Apparently the White Sox are not particularly satisfied with the performance of their Scott Downs unit.
That's fair enough of a gripe, I suppose. Downs bounced back from his Spring Training and early-season period where he looked incapable of retiring any major league hitters at all, but has battled control problems all year (15 walks in 23.2 innings) and Donnie Veal's departure re-cast him as the bullpen's sole left-hander.
Despite his appearance, usage, and the fact that he throws left-handed, Downs is really not much of a LOOGY. Left-handers hit .224/.309/.367 against Downs this year, which is not bad at all, but not the kind of dominance that justifies a single-use player.
With a $4 million commitment and his all-purpose history, it's hard to think this was the original vision for Downs. The 38-year-old was supposed to be a steady presence with the large slate of relievers present who need substantial development, and his peripherals suggest he could shake out to decent over time.
But, why bother? 2014 can be spent better than trying to squeeze out value of a 38-year-old who probably is a lot closer to what his eye test suggests (that he's done) than what his peripherals lightly hint at. I'd take Scott Downs in a tight situation over Daniel Webb, but that's not a compelling case for a team that's selling, or when both options are replacement-level or worse.
In Downs' stead comes Eric Surkamp, who's had nothing if not an interesting path to the majors this year. He got shifted out from the Charlotte Knights god-awful starting rotation for three appearances, then returned to the rotation and became a strikeout king, whiffing 36 in 28.1 innings.
Surkamp is a soft-tossing lefty with almost no chance of overwhelming major league lefties in the same way he's working over the minors, but at least his lanky, 6'5" frame could offer a confounding delivery for left-handers to deal with.
With Scott Carroll currently the guy getting shelled once per week, there's no guarantee Surkamp--who has been very terrible in his brief MLB moments--won't soon be recruited to start filling in turns in the rotation, meaning the seemingly simple quest to find a left-handed guy who can throw strikes for one at-bat at a time could stretch on.
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