Flash back to May 19. The Charlotte Knights were in serious trouble.
They’d just dropped four straight at home by a combined score of 45-15. Their best pitcher, Davis Martin, had just been lost to Tommy John surgery, and their next best starter, Jesse Scholtens, was soon to be headed to Chicago, as was one of their hottest hitters, Clint Frazier. The pitching staff was a hot mess.
And then, out of nowhere, they caught a break: Garrett Davila — who was on no one’s prospect list — was promoted from Double-A, handed the ball and asked to stem the tide. He delivered as the team pulled off a gutsy 7-5 win.
The team’s new ace, Nate Fisher, and four relievers helped wrap up the homestand with a dramatic 4-2 win and the team suddenly had won back-to-back games at a time when they looked dead in the water.
And just like that, the season turned on a dime. On the road in Jacksonville, the team won four in a row before dropping the last two in the series, with starting pitching that was just good enough, some big-time efforts by the bullpen and timely hitting up and down the lineup.
Davila hinted that his emergency start might not have been a fluke when he won the team’s sixth in a row last Friday with his second strong outing in as many starts.
Still, the rotation is the team’s biggest challenge to continued success — Daniel Ponce de Leon, Luke Farrell and Sean Burke have been far from dominant and AJ Alexy has been moved to the bullpen to work on his control issues. If the team’s starters can just keep their team close, however, the Knights can continue to flirt with .500. (They are 25-26.)
Starter John Parke returned to the team on Sunday after a long stint on the IL. JB Olson was shifted to the Development List to create a roster spot.
The good news is that Parke tossed 51 pitches over three innings of relief in his first outing since going on the IL on April 8. The bad news is that he got hit hard and took Sunday’s loss.
Perhaps Olson will benefit from a break — the 28-year-old righty has a 1.88 WHIP and a 10.67 ERA over 28.2 innings. Parke will add some needed depth to the rotation and it appears he won’t need much time to build up his pitch count.
Elvis Andrus remains with the team on a rehab assignment and homered in Sunday’s game.
Adam Haseley rejoined the Knights with the return on Sunday of Eloy Jimenez to the White Sox lineup. Haseley was with the Sox since April 8 and posted eight hits, six runs and two RBIs in 36 ABs. He also had one stolen base.
Sammy Peralta had a rough go in a three-day stint with the White Sox in early May, and struggled in his first outing upon his demotion to Charlotte. But the 25-year-old lefty with the nasty change-up returned to form in his next four outings: 10.0 innings, six hits, five walks and 10 strikeouts.
It is encouraging to see so many Knights players do so well in Charlotte after demotions from Chicago. Rather than moping about lackluster results with the White Sox, guys like Peralta, Lenyn Sosa and Oscar Colas look more determined than ever to return to the MLB sooner than later.
Sosa is hitting .354 with eight doubles and nine home runs, while Colas is hitting .295 with 10 doubles and one long ball.
Even Jake Marisnick got into the act. The 32-year-old veteran accepted an assignment to Charlotte after he was DFA’ed by the White Sox on May 21, and rapped a big two-RBI triple last Friday in his first game back with the Knights.
Longer Bullpen Outings
Maybe it is coincidence, but ever since the Davis Martin injury, Peralta and Tanner Banks appear to be getting stretched out into multi-inning relievers.
Banks had a brilliant May. Aside from a four-run inning on May 13, Banks tossed 11.2 innings over six appearances with 10 hits, no earned runs, no walks and 17 strikeouts.
Scholtens, the new “next man up” after the Martin injury, looked ok in his first two outings in this, his second stint with the White Sox this season. But if he stumbles, my guess is that the White Sox might turn to Banks or Peralta as part of a bullpen game in place of the injured Mike Clevinger. Both Banks and Peralta are on the 40-man roster.
The Knights have one other effective starter currently, Nate Fisher, but he isn’t on the 40-man. Sean Burke is the lone remaining starter on the 40-man but he’s still working on finding his groove and is not yet ready for prime time.
Mondou Quietly Having Solid Season
Nate Mondou has gone a bit unnoticed with all the excitement surrounding marque prospects like Oscar Colas and Lenyn Sosa, and veterans like Clint Frazier and Victor Reyes. But he’s quietly had a solid start to his season.
After spending his career with the Oakland A’s, Mondou elected free agency in November 2022 and signed with the White Sox. He was assigned to Charlotte and has been a pleasant surprise, with a slash line this year of .286/.392/.474, plus 23 walks to 30 strikeouts, five homers and 16 RBIs.