White Sox bullpen taking its time coming together

When it came to Monday’s post about spring training highlights trumping spring stats, that’s admittedly a luxury not everybody afford. Beyond a boost of confidence or a chance to address issues before the stats start counting for good, a good spring or bad spring doesn’t mean anything to Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada, or, strangely, Adam Engel. Eloy Jimenez might want to step it up to make Rick Hahn’s dance an awkward one, but he’s starting the season in Charlotte either way, because as we learned from the Manny Machado failure, the White Sox are gravely concerned about their payroll seven years from now.

But for fringe candidates — especially ones who are out of options — it’s in their interest to make the decision a tough one for a Rick, be it Hahn or Renteria.

Most of the out-and-out roster battles are in the bullpen this year, and the pitchers aren’t really keeping each other honest. The White Sox have an Arizona-as-hell record of 3-6-2, thanks in part to Arizona-as-hell pitching lines. More than one-third of the pitchers used by the White Sox in the spring own double-digit ERAs, including some who entered the spring on the outside looking in, but had a puncher’s chance. Look at this cross-section of the White Sox stats page:

It’s one thing to have a spring like Reynaldo Lopez, who is giving up his share of flares. The bad contact luck is why everybody would like to see him hike his strikeout rate, but he’s throwing strikes and throwing sliders, which is the important thing. At the bottom of the list, Kelvin Herrera’s one ugly outing also merits a shrug at this point, because he’s owed more money than any other White Sox offseason acquisition if nothing else.

In between?

  • Randall Delgado, who could replace Hector Santiago as a swingman but has given up four homers in five innings.
  • Carson Fulmer, whose return to his Vanderbilt windup hasn’t increased the power of his stuff.
  • Jace Fry, Caleb Frare and Aaron Bummer, the latter two of whom are competing for the same second lefty spot.
  • Juan Minaya, who is testing the saving grace of his regular-season experience and lack of options.

You can also lump in Manny Banuelos, whose spring took a wrong turn after he walked four Cubs in an inning on Sunday. He’s got a head start on Ervin Santana as the latter pitches himself into game shape, but he’s not doing much with it, as his 8.10 ERA attests.

Banuelos is out of options, so a terrible spring isn’t the worst thing in the world if it allows the Sox to sneak him through waivers for rotation depth in Charlotte. But in order for that to be useful, the White Sox will need to see tenable stuff from Santana. If both pitchers appear sound, Banuelos could occupy one of the lefty bullpen jobs if Frare and Bummer can’t find the zone. If both pitchers struggle … well, hopefully you still have your calluses from the 2018 season.

On the flip side, Dylan Covey has thrown two pairs of scoreless innings with a lively sinker. As long as the White Sox don’t need him to face an order a second time through, he can be a multi-inning reliever on a rebuilding team, so Delgado will have to step it up. Ryan Burr has been the most effective reliever on the 40-man roster, with Zach Thompson on the outside looking in. (Ian Hamilton has yet to appear, as he’s dealing with stiffness after a car accident.)

If spring training ended today and you were to try to assemble a bullpen based on spring performances and contractual obligations, it turns into a bit of a mess after five spots:


Fortunately for most involved, the Cactus League still has nearly a full three weeks remaining, including split-squad action that should give a lot of them a chance to start something better. The relievers carrying middle-school ERAs can give up on having a pretty spring training line, but the big-picture dream still remains alive otherwise.

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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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I agree with your merit/obligation bullpen, with Hamilton possibly replacing Minaya if he’s healthy and able to pitch this spring.
Any word on when Hamilton or Burdi will pitch?


Thanks, Jim. I look forward to seeing those two becoming mainstays in the bullpen. But as with our other prospects’ injuries, am not too hopeful.

Lurker Laura

If they held spring training, and nobody showed their worthiness to pitch, did it make a sound?


The sound of me retching.

Ted Mulvey

It’s just this on repeat, over and over: https://sadtrombone.com/

Josh Nelson

Oh o…


Hmmm Keuchels phone lighting up…wonder if they could throw a big 1 year offer at him if this is serious


Do they need Delgado?


2020 and 2021 #1 picks here we come.


Who has two thumbs and gets injured all the time?

This guy!


Lurker Laura

Seriously, what’s with his thumbs? Do they stick out funny or something?

lil jimmy

He’s the male version of Sissy Hankshaw.

Lurker Laura

I get that reference! I loved Tom Robbins in my early 20s. Haven’t read him in awhile.


Great game, then a finger sprain. Familiar rhythm from last spring.


But for fringe candidates — especially ones who are out of options — it’s in their interest to make the decision a tough one for a Rick, be it Hahn or Renteria.

The decision should be easy for Hahn: don’t put a veteran pitcher with a BB/9 over 3.5 on the 40-man. But he keeps picking up dreck like Banuelos, Viera, Minaya, etc. as if Cooper has ever shown an ability to get walk rates down with these guys. Matt Thornton is looking like the exception, not the rule.


He started slow last season, then came around. Maybe he just needs extra time to get into gear


By the time he was decent no one could watch the games past the 5th or 6th inning.


Not sure why you’re describing a 25 year-old who was a top 30 prospect in our system last year as ‘a veteran pitcher’.