopech, this seems like one area that will be interesting to watch during the second half. Will be fun to (hopefully) get a look at both Hamilton and Vieira, as well maybe guys like Stephens and Fulmer in a pen capacity. Was hoping Danish would look better upon a move to the pen, but he’s been kind of mediocre (by the stat line anyway).

roke1960

Yesterday’s loss was all on Ricky. He was working with a depleted bullpen- for some reason he wasn’t going to use Fry or Cedeno even though both only pitched to a few batters the day before. He obviously was not going to use Rondon, and Soria was most likely unavailable after going 1 2/3 innings the day before. So WHY would he pull Shields after only 88 pitches? Did he really think Minaya, who was working his 5th game in 6 days had a better chance of getting Barnhart out than Shields would have? And in no one’s world should Volstad be your most reliable right hander out of the pen. I thought Robin had the worst bullpen management I have seen, but I think Ricky is actually worse. I do not trust him at all to lead this team when they get good. I just had to rant. I’ve been a White Sox fan for 50 years, and I have never seen worse managing than these last two clowns. And that includes Jerry Manuel and Terry Bevington.