The White Sox open the second half against the Houston Astros tonight with a couple of different arms in their bullpen.
Aaron Bummer is off the 10-day injured list for his strained hamstring, and he’s replacing Jace Fry, whose optioning to Triple-A was foretold by a lack of appearances. He hadn’t pitched in a game since July 5, so it’s hard to see him pitching more with Bummer and Garrett Crochet ahead of him from the left side.
The other pair of moves has Matt Foster optioned to Triple-A for Reynaldo López of all people.
If you look at López’s season numbers, you’ll wonder why you did. He has a 7.62 ERA, and while he’s struck out 50 over 39 innings, the 26.5 percent strikeout rate is less impressive, because those strikeouts are interspersed among an elevated walk rate (11.1 percent) and a .317 average against.
The numbers to look at — perhaps the numbers informing this decision — are López’s numbers over the last three outings. Specifically his last two appearances on the road, which also happen to be his two strongest starts of the year.
|July 3||vs. NOR||3.1||5||5||5||1||4||4|
Watching López at work, the only thing that looks different is the shortened arm path. He’s still fastball-dependent, that fastball is still sitting mid-90s instead of high-90s, and the breaking balls still vary in quality. The last part is why I’ve been skeptical that a shift to relief presents a sustainable path. I’m not sure what his swing-and-miss pitch is when his fastball command isn’t on point.
That said, the same thing can be said of Foster, whose ERA is Nashville’s area code (6.15). He’s been hit hard, and the ball isn’t staying in the park:
- 2020: .162/.231/.273 against, two homers over 109 PA
- 2021: .280/.345/.505 against, seven homers over 119 P
Tony La Russa typically doesn’t shy away from using a struggling reliever if he thinks better days are ahead, but it’s been easy to forget about Foster. He made only five appearances in June, and went 12 whole days without pitching at one point. He was scored upon in six of seven outings during that dormant period. Depending on your outlook, you can either chalk up those struggles to disuse, or the reason why La Russa didn’t go to him.
And while Foster’s problems with contact quality predate the crackdown on foreign substance, a recent decrease in spin rate probably doesn’t help his chances of figuring it out.
So the Sox are swapping one guy who leans on a seemingly unremarkable fastball for another, except López offers long relief that Foster doesn’t. That’s something that could come in handy if the Astros have their way with White Sox pitching like the last time they met. And even if the White Sox keep Houston contained, a doubleheader against Minnesota looms on Monday.
If the White Sox were putting their best bullpen together, they might’ve called for Nik Turley instead of López. Perhaps Turley can still be a part of the picture, but the White Sox may hold off on all avoidable additions and subtractions to the 40-man roster until after the trade deadline.
(Photo by Laura Wolff / Charlotte Knights)
I’m hoping Lopez is only here to start game two of Monday’s doubleheader then swapped for Turley
I’m guessing not Turley because of the 40-man. Could be Eloy (depends on timing) or Mercedes. We don’t actually need to replace both of the two relievers we weren’t using (Fry and Foster) with other pitchers.
I really can’t understand the widespread heartburn in Sox fandom about Lopez. It’s not like he’s starting game 1 of the ALCS. He’s taking the 26th spot on a 26 man roster from a guy who was both (a) awful and (b) almost never used. It could be for as little as 4 days (up through the double header on Monday), through the trade deadline, or for as long as “however long it takes for Eloy to get ready”. In any event, i’m not too worried about Matt Foster’s replacement.
I’d understand if they were calling him up to start in the double header. Bullpen is just kind of a head scratcher unless he’s a bulk innings guy in the double header. We’ll see.