The calendar has turned to September and the White Sox have expanded their roster.
Reporting today from AAA Charlotte will be catcher Tyler Flowers and speedy outfielder Alejandro De Aza (above), who was a sensation in spring training. Promoted immediately from AA Birmingham is righthander Gregory Infante, who will be dispatched to the Sox bullpen. Dayan Viciedo, who was sent down to AAA when Mark Teahen returned, will join the South Siders in Boston. Carlos Torres, the odd man out when Manny Ramirez arrived, will be brought up after the Charlotte season is over on September 6.
Tale of the tape for the three players arriving today :
* Flowers slugged 16 homers, drove in 53 and batted .220 in 100 games at Charlotte.
* De Aza hit .302 in 79 games with the Knights.
* Infante, after being called up to Birmingham from Winston-Salem, was 2-2 with a 3.42 ERA.
All the frustration from two weeks of blown leads, walkoff homers and the loss of a division lead came to an abrupt halt last night as the White Sox exploded with the 11-0 victory over the Twins.
When any team in this situation is badly in need of a win, they look to their leaders. The Sox are no exception and theirs came through big-time with a whole lot of help from the troops as The Good Guys hurled a shutout and pounded out 21 hits.
The leaders–three grizzled vets from the 2005 champs–rose to occasion in a huge way. Paul Konerko, enjoying a monster season, went 5 for 5 with his 31st homer and four RBI; Mark Buehrle pitched seven innings of scoreless, five-hit ball; and A.J. Pierzynski, struggling through an offensive season he’d like to forget, added two hits and two RBI.
Adding to the barrage were three-hit nights from Juan Pierre, Omar Vizquel, Alexei Ramirez and Mark Teahen. And, by the way, check out these averages: Pierre is hovering around .280 while Vizquel and Ramirez are both in the .290 neighborhood. A far cry from earlier in the season.
As I live and die with the Pale Hose on a daily basis, it’s always good to get a reality check from one of the guys in my Sox posse. Here’s some wisdom from Tim Clodjeaux, a former Sox PR guru:
“Keep in mind that this ‘meltdown’ is not as bad on paper as it has been to watch. Since the break the Sox are 17-17. Playing .500 ball will not win you many pennants, but it is far from a collapse. It just looks bad because of the nine losses in 12 games prior to tonight–and the way we lost many of those nine. And the Twins, on the other hand, are now 24-9 since the break. So while the Sox have stumbled, the Twins have deservedly made their move to the top of the standings.”
I don’t think my White Sox posse is much different than most Sox fans. We’ve been pretty hard on Mark Teahen
. First, he got off to a terrible start in spring training and then unpleasantly surprised us with his subpar defense at third base with an offensive game that was nothing to brag about.
Perhaps the biggest indictment of all is that he went on the DL with the bum finger at the same time the South Siders began their run to the top of the A.L. Central. Coincidence or not, when Omar Vizquel became the Sox regular third baseman the Hose began to roll.
So it’s been a running joke with us that the Twins will get Justin Morneau back from the DL and we get Teahen. Kind of a consolation prize. When somebody went for the laugh last night via e-mail, I responded by saying, “Wouldn’t it be funny if he made a huge impact down the stretch?”
Well, he’s off to a good start. In his first game back, the Rodney Dangerfield of Sox players batted fifth, played right field and went 2 for 4 with a homer, two RBIs and two runs scored in the 8-4 Sox victory over the Tigers.
Kenny Williams pursued Adam Dunn, had Lance Berkman in the fold until the then-Astro nixed the deal and surely looked at others. I don’t want to overreact to one game, but maybe we had that lefthanded hitter we coveted all along. He was just on the DL.
And maybe the joke’s on us.
Let me state the obvious: It’s a very long season with many ups and downs. If you don’t believe it’s true, just look at where the White Sox were at the beginning of June.
Where they are now is an interesting subject to ponder. You can look at how much ground they’ve gained in the last two months and see them in a positive position. Or you can look at the last seven games where they were 2-5 against the Orioles and Twins. You can also judge where they are in the standings two ways–you can say that they are ONLY a game out of first or you can view it as a huge disappointment that they’re now out of first place and a full game behind the Twins.
All this doesn’t matter because it’ll be played out on the field. But the troubling thing to me is that we lost two of three to Minnesota at home and last night’s 6-1 defeat was as disappointing and demoralizing a loss that the Sox have had since beginning their turnaround. Add to that, the sinking feeling that comes from seeing that however we’re playing and whatever we do, the Twins are that much better on a consistent basis. It also doesn’t make me any happier that we face them three more times next week at Target Field.
Much of what I’ve written above comes from the frustration of watching the Sox load the bases three times last night–once with no outs and once with one out–and come up empty each time in what was, at this point at least, a pivotal game.
OK, that’s enough. We have to move on. And the Sox will do exactly that tonight against the Tigers behind Mark Buehrle. For the record, I’ll be scoreboard watching with the Twins hosting the A’s.
Sox notes of note: The Sox sent Dayan Viciedo back to Charlotte after the game last night and brought Mark Teahen back from his rehab assignment. Viciedo will surely be brought up September 1 when the rosters expand. For a while it looked like it was going to be a tough decision, but Viciedo’s play both offensively (no walks, too many strikeouts) and defensively (very shaky at third) made it an easier call for the club’s brass to send down Dayan and recall Teahen.
BALTIMORE–The White Sox gave every indication that they were going to get to Oriole righthander Jeremy Guthrie in the early going today, but the runners they got on base never came around to score. As a result, Guthrie settled down and proceeded to stymie the Hose, giving up only a single run in eight innings of work as Baltimore hung on to win, 4-3.
The bats that were so silent in the season’s early going and so explosive since the beginning of June have been back to being silent the past three games at Camden Yards. The big Sox blow today was the two-run home run by Ramon Castro (pictured above after slugging a homer earlier this season at the Cell ) in the ninth. Unfortunately it was too little too late.
The loss combined with the Twins 5-4 victory in Cleveland, decreased the Sox lead in the A.L. Central to a half-game. The South Siders are hoping for a split of the four-game series here tomorrow night with Edwin Jackson making his second Sox start.
Sox notes of note: After leaving last night’s game with a “tweaked” knee, A.J. Pierzynski got his usual “day game after a night game” rest and should be good to go tomorrow night…Today, it was Gordon Beckham who was replaced as he strained a groin. Early word is that it’s not serious…Speaking of injuries, Mark Teahen will spend a little more time rehabbing in Charlotte. Seems that the Sox want him to spend more time at a variety of positions. The longer Teahen’s there, the more time they’ll have to make a decision on the necessary roster move when he’s ready to come back to the 25-man roster. And don’t forget, rosters expand on September 1…Mark Buehrle pitched well enough to win if only the Sox bats were clicking. He gave up 10 hits, but only three earned runs in seven innings.
Things I’m thinking about…
* After the 12-2 win over the Tigers in the opener I would have loved a doubleheader sweep last night, but as one of the members of my Sox posse e-mailed after the second game: “It’s baseball. You don’t win them all. We split two games and gained one-half game. I’ll take it.” And we all know how difficult it is to sweep a twinbill.
* You’d be hard-pressed to find a better story than that of 43-year-old future Hall of Famer Omar Vizquel (above). Having taken over the third base job after Mark Teahen‘s injury, he’s now hitting .293 with numerous clutch hits and superb defense. Remarkable.
* Has anybody noticed that Alexei Ramirez is hovering around the .300 mark at .296? And, oh, that defense.
* Less than two months ago Chris Sale was the club’s No. 1 draft choice out of Florida Gulf Coast University. Is he now headed to Chicago? After four games with Class A Winston-Salem, he was promoted to AAA Charlotte and has struck out 15 in 6 1/3 innings over seven relief appearances. With Carlos Torres shipped back to Charlotte after last night’s start and Erick Threets on the DL, speculation is that Sale might be joining the big club as the second lefty in the pen.
* I wonder how the hapless Orioles will respond to new manager Buck Showalter, who Ozzie sarcastically has referred to as “Mr. Baseball.” If they improve, I hope they start after we leave town next Monday night.
* I’m eager to see Edwin Jackson face his former teammates in Detroit tonight. Would love to see a lights-out performance.
* A big thank you to the Rays, now on top of the A.L. East, for taking the first two games against the Twins.
Based on his major league performance last year, the last person I expected–and wanted–to see in a White Sox uniform in 2010 was Brent Lillibridge. Both at bat and in the field he looked overmatched in ’09 before being sent to Charlotte, where he spent most of the summer.
That said, Lillibridge’s revival this season has been remarkable. Since being promoted to the Sox after Mark Teahen was placed on the DL he has been a solid contributor, batting .387 as a spot starter and utility man off of the bench. Even more important than the average is the fact he has come up with a number of clutch hits–none more important than his three-run triple this afternoon against Gio Gonzalez and the A’s to pace Gavin Floyd and the South Siders to the 4-1 victory. With the Twins’ victory the Hose remain a half-game ahead of the Twins for the division lead.
So, with Teahen now in a rehab stint and pretty close to returning, what will happen to Lilli? The smart money is on the Sox postponing Teahen’s return as long as possible and when he comes back assigning Dayan Viciedo to Charlotte until the rosters expand September 1. Tank, as Hawk “in my 51 years in baseball” Harrelson calls him, has been impressive, but it would be difficult to demote Lillibridge based on what he’s done and the fact he can play both the infield and outfield.
After a day off tomorrow the White Sox head to Detroit for four games, including a day/night doubleheader on Tuesday. Edwin Jackson is scheduled to make his Sox debut on Wednesday night.
Lillibridge’s triple drove in Ramon Castro, Carlos Quentin and Andrew Jones, pictured here showing their appreciation
When the White Sox acquired Omar Vizquel in the offseason, the hope was that he could be a veteran utility presence in the infield and a steadying influence on Alexei Ramirez.
As we sit here today, 3 1/2 games ahead of the Tigers and Twins, I don’t know where we would be without Omar. With Mark Teahen out of the lineup, he has provided a huge upgrade defensively and has been a key contributor to the offense as well. As of this morning he’s hitting .277, more than we could have reasonably expected.
Alexei? Whether it’s been Vizquel’s influence or not, he is on fire, both at the plate where his average is up to .284, and at short where he has been as good as anyone in the league.
There have been many heroes in the Sox revitalization. Vizquel, Ramirez and their buddy Gordon Beckham (all pictured above) are right at the top of the list.
When the Braves took an early 3-0 tonight against the White Sox at the Cell, I flashed back to April and May and had that sinking feeling that we were doomed.
But this is a different Sox team. One that can rebound from an early deficit because of renewed starting pitching, clutch hitting and defense that has improved their record to 35-34. You don’t have to look further than tonight’s result against the red-hot Braves to see that. Down 3-0 after one and a half innings, the South Siders scored five runs in the bottom of the second, added one in the third and three in the fourth en route to the 9-6 victory. And after his early woes, John Danks settled down and blanked Atlanta for the next five innings before being relieved by Tony Pena in the eighth.
Here we are one game above .500, 4 1/2 games behind the division-leading Twins and only three in back of the Tigers.
Many heroes surfaced last night. Danks, A.J. Pierzynski (three hits, two RBI), Alexei Ramirez (three hits and an RBI), Paul Konerko (three hits to raise his BA to .304), Alex Rios (two hits and an RBI) and Carlos Quentin, who slammed a three-run homer for the team’s first roundtripper in eight games. We had 16 hits in all. The only negatives happened in the ninth with Scott Linebrink giving up two runs before being relieved by Bobby Jenks (who got the save) and Ramirez leaving the game with a finger injury. Too early to tell how serious the injury is.
No, I didn’t forget Omar Vizquel, who has been outstanding as the main replacement for the disabled Mark Teahen (remember him?). Omar delivered a clutch two-out, two RBI single in the Sox five-run second, which prolonged the rally (pictured above).
How important has Vizquel been to the Sox recent resurgence? The Sox are 13-6 when the future Hall of Fame starts at third base.
A week ago, when the White Sox embarked on their seven-game road trip to Cleveland and Tampa Bay, it’s safe to say that we would have been happy with what now has happened–a series win over the Tribe and a split with the Rays.
Of course more would have been better, but the way this season is going a 4-3 mark is satisfactory–with the hope that June will be the time for the turnaround.
The finale in Tampa Bay yesterday, an 8-5 triumph over baseball’s best team, had a lot of heroes. Jayson Nix, who replaced Mark Teahen (injury to right middle finger) at third in the middle of the game, gave the Sox the lead for good in the sixth with a grand slam (pictured above). Alex Rios went 3 for 5 with his 11th homer and a pair of RBI and Juan Pierre made two spectacular catches.
On the pitching side Jake Peavy was nothing special, but got the win. Sergio Santos lowered his ERA to 0.48, Matt Thornton pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings and Tony Pena finished the game by retiring Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena.
Now it’s back to Chicago to face the Rangers, Indians and Tigers. No time to waste.