White Sox DFA José Ruiz, add Jesse Scholtens for bulk

White Sox pitcher José Ruiz
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire)

If nothing else, the White Sox pitching staff comprises a bunch of team players.

Trying to single out one pitcher after a loss risks ignoring two or three others who faltered in a similar fashion. To pitch for the White Sox is to raise your hand and say “I’m Spartacus,” then give up a 430-foot screamer on a 2-0 count.

It’s even hard to highlight a stat. The White Sox have a 6.93 ERA thanks in large part to a league-leading 40 walks over 61 innings. The Diamondbacks have 36 over 60 innings, and nobody else is close. The bullpen leads all MLB bullpens with 21 walks over 25 innings, but the starting rotation’s 19 walks is the second-highest total behind the Diamondbacks’ 21 — but they pull ahead if you include their league-leading five HBPs to the free base total, which is compounded by 10 homers, which is second only to the Red Sox’s rotation.

The nature of starting pitching poses its own difficulties with measuring a proper reaction this early. Lance Lynn looked fine in his 2023 debut, so while his cutters on Thursday brought to mind the last days of Dallas Keuchel, committing to that position could age worse than, well, Dallas Keuchel. Michael Kopech gave up five homers over 4⅓ innings on Monday, but if he handcuffs the Pirates on Sunday, he’s back to even.

White Sox relievers are dealing with the same small sample size caveats. Jimmy Lambert’s the only guy who came away from the first two series with clean hands, and even he walked more batters than he struck out. Yet it doesn’t seem like the White Sox will have to replace seven of their eight relievers when the smoke clears — the 2007 White Sox only had to turn over six spots — so I was a little reluctant to single out any one pitcher beyond “person of interest” status.


The White Sox were not so reluctant. They designated José Ruiz for assignment this morning, adding Jesse Scholtens to the 40-man and 26-man rosters to give Pedro Grifol a more natural candidate for long relief.

The news surprises, but since Ruiz opened the year with a 22.09 ERA over his first four outings, it does not shock. A terrific showing in the World Baseball Classic raised hopes that Ruiz might finally overcome his inability to graduate out of low-leverage situations, but then the regular season opened, and Ruiz looked worse than ever. Beyond the results, his fastball and breaking ball lacked power. His 94.9 mph average velocity on Thursday was the first time he’d finished below 95 mph since 2019.

Ruiz had survived four other seasons with Chicago by never being the worst reliever in the bullpen at one time, and with competency in low-leverage outings that at least helped games end quicker.

But when Ruiz face-planted out of the gate, the Sox had no confidence-inspiring options for mitigating middle-inning minefields. That became rather clear in the two losses to the Giants, especially if you watched the other bullpen.

Over at The Athletic, Grant Brisbee noticed that while the Giants have set a franchise record for the most homers through six games, they’ve also used the fewest relievers when judged against Farhan Zaidi’s four other San Francisco teams — and it’s not because starters are picking up the slack. They essentially have eight starters, and the ones who aren’t in the immediate five-man rotation are biding their time in the major-league bullpen.

It was Thursday’s game that brought this strategy into the light. In a previous season, when [Alex] Wood started getting hit hard the second time through the order, Giants manager Gabe Kapler would have gone to Dominic Leone … and then Jarlín García … and then [Taylor] Rogers … and then … chunks of innings after chunks of innings, all with the terrifying idea that it could all happen again tomorrow. Innings backed up with innings, ridiculous pitch counts backed up with even more ridiculous pitch counts.

This season, it’s [Jakob] Junis out there for a batch of innings. He gets a pat on the butt and a “go out there and get ’em,” and four innings later, the bullpen is still fresh. He’s a quasi-starter, just like [Sean] Hjelle. [Sean] Manaea is an actual starter, and he’ll get a start soon, which would put Ross Stripling in the bullpen or Wood or …

The White Sox don’t have anything close to a swingman, and this manifested itself during the fifth innings of their two losses to the Giants.

While Kapler was able to use the quick hook on Wood in the fourth inning and shift to Junis, Grifol stuck with Lynn into the fifth, even though he’d allowed six runs on 87 pitches through four. Lynn started that inning with a backward K, but then gave up a single and a homer over six pitches to end his afternoon.

Kopech looked a little stronger than Lynn through four on Monday. He’d allowed three runs through four innings, but he’d thrown only 68 pitches by that point, and had previously retired the side in order on 11 pitches. Alas, the lighter workload worked against him, because Grifol ended up leaving him out there to give up four homers in the fifth inning.

Lynn and Kopech combined to retire three batters between their fifth innings. The line: 1 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 5 HR, 1 BB, 1 K.

Perhaps Grifol would’ve pulled the plug earlier if he had a long man at the ready. Jake Diekman kinda looked the part by pitching two scoreless innings on Monday, but he threw only 14 of 30 pitches for strikes, which isn’t what you’d call sustaintable. Ruiz and Gregory Santos weren’t as fortunate on Wednesday.

Without somebody to sop up multiple innings, even with the effectiveness of recycled paper towels, the White Sox trailed only the Boston Red Sox in relief appearances through seven games with 27, or 11 more than the Giants. You can’t blame the starters, because the White Sox are averaging 5.14 innings per start, while San Francisco is only getting 4.78.


We spent a fair amount of time wondering how much the White Sox would miss Johnny Cueto, but he’s on the injured list with bicep tightness after just one inning and a 36.00 ERA with Miami, so the answer might be “not at all.”

Perhaps we should’ve instead wondered how much the White Sox would miss Vince Velasquez. Sure, his struggles as a starter necessitated Cueto’s emergence last year, but as somebody who averaged two innings per relief appearance and could stretch out to four when needed, he ended up earning his $3 million by doing enough of the grunt work.

The White Sox can undermine this theory this weekend. They’ll face Velazquez on Saturday, so shelling him would be the best way to make everybody understand that he wasn’t that special.

If Scholtens wants to serve the same purpose with adequate multi-inning work, by all means. Expectations should be tempered, because he’s never pitched in the majors due to a 5.20 ERA at Triple-A. He’s already achieved plenty for a ninth-round pick out of Wright State University, and this promotion is a tremendous belated birthday gift (he turned 29 on Thursday), but he had a nice spring training after joining the White Sox as a non-roster invitee, and because he’s on schedule to help now, he’s non-roster no more.

Ideally, the White Sox won’t have to make another transaction because finding low-leverage relief shouldn’t be that hard. Ideally, we won’t have to think about Scholtens at all because White Sox starters are able to go one more inning, and the seven other relievers on the staff will have stabilized. And ideally, the White Sox’s mysterious addition of Alex Colomé to the organization per the team’s transactions page will remain a minor curiosity. We knew the White Sox might have issues sorting out the ninth inning during Liam Hendriks’ absence, but the fifth inning shouldn’t require this much consideration.

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LamarHoyt_oncrack

This is the kind of move championship rosters are built from.

a-t

This’ll sound silly, but Scholtens’ ERA at AAA is not particularly concerning to me bc that was almost all in the PCL. In 2022, his 4.10 ERA there was not too shabby considering the league’s ERA was 5.34, and the average OPS was .850.

Yolmer

MLBTR points out Ruiz would give up the $925K contract if he rejects the assignment. If he clears waivers, he will almost certainly accept the assignment to AAA. I would not care if another team claims him.

Alfornia Jones

Is the claiming team on the hook for the league minimum? Also not interested in keeping him, but he seems like a dumpster dive move the Sox would make. Keeping piling up bodies until morale improves.

calcetinesblancos

Wow, was not expecting that. Who could be next?

a-t

I’d think Santos and Diekman will be casualties of Hendriks and Crochet returnjng

jorgefabregas

670WMAQtheElder

Unlike Sox in the past they didn’t wait. Perhaps this sends a message to the entire roster that you better produce or else. That would be refreshing. Now sign Archer.

Archer blows.

a-t

More than Sean Burke, or whoever’s after Sean Burke on the depth chart?

Right Size Wrong Shape

Who knows. We’re talking about known to suck vs. yet to suck.

funkerdan

That didn’t take long

steelydan52

Me thinks Hahn knows he can’t let this season get away so soon. Maybe some of these guys are just waiting for warm weather.
The window is till open but not so far that you want your fingers near the bottom.

FishSox

I’m not the real Sparticus I just play Sparticus on TV.

StockroomSnail

In the bleak midwinter….

As Cirensica

Oh boy, this is quite surprising. White Sox not messing around. I kinda like that. Sends a message to a team used to complacency from previous administration.

Steve

I can’t recall a decisive move like this in a long time. Maybe the end of Will Ohman when he was DFA’d immediately after the game?

Patrick Nolan

They paid him $289,062.50 per inning

asinwreck

Still a superior bargain to Diekman.

soxexile

I’d be a lot more impressed with this move if Diekman wasn’t still on the roster. What’s the point of jettisoning Ruiz when you have nothing to replace him?