No products in the cart.
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 …
Paul Molitor went out to the mound to talk things over with the defense, because the Twins went to a five-man infield. Zack Littell saw the manager coming, assumed he was being taken out of the game, and tried to hand him the ball.
— Aaron Gleeman (@AaronGleeman) July 3, 2018
… 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.