WELL, WELL, WELL.
So a full-month of goofy-time exhibition ball has not proven Micah Johnson to be verifiable whole wins better than Carlos Sanchez, and 40-man roster space has become a concern. Wonder if a self-aggrandizing blogger predicted such chaos. He'd be a billionaire about now...
Sanchez has closed the OPS gap between him and Johnson to .837 to .783 in a still tellingly smaller number of plate appearances, but has really prospered by excelling in the field while Johnson fumbled around in prominent weekend showing against the Cubs, bringing forth previously stashed away thoughts of "Oh yeah, we knew this guy had bad hands."
Also, the 40-man space is going to be an issue because the bullpen is, well, not different enough from last season. Thankfully, David Robertson was healthy and functional in his Sunday return to action because otherwise this would really be a mess. 40-man spot holders Maikel Cleto and Zach Putnam both sport ERAs over 10.00 for the Spring. Cleto, because he's lost his command for the umpteenth time and is getting firebombed. Putnam has been recovering from a slow start but his utter dominance in 2014 was so odd and out of character that all leaks in Battleship Putnam warrant examination.
Ooorrrrrr not. If commissioned for a list of relievers right now flaunting "Good stats," I would surrender immediately. If braced for anyone on the staff, I could only really offer Quintana's mix of shiny run prevention and K/BB dominance. There are guys here fighting for a job--like the recently struggling non-roster invite Matt Albers--but this is hardly the time for anyone to look sharp. Jeff Samardzija got torched this weekend, Dan Hayes reported that scouts mostly shrugged and said things will be good when he stops throwing things down the middle. Cleto's stuff also looks good if you just assume he'll start spotting it at some point, but the lack of prior history of such ratchets up the scrutiny.
Not factoring in at all at this point, are Jake Petricka and Carlos Rodon. For Rodon, it's relatively happy reasons. The Sox are not shortsightedly shoehorning him into the Opening Day bullpen, risking both starting his service time clock--surely a concern for some--not really protecting his health, getting minimal value from his talent, and taking away the best rotational depth option and replacing it with Brad Penny.
Petricka on the other hand, is just hurt. He has forearm soreness in his pitching arm that reappeared while playing catch after already receiving days off. "Forearm soreness" is often the harbinger of doom for pitchers, but the Sox are playing it cool for now and treating it as a almost precautionary 15-day stint that that he could return immediately after. We'll cross the bridge of hysteria when we arrive at it, because just two weeks of his absence bring enough issues to the forefront.
So what the hell is going on the roster now? Through waivers, the White Sox wound up effectively trading Andy Wilkins to the Blue Jays for Kyle Drabek. In terms of 2009 prospect status, the deal is a huge coup for the Sox. Ever since then, Drabek has been hurt and been ineffective, that the general starting point for analysis since his arrival has been "Remember when his Dad pitched for the White Sox?" It was 1997, Doug Drabek was 34, washed up for two seasons already, brought on for long lost name value, and it went about as well as you could imagine.
Well, huh...You can carry three more because projections for Chris Sale remain positive. But I can't find the motivation. Maikel Cleto and Kyle Drabek are already on the 40-man, which would give you two more and leave only one more reliever needed to fill out the last spot on the roster. That could go to Matt Albers, since Jesse Crain hasn't even been reported on since Mar. 20. But that brings us back to the top, where room needs to be made for first, Geovany Soto in the backup catcher slot, and possibly for Micah Johnson to beat out Carlos Sanchez. Leury Garcia and Raul Fernandez could pay this debt, but the Sox have not tipped any hands at specific action just yet.
With Daniel Webb still such a mess that he was already optioned before the battle for the back half of the bullpen, Nate Jones still only beginning to throw and pre-season injuries to Petricka and Crain, the improvements to the bullpen look a lot more top-heavy and superficial now, with still a great deal of hoping some lesser talents can scrap together passable performance. It's way too familiar, and maybe all these "but your depth!" party poopers had a point. Reinforcements are on the way--I suppose--but there's no truer indication that the season has begun than that the Sox are waiting for guys to get healthy. Forever and ever.
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