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One of the great nicknames in baseball history belonged to Hugh Mulcahy, who pitched for the Philadelphia Phillies from 1935-1940, and then rejoined them for brief stints after the war. He went 45-89 over that first six-year stretch, including a four-year period in which he averaged 19 defeats a season. Twice, he led the league in that ignonimous category.
His nickname: “Losing Pitcher.”
Mulcahy was a below-average starter, but not noticeably so. He just happened to be durable enough to rack up plenty of innings for a team with so little offense, it lost 100 games in six of seven seasons during that period.
The nickname was just rooted in brutal honesty, is all. Check the box score, and it was twice as likely that he’d have an “L” next to his name instead of a “W.” Sad as it may be, Hugh “Losing Pitcher” Mulcahy works.
Tony Pena needs a similar nickname after serving up David Ortiz’s walk-off homer in a 3-2 loss to the Boston Red Sox. After Wednesday, the White Sox are 5-15 in games Pena has entered in his brief South Side career. Moreover, they have dropped the last nine.
That record isn’t noteworthy in and of itself. D.J. Carrasco had a similar stretch, when the Sox lost 15 of 17 games with his name in the box score.
There are a few differences, though:
- In all 15 losses, Carrasco entered with the Sox trailing.
- When Carrasco entered a tie game, he picked up the win. Pena has picked up the loss twice in such occasions.
- Pena’s still working on his first impression.
Pena was on his way to becoming a reliable option after stringing together eight scoreless appearances early on, and stranding a respectable six of eight runners over that stretch. Three losses rest in his hands over the last fortnight:
- Aug. 10 vs. Seattle: Sealed Gavin Floyd’s collapse with the game-deciding homer in the sixth inning. Floyd’s runner was on base, so Pena avoided the “L.”
- Aug. 12 vs. Seattle: Took the loss in the 14-inning shutout.
- Wednesday vs. Boston: Big Papi.
This… this is not a good start. And it’s not helping to justify a trade that took a lot of work to justify after not passing the initial smell test.
It does underline the vagaries of bullpen construction, because when you look at the White Sox relief corps, there are only three identifiable assets: Bobby Jenks, Matt Thornton and D.J. Carrasco.
You know what they cost to acquire: Joe Borchard and the league minimum times three (if you want to throw Randy Williams in there for half-credit, he was a spring training invite, too).
The guys who are dragging the bullpen down — Scott Linebrink and Octavio Dotel — are making more than $10 million this year combined. If they came close to earning their salaries, Williams probably wouldn’t have felt compelled to acquire Pena, who cost a guy the Sox might need in Brandon Allen.
The Sox put the 2007 season behind them, for the most part, but the effects of that bullpen’s collapse still linger. Stocking up on low-cost power arms should have worked, but all the Sox have to show for it is trauma.
(One hypothetical question I’m pondering is, “If David Aardsma posted his 2009 line (2.34 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, three homers in 57 innings) in 2007, how different does the bullpen look now?”)
But if you’re seeking optimism in these tough times, it’s not impossible to come by.
For one, I can’t see the Sox retaining Octavio Dotel, and they still have two years and a month of very expensive Linebrink to live through. Those two contracts could counteract the effects of the 2007 pen and make for a nice middle-ground approach when acquiring relievers in the future.
Brandon Allen isn’t hitting yet, either, with two singles and one walk in 13 plate appearances. He crushed the ball in the Pacific Coast League, but so did Chris Young, and that still hasn’t translated to any sustainable big-league success.
And ultimately, there’s still time for Pena to right the ship. I’ve seen Mike MacDougal’s name tossed out there as a cautionary tale against paying for midseason relief, but he made an outstanding, instant impact. He joined the Sox and became their top right-handed reliever out of the pen as Bobby Jenks faded down the stretch. Then MacDougal proceeded to lose everything.
It’s not exactly comforting, but it is a reminder that first impressions do mislead.
But in case Pena’s doesn’t, I’m thinking about calling him “Last Rites” or “Ted McGinley.” If either one comes into play, it ain’t getting better.
Jake Peavy ain’t better yet, either, as the Sox cut his bullpen session well short:
”I know that if he wouldn’t have gotten hit by the ball [in his rehab start Monday] that he would be pitching Saturday, but him getting hit by the ball in his elbow, we’re unable to do anything [Wednesday],” pitching coach Don Cooper said. ”So right now, it doesn’t look like he’s going to be making that start. [Tonight] we’ll try again. Hopefully, we don’t have to push him back a day for this, but again, each day is going to give us more information, and that’s kind of what we got.”
Minor league roundup:
- Charlotte 10, Gwinnett 7 (11 innings)
- Tyler Flowers hit the game-winning three-run homer, part of a 2-for-5, one-walk day.
- Stefan Gartrell went 2-for-5 with two RBI.
- Chris Getz went 0-for-2 in his first game back, and was replaced by Keith Ginter in the sixth.
- Jhonny Nunez struggled with control, allowing two walks, a hit and an unearned run in one inning. He did strike a batter out.
- Fernando Hernandez struck out three over two hitless innings (two walks); Jon Link threw a 1-2-3 11th with a K.
- West Tenn 9, Birmingham 5
- C.J. Retherford went 2-for-5 with his 42nd double, and an RBI.
- Dave Cook doubled and homered; Lee Cruz did the same.
- Dayan Viciedo went 1-for-5 with a double and an RBI.
- John Shelby and Christian Marrero each went 1-for-5.
- Kyle McCulloch gave up five runs on seven hits (two homers) over five innings.
- Salem 8, Winston-Salem 5
- Brent Morel went 1-for-3 with a walk and an RBI. He was caught stealing for the eighth time.
- Dale Mollenhauer hit a two-run homer. He, Tyler Kuhn and Justin Greene each went 1-for-5.
- Tyson Corley pitched a scoreless inning, the only pitcher to not allow a run for the Dash.
- Kannapolis 8, Greeneville 6
- Brandon Short doubled, tripled and drove in two.
- Drew Garcia went 2-for-4 with a double and three RBI; Jon Gilmore went 1-for-4 with two driven in.
- Josh Phegley went 0-for-3 with a walk; Daniel Black 1-for-4.
- Charles Leesman pitched well: 6 2/3 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K.
- Kyle Bellamy struck out two in a scoreless inning for the save.
- Bristol 3, Pulaski 0 (Game 1, 7 innings)
- Great start for Daniel Holmberg, who struck out five over five scoreless innings, allowing just a walk and a hit.
- Santos Rodriguez struck out three over two innings (two hits) for the save.
- Brady Shoemaker doubled twice in three at-bats, driving in a run.
- Miguel Gonzalez doubled and walked; Trayce Thompson doubled.
- Bristol 2, Pulaski 1 (Game 2, 7 innings)
- Taylor Thompson struck out six over three perfect innings.
- Daniel Wiltz replicated Rodriguez’s line for his own save.
- Shoemaker doubled and drove in both runs.
- Trayce Thompson struck out in both of his at-bats.
- Great Falls 11, Missoula 7
- Jordan Cheatham had himself a day, going 5-for-5 with a triple and four RBI. He was 1-for-2 in steal attempts.
- Kyle Colligan had three singles and three RBI, as well as his 11th and 12 stolen bases. He committed his fifth error.
- Jose Vargas went 3-for-5 with two doubles and an RBI; Ryan Hammed had three hits, including a double.
- Jimmy Ballinger was roughed up: 3 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 2 HR.
And since I failed to mention this before, the list of Sox players headed to the Arizona Fall League: Dayan Viciedo, Jordan Danks, C.J. Retherford, Justin Cassel, Johnnie Lowe, Henry Mabee and Jacob Rasner.