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The Arizona Fall League concluded with the thunderclap of C.J. Retherford’s boomstick, as he walloped a two-run homer well, well over the 360-foot left-field wall in the eighth inning to give the Peoria Javelinas a 5-4 lead.
Watch it for yourself. And then, watch it again. It’s fun to watch that stumpy power uncoil.
It was a tremendous conclusion for a so-so AFL season for Retherford. He finished with a .250 batting average, a .389 slugging percentage and an OBP around .340 or so (MLB.com doesn’t track things like HBP and sac flies).
The good news is that nothing was particularly out of whack in spite of the lukewarm results. He struck out only nine times over 70something plate appearances, which he countered with eight walks.
One of those walks came on Saturday, and it was nearly as impressive as the homer. He fell behind 0-2, laid off a good slider, took a fastball inside, sliders, fouled three pitches off (including another good slider), then watched two more out of the strike zone for a nine-pitch walk.
Patience has been the one element that suppresses excitement regarding Retherford’s major-league potential, but he showed the ability to lay off a fastball-slider guy (Jeff Mandel) who hadn’t walked anybody in 10 fall-league innings.
The only mistake Retherford made on the day came two batters after the walk. He broke for third on a chopper snagged by Mandel, and should’ve been hung out to try. But Mandel didn’t run him back, rushed the throw to third and ended up throwing it away.
Otherwise, he had a nice day for himself, chopping in a run on a fielder’s choice, grounding out to second on a nice diving play by Jemile Weeks, and laying a tag down on steal attempt for an out. Hawk Harrelson would be happy to see that Retherford let the ball come to him, but then again, Hawk seems like everything Retherford does. That’s just par for the course.
The other guys:
*Brent Morel replicated his season on TV, lining a single to right-center and one to left, finishing 2-for-4. He also shut down an entire side of the field. His glove scared away Phoenix hitters from testing him, and his only opportunity came on a Weeks nubber right to him.
He was able to show some of his highly respected baserunning, taking second on a not particularly wild pitch.
Morel finished with 21 hits in his last 37 AFL at-bats, and didn’t have much problem making contact against the league, striking out just seven times in 66 at-bats.
The funniest thing about his half-season in fall ball is that he might’ve played the role of Buzz Killington for two players. The first is Dayan Viciedo, whom Morel replaced on the Javelinas roster, and then proceeded to outproduce as well. The second is…
*…Jordan Danks. Danks had drawn a lot of attention for the way he started the season, giving some the idea that he might be the left-handed bat the Sox need. He certainly didn’t end it poorly, as he finished hitting .343/.458/.505.
But when a guy who hadn’t advanced past Winston-Salem drops in midseason and wins the batting title, it does make one reevaluate expectations, as well as the vagaries of small sample sizes and hitter-friendly environments.
Watching Danks in the championship game, he had the exact same output when I saw him trying to rebound from the wrist injury in August — a walk, groundouts to the right side, and flyouts to the opposite field.
Those outcomes were the hallmark of a certain Darin Erstad in 2007. Grinderstad was second on the team in 4-3s in his only season on the South Side despite missing roughly half the year, and he was tied for third in groundouts to first. When he hit the ball in the air, a vast majority of them ended up left of center.
Watching Danks from the center field cam instead of from the side, that’s who he reminded me of, which isn’t good. Especially since Erstad once had good bat speed, but lost it as age and injuries took their toll. If Danks can be busted with fastballs in — just like Ryan Sweeney, and just like Jerry Owens if you want to keep it to age-relevant types — it’s going to be an uphill climb.
The good news is that Danks handled all chances in center with ease, even with the dreaded high sky causing problems for others. He also can take a pitch, and when you package it all together, you get a guy who can be useful. He’s just not a bat anybody should be counting on.
*Sergio Santos pitched an inning and showed enough to get an idea of why the Sox protected him on the 40-man roster. He struck out two left-handed batters, inducing some ugly swings with his slider. He also hit one of the batters with his strikeout pitch, with Weeks unable to check up on a slider that ended up hitting him on the foot. That’s some good life, and probably a big reason why his control has been shaky since moving to the mound from shortstop.
The broadcast didn’t provide radar gun readings, but he’s been clocked around 96 m.p.h. Maybe the Joe Nathan comparison I made in jest wasn’t that far off…
*Kyle Bellamy didn’t pitch, which was unfortunate. He allowed just one run over 5 2/3 innings, striking out seven to make up for a fair amount of baserunners (four hits, four walks). The control issues are out of line when comparing it to the rest of his 2009, as he struck out 30 to just two walks in 19 innings at Kannapolis.
If the competition is roughly a good Double-A in terms of hitters, I’d say he survived well enough. He’ll be a guy to watch next year, probably starting the year in Winston-Salem.
Along with Santos, the White Sox put the following players on the 40-man roster:
No argument with the first three, as Gartrell’s presence can’t hurt and Hynick was a no-doubter. Omogrosso’s arm problems aren’t as bad as originally feared, either (h/t Larry):
It turned out that he required some surgery on his right shoulder. He had been feeling tightness in the back of his shoulder beginning in early June, and he figured it was something he could simply fight through.
The shoulder never healed, and it got to the point where he wasn’t even throwing between starts. He was shut down at the end of June with the surgery following at the end of July.
“It ended up being a little clean-up in the shoulder,” said Omogrosso. “I’m already throwing again, and I’ll be a hundred percent by spring training.”
The final spot is a somewhat confusing, because Luis was exposed at Winston-Salem at age 25.
John Shelby‘s omission is a little bit of a head-scratcher, especially when considering how thin the Sox are in the outfield. Danks and Gartrell are the only guys worthy of a 40-man spot between both Birmingham and Charlotte, although you can add Christian Marrero to that list if they don’t tie him to first. Miguel Negron’s sticking around, and that’s about it.
I don’t think Shelby will make anybody in the Sox organization rue the day, but considering he made a dramatic improvement in his walk-to-strikeout ratio while making the jump from High-A to Double-A, I would’ve been inclined to see him for one more season.