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When Davis Martin was a late scratch from his Thursday start with Charlotte, even a postgame announcement that he was joining the White Sox didn’t exactly clarify matters, because it was unclear who he’d be replacing. The White Sox had named their probable starters through the weekend, and Dylan Cease and Kendall Graveman were activated from their unvaccinated staycations as well.
Well, tonight’s originally announced starter was also scratched. The White Sox placed Vince Velasquez on the 15-day injured list with a left groin strain retroactive to May 31, so Martin will take his place on the mound against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.
The last time we saw Velasquez, he was the only pitcher to solve the Boston Red Sox offense, throwing three shutout innings on 45 pitches in the White Sox’s 16-3 loss on May 24. Perhaps the time between appearances signaled that something was the matter, but between the all the off days and the DFA of Dallas Keuchel, enough had been reshuffled to assume that Velasquez just wasn’t a priority starter.
Tonight’s scratch represents a missed opportunity for him. With Lance Lynn scheduled to make his second rehab start for Charlotte tonight, the number of extra starts for fringe types in the White Sox rotation is on the verge of narrowing considerably. Baseball being a zero-sum game and all, that means it’s a big night for Martin, who gets a chance to follow up on his five fine innings in his MLB debut against Kansas City on May 17.
The other moves were made according to LIFO: Cease and Graveman are back, replacing Kyle Crick and Jimmy Lambert. Cease is still scheduled to start on Saturday, so it’s like he never left. Graveman’s absence was felt, as he would’ve been the most likely to pitch with the Sox trailing 4-3 in the eighth inning on Thursday, so his poor decision was compounded by poor performances.
The White Sox made six roster moves in total this afternoon, and yet my first reaction was “Is that all?” due to all the other positions in need of interchangeable parts.
As long Gavin Sheets is hitting .203/.271/.328, the White Sox may as well call up Adam Haseley. Haseley is hitting .282/.336/.536 over 119 plate appearances in Charlotte since the White Sox sent him back for the last week of April, and at least he plays the outfield by trade.
As long as Josh Harrison is hitting .167/.248/.255, the White Sox may as well call up Yolbert Sánchez, followed by three other guys who might be able to eclipse Harrison’s production if Sánchez falters.
And as long as Yasmani Grandal’s season resembles a two-month-long rehab stint, the White Sox may as well call up Carlos Pérez, because Reese McGuire is playing just about everyday regardless.
Regarding Grandal, Daryl Van Schouwen addressed the elephant in the room with his recorder, and there’s not much reason for immediate encouragement.
Grandal’s swing has looked a bit long, and he has been late on hard stuff from pitchers. He attributes that to his legs not being at full strength. Grandal had knee surgery July 5 to repair a torn tendon and a cleanup procedure after the season.
“[Not] being able to fire with the lower half,” Grandal said before taking batting practice before the series finale against the Blue Jays. “Hopefully it starts coming along.” […]
“It’s not so much about cage work, it’s more about weight room more than anything, to get the strength I need back in my legs so that I can use them the way I should be using them,” Grandal said. “That sounds pretty simple but it’s actually much harder than it is. I’ve been feeling better and better, the strength has gone up, which is huge. So hopefully things change a little bit in the coming weeks.”
I can believe that Grandal’s struggles are due to a specific physical issue than overall decline, because he went from destroying fastballs last year to lagging on everything, which isn’t usually how aging manifests itself.
But if it is a strength-building issue, then you’d think this would best be addressed with a move to the injured list followed by a rehab stint, because Grandal in his current form might not do a whole lot of damage against Triple-A pitching, either.
If the alternatives were still Zack Collins and Seby Zavala, I’d get the White Sox’s hesitation. But with Carlos Pérez, the Sox have what appears to be a better third-catching option. He’s hitting .286/.339/.513, and with a measly 11 strikeouts over 168 plate appearances.
There are a few reasons to think Pérez’s performance in Charlotte might not smoothly translate to the majors. The power is a recent development, and while it doesn’t look like a Truist Field mirage (he’s slugging 14 points higher on the road), he’d probably find himself in counts where he’d be less likely to access it. He gets rid of the ball quickly, but he has to thanks to a below-average arm.
As for his receiving, it’s graded out as below-average throughout his minor-league career, and the automated strike zone in Charlotte makes it hard to gauge the progress with that particular skills. When I caught the Knights play in Nashville, former manager Wes Helms urged Pérez to set up closer to the plate, because he wasn’t getting low strikes.
That said, a couple of Pérez-adjacent developments have occurred since that series. Helms was placed on indefinite leave, and the Sox replaced him with Julio Mosquera, who opened the season as the organization’s catching coordinator.
Also, that series featured the first of Cueto’s three starts with Charlotte, and fellow Knights catcher Nick Ciuffo told FutureSox’s Jeff Cohen that Cueto and Pérez developed a bond.
“The transition that he’s made in the past two or three weeks with his catching has been unbelievable,” Ciuffo said of Pérez. “He’s so close, he’s knocking on the door. He’s playing more now because of it, and a lot of that has to do with the conversation he had with Johnny Cueto.”
The longer that Grandal looks reluctant to swing and late when he tries, the more of a missed opportunity this becomes. The White Sox are getting the sixth-worst production at catcher and are bottom-three at DH, while third base and left field are similarly compromised by players who are started gingerly. The Sox opened the Toronto series with a 25-man roster because of Cease’s absence, but throw in the guys who La Russa would rather avoid penciling in for one reason or another, and they’re effectively playing with 22½.
That’s what makes a the idea of placing Grandal on the IL more than the mere venting of frustrated fans. Their 23-26 record and -55 run differential should’ve been sufficient evidence to show the White Sox are not good enough to play so shorthanded, and while the season’s far from over, the end of it will only arrive sooner if the Sox are so content to stand idly by.