Art Berke, a lifelong White Sox fan, has worked at the highest levels of the sports industry with Major League Baseball, ABC Television and Sports Illustrated. He grew up in Northwest Indiana, in the shadow of old Comiskey Park, and proudly proclaims 2005 as the best year of his life. Art offers his glass half-full opinions and observations as he lives and dies with the Sox.
Bizarro World is when up is down, left is right and all things are opposite of the norm. Consider the Friday and Saturday White Sox-Twins games at Target Field as a case in point.
After years of being dominated by the Twinkies and entering this series 1-7 against them this season, the tables turned. It was the Sox, not the Twinkies, who had the outstanding pitching, clutch hitting, sound defense and daring play on the basepaths in the two games. And it was Minnesota which took the role of past Sox teams with less-than-stellar play. Most importantly, the South Siders came out on the winning side of the ledger, 5-3 and 6-1, and already have chalked up a rare series win against their division rivals.
The big story of last night was righty Zach Stewart, who was acquired by the Sox from Toronto in the Edwin Jackson trade. He was aggressive all night and credited with career victory No. 1 in his first Sox appearance as he pitched 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball. Also up to the challenge were Chris Sale, Jason Frasor and Sergio Santos who shut the door after Stewart’s exit.
In the eighth, with Michael Cuddyer on third and no outs, Sale retired Jason Kubel and Jim Thome before Frasor struck out Danny Valencia to end the inning with the tying run on third. Santos pitched a 1-2-3 ninth.
Sox Notes of Note: No one example can back up the Bizarro World scenario more than this: Joe Nathan, for years a closer the Sox couldn’t touch, gave up a two-run homer to Brent Lillibridge in the four-run Sox ninth…Alex Rios collected three hits while his buddy Adam Dunn struck out three more times…Despite the two victories the Sox remained at 6 1/2 games behind the Tigers, who have beaten the Royals on back-to-back nights.
Every team in baseball has to deal with key injuries. Look at the Twins. Justin Morneau has been out since the All-Star break and Joe Nathan has been missing for the entire season. How about the Red Sox? Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Victor Martinez, Jacob Ellsbury, Mike Cameron and Clay Buchholz are among those who have been laid up and Youkilis, Ellsbury and Cameron are out or likely out for the year.
So as much as it took away from last night’s more-exciting-than-it-needed-to-be 7-5 victory over the Orioles and the reality that we gained a game on the Twins, we just have to deal with this unfortunate fact: both Matt Thornton and J.J. Putz are going on the DL and we’ve got to head into the stretch without two key components.
There’s no word at this juncture as to who will replace them. It’s expected that Erick Threets, who has been on a rehab assignment, will take Thornton’s spot–joining rookie Chris Sale as the two lefties in the pen. The other callup could be Carlos Torres or Lucas Harrell, who did such a stellar job when he was promoted to Chicago earlier this year. Or maybe it could be former “cup of coffee” major leaguer Ryan Braun, who has 18 saves and a 2.00 ERA at Charlotte.
Of course, the timing couldn’t be worse. The bullpen has been overworked and struggling as it is. Because of Sergio Santos‘ erratic performance last night and Putz’s injury, Bobby Jenks had to be summoned two days after hurling three innings in Kansas City. The good news is that he was terrific both times–and got the save last night–but how much longer can he hold down the fort by himself? And Ozzie, shown above making the change from Santos to Putz in last night’s harrowing ninth inning, will have to do a major juggling act.
In baseball, sometimes up is down and down is up and what’s expected plays out exactly the opposite. Let’s hope for that.
The new baseball season, with the promise of a revamped Sox approach leading to a division title, has so far been a nightmare–make that nightmares.
Opening Day was a pleasure, but for the past three nights the South Siders have blown leads, lost two heartbreakers in 11 innings and scored three runs in each contest with an average of six hits. To make matters worse, the hit total includes only four extra base hits–two homers and two doubles. The result? a 1-3 record and a three-game losing streak.
Add the weak offense to the somewhat shaky and already-overtaxed bullpen and the natives are becoming restless in Week 1. The biggest culprits? Mark Teahen and Scott Linebrink. The slumping Teahen, benched last night, had a chance to redeem himself in extras, but hit into an inning-ending double play. Linebrink, with two years left on his lucrative contract, doesn’t look like he’s going to improve any time soon. He walked two of the three batters he faced against the Twins.
To make matters worse the The Twinkies look tough, very tough, and it was almost unbearable to see Jon Rauch do his Joe Nathan imitation last night.
If I’m disappointed, I can only imagine how Ozzie and KW are feeling right now. Think they’ve had a conversation or two in the past couple of days? My sense is that if the Sox are in the doldrums for an extended period of time, changes will be made quickly. But, remember, we’re still only four games into the season.
I have made no secret in the past that I hate Twins closer Joe Nathan–in a baseball sense of course. I have dreaded seeing him every time he’s taken the mound against the White Sox and have cringed watching his victorious fist pump, pictured above. As Ozzie commented to the Sun-Times, “…Nathan is so good against us…I don’t remember in the six or seven years with this ballclub that we had a good day against him, except once.”
As much as I hate Nathan (remember, baseball-wise), I would never wish for him to endure serious injury. Although it’s a fact that the torn ligament in his pitching elbow, which looks like it will necessitate season-ending Tommy John surgery, is certainly a blow to the Twins–and a big benefit to our chances in the AL Central.
While it’s a major setback for Minnesota, we know the franchise well enough not to get too giddy about this. It’s a terrific organization and they do have options, primarily former Sox Matt Guerrier and Jon Rauch plus Pat Neshek, who is coming back from elbow surgery. So we shouldn’t be foolish and write them off.
Whatever happens it’ll be good not to have Nathan to worry about, I just wish it weren’t under these circumstances.