TCS Morning 10: Not nearly as bad

1. Life can't stay a ridiculous terror show forever, so the A's held serve and delivered a horrifically garbage performance Wednesday in response to the White Sox effort Tuesday night. I don't pretend to be deeply invested in A's roster affairs, and can't even guess what brought them to the point of giving recently acquired rookie reliever Cody Martin his second career MLB start. But seeing as the only normal starter they've trotted out this series was a gassed-looking Sonny Gray, presumably they have their reasons.

As a result, the Sox got a sleepy trial game for Erik Johnson, Frankie Montas, and other fringe guys, won 9-4 and slipped out of the bottom-10 again. We should be rooting for the tank but it appears I have a weak stomach.

2. Erik Johnson just refuses to be impressive. He slummed his way to his second victory of the season and a quality start (6 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, HR), but did so against an A's lineup that had Mark Canha at cleanup, and did nothing to distinguish himself as a potential plus contributor, and really hasn't yet at any point.

That he even got through it seemed in doubt after five pitches when Herm Schneider had to be summoned to the mound to check him out, apparently without incident. Johnson continued, but couldn't consistently command or be effective with any of his off-speed offerings, became enormously fastball-dependent and only got five swinging strikes on the night. Johnson isn't David Price, and can't throw 70-80% fastballs with what he's got. Even when maxing out at 94 mph, when he splits the heart of the zone, Billy Butler can take him out 440 feet to center.

Three walks isn't exactly thrilling when you're throwing 82 fastballs in the night, and Johnson was a couple of long flyouts from things being even worse. I don't mean to pick apart everything he did, but we're trying to figure out if he can help the rotation and the guy looks out of gas at the end of an otherwise positive year for him.

3. On the other hand, Frankie Montas looks like he could step into an MLB bullpen and contribute nigh immediately. He pitched two hitless innings of relief after Johnson gave way, touching 98-99 mph and throwing a tumbling 88 mph/vertical break slider/power curve/super change/death hammer that made Carson Blair look foolish and froze Marcus Semien. He was far less impressive in his second inning of work, relying on a couple of warning track flyouts, though one of the perks of sitting 98 mph is increasing the difficulty of hitters perfectly squaring up your mistakes.

Starting in Double-A was going just fine for Montas, but how will the short-term White Sox possibly ignore how overwhelming he could be now in short bursts?

4. Jose Abreu smacked his 29th home run of the season Tuesday night as he continues his second half surge. After seven home runs after the All-Star Break last season, he's now hit 15 this year, and is sitting at a .297/.367/.560 since magically getting healthy after a week off in July. After all the run that the narrative that Abreu was struggling to keep up with toll of a long season got last year, it's great to see him finish with a fury, even if it's just against mid-September roster detritus.

Frankly, Abreu is at Chris Sale status where I just want to see him put up huge numbers and get praise because I feel he deserves it. Nagging injuries ability to limit him and his frequency for picking them up, and the lack of alternative at first base to give him breathers remain a concern.

5. Speaking of nagging injuries, Avisail Garcia is on some kinda run since his back spasms flared up over the weekend.

Wednesday night's 0-4 came on eight total pitches. He needed a strong close to the year to secure his role for next season, but it's not happening in this state.

6. After barely holding myself back from calling Mike Olt awful names out of frustration that the Sox have been lowered to the point of experimenting with him at third base, he ran into a meatball from A's starter (??!) Cody Martin and blasted it 10 rows back to nearly dead center field. It was his first home run with the team, and first flash of his plus power capability. For good measure, Tyler Saladino doubled right after him, giving a nice showing to everyone whose bat has been maligned by this blog.

Olt's contact problems and lack of any real on-base skills means he probably needs a 25-homer pace to be remotely interesting, and he looked like he tripped over a manhole fielding a bunt that he threw into right field later in the game, so he still seems pretty awful, but is unlikely to play the worst month of third base the Sox have seen...maybe even this year. He is now apparently the first guy to homer for both the Cubs and Sox in the same season. I just remembered now that he actually played games for the Cubs this year.

7. Speaking again of nagging injuries--it is September after all--remember Adam LaRoche? He's apparently gone through the lengths of getting a platelet-injection in his sore right knee just for the purpose of trying to get into a few games at the end of this year, even though extensive rest has been prescribed.

Until something else arises, this is the most extreme example I can think of how much players value the validation of in-game success to their process. LaRoche has had a nightmare 2015, has nothing to play for and little chances of being in any kind of rhythm when he gets back in, and here he is.

8. The White Sox have treated Scott Carroll...oddly. He was sent down earlier in the year despite being regularly serviceable as longman (3.41 ERA in 29 innings coming into Wednesday), often in favor of Daniel Webb's continued burnout. Despite being solid enough in Triple-A, he wasn't included in the initial wave of September call-ups, and was reportedly playing catch at home when he finally was called up Wednesday after the Sox used two position players in a September game.

He threw an inning Wednesday night, but the Sox needed a jarring wake-up call to bring up an org soldier who would love nothing more than the chance to sop up some MLB innings and make sure Alexei Ramirez doesn't have to do it instead.

That the car Carroll left in Chicago after he got sent down was stolen, certainly doesn't make this look any better. 

9. It's not the best use of your time, but I was browsing's list of the White Sox top 30 prospects, and the top four guys on there are all...legitimate prospects. Tim Anderson, Carson Fulmer and Frankie Montas could all squeeze into the MLB Top 50 even. Spencer Adams could sneak in at the end of the top 100! This is a legit top of a system. The No. 5 prospect is Micah Johnson, and, well...the bloom can't stay on the rose forever.

As a sobering dose of reality in stark contract to how he's been portrayed by the broadcast, and in the daily writeup of Sox activities, which is obviously latching onto anything interesting going on with the team, Trayce Thompson is ranked No. 14. That's putting him behind the dimmed futures of Courtney Hawkins, Jacob May, and even Chris Beck. He's always had loud tools, but make no mistake, the sheen has been off the notion of Trayce as an impact player for a bit now.

Matt Davidson is No. 21. :(.

10. It's getaway day! Jose Quintana starts against another A's guy I had to look up after reading his name (Sean Nolin is 25, left-handed, very large, and has three career starts).

Quintana's results in day games (This is a 1:10pm CT first pitch) is markedly worse (3.71 ERA, 7-13 record in daytime compared to 3.41 ERA and 26-21 record at night). However, hitters have a .721 OPS against him at night and a .688 against him in the day. Starting to think this isn't a meaningful split!