By pitching in six games over eight days in early May, Liam Hendriks proved that he’ll take the ball as often as he can.
By pitching only one of the last six days — and being completely unavailable in two close games that would normally result in a Hendriks sighting — it grew increasingly apparent that he simply couldn’t take the ball.
Sure enough, the White Sox placed Hendriks on the 15-day injured list this afternoon (retroactive to June 12), elaborating on Tony La Russa’s description of “arm stiffness” by calling it a right forearm strain. Considering Hendriks is leading the league in saves and the White Sox bullpen in most of the important categories (especially when adjusting for leverage), it’s safe to say that Joe Kelly’s return from a hamstring strain doesn’t quite make up for it.
Those comprise half of the White Sox’s pitching staff reshuffling. They also optioned Bennett Sousa to Triple-A, bringing back Davis Martin for innings in some form.
Were Hendriks healthy, it’d be a genuine boost to see Kelly coming back while Sousa heads to Charlotte, because Sousa’s reverse splits made him prone to misuse by Tony La Russa.
Sousa’s ERA had soared to an even 9.00 before his “scoreless” 1⅓ innings on Monday (he allowed both inherited runners to score after entering the game with two outs). He had given up a whopping 22 baserunners over his last 7⅓ innings in part because La Russa kept playing matchups, and lefties went 8-for-16 off Sousa during that stretch, including Max Muncy’s infamous homer and two doubles.
If Kelly picks up where he left off — which is never a safe assumption given his personal history and the White Sox’s persistent problems with leg injuries — then he should take most of the high-leverage innings involving left-handed hitters until Aaron Bummer returns. It’s either that or more of Tanner Banks in the eighth inning, and given La Russa’s penchant for seeing no-brain decisions where others simply see no brain, this might be more of a toss-up for the White Sox than it appears.
In the meantime, Kendall Graveman will take over save situations whenever he doesn’t require his own careful handling, and perhaps the presence of Martin means that Reynaldo López is freed up to take innings later in games as well.