What's with Ronald Belisario? He pitches three extra innings (with one run) after the Sox blow a lead in the ninth, and (then) he pitches two scoreless set-up innings in Boston. But as a ninth inning closer, he can't find the plate or get anybody out. We need a closer. How different can the ninth inning be compared to any other inning of a tied or close game? -- Kevin M., Bettendorf, Iowa
With his inconsistency in the closer’s role, it’s easy to forget what a nice stretch Ronald Belisario had been on as the set-up man before he was asked to take over for injured Matt Lindstrom. In that role that he was accustomed to, he was perhaps the best Sox reliever for a stretch from mid-April to mid-May. He only had four saves in 21 opportunities coming into this season, so history might have told the Sox that being a closer was not right for him, with comfort level likely being among a number of factors. Even though they’re still searching for a closer, it would be a big help to the Sox bullpen for Belisario to return to being the reliable set-up guy he was two months ago.
I was looking at the league statistics. Remind me -- who did the Sox get for Alex Rios, who has been an excellent hitter for Texas and is now (12th in the majors) in hits? -- Stanley K.
The Sox received utility-man Leury Garcia in the Alex Rios trade, which was in part about dumping Rios’ salary that would have cost them $12.5 million this season and a $1 million buyout for 2015. The move also came after the Sox had traded for Avisail Garcia, and Rios’ move to the Rangers freed up right field for Garcia to begin his development with the Sox. So with a bunch of factors fueling the trade it’s not quite right to measure the production of Leury Garcia, who has been mostly a substitute for injured players, against Rios, who is hitting .305 with 21 doubles, eight triples, four home runs, 42 RBIs and 16 stolen bases. Avisail Garcia’s shoulder injury has left the Sox wanting in regards to right field, but I think as he mends, they hope to have that spot ably filled again by the beginning of next season, if not earlier.
I don't understand Robin Ventura's method (or madness) in managing his pitching staff during games. For example, it seems that when Hector Noesi or Scott Carroll are pitching, he is slow to get them out of the game when they appear to be in trouble, usually waiting until the opposing team has scored sufficient runs to put the game out of reach for the Sox. Case in point with Noesi: the Tigers on April 30 and the Angels on July 1, where he gave up consecutive innings of walks.
After replacing his starters he then seemingly has no trouble having a reliever pitch to one or two batters and then replace them (apparently for the lefty/righty match up). Even if that reliever is in a groove and being effective -- they're gone.
I know the bullpen has its troubles and they can get tired from overuse, but if starters don't have it, why not get them out before more damage is done? If relievers are doing well why replace them after one or two batters? It seems we are trying not to lose games rather than go out and win them. – Robert F., Elgin
It’s a little difficult to talk in generalities about the management of the pitching staff, easier to focus on specific situations. I do think leaving a starter in to work through trouble has something to do with not overtaxing a bullpen that already has had problems with consistency. Is it really going to make things better to receive five innings from the up-and-down bullpen? But certainly there’s a delicate balance there between trusting that a starter can wiggle out of a situation and knowing that leaving him in is only going to make things worse.
A lot of the quick pulls of relievers have been due to matchups, a fine strategy if it works but one that has the potential to backfire with an unstable bullpen. That happened a few times when left-hander Scott Downs couldn’t complete his job. Of lefty Eric Surkamp’s 10 appearances so far, four have been of at least one inning and six have been of 1/3 inning or less. One difficulty for the Sox is that Surkamp is the only lefty in the Sox bullpen, though Zach Putnam can also be effective against lefties. It will be interesting to see if Ventura starts to lean more toward full innings of work for his relievers.
The way games have gone at times in the bullpen this season, it’s easy to question some of the moves. As I said last week, whether the blame falls to the manager, the pitchers or both is up for debate.
Jordan Danks has picked up his game of late at Triple-A Charlotte. What are the chances we see him again on the White Sox this season, perhaps in place of Moises Sierra, who gives the Sox absolutely no power from a corner outfield spot in the lineup? – Sam A., Dallas
You’re right about Jordan Danks picking it up in Charlotte. In June and July, he has been hitting .346 with 10 home runs and 31 RBIs. I could see him receiving another shot if the Sox trade Dayan Viciedo or Alejandro De Aza, or he could be back in September. Another minor league outfielder who might be worth watching is Michael Taylor, who joined Charlotte via a minor-league trade with the Athletics and had past experience with hitting coach Todd Steverson. It’s a small sample size of just 23 games, but he has been hitting .325 with 10 doubles, three home runs and 16 RBIs with Charlotte.