TCS Morning 10: Next year in Oakland!

1. Rodon 2016

Reunited with his Spring Training battery-mate, Carlos Rodon threw his sixth-straight outing of six innings or more with two or less runs allowed in Tuesday night's 7-4 victory. His seven-inning, one-run gem--spoiled only by whatever spirit has inhabited Michael Martinez's body--gives him a line over that stretch of 41 IP, 27 H, 8 ER, 4 HR, 15 BB, 41 K, 1.76 ERA. He's throwing real good, guys.

While the stripped-down, September Indians are not a murderer's row, this was the closest we've seen of recent to a Carlos Rodon with his stuff fully at work, but still settled in and pounding the zone with strikes. He's gotten ahead previously by taking a bit off his fastball to grab strikes and get ahead. Tuesday he cut loose, topping out at 98 mph late in his outing, often with two-seam action, and featuring a very hard slider that flashed as hot as 92 mph, but lived in the bottom of the zone  frequently. The change is still a faint glimmer in his game, but when he's got his two plus offerings at full-bore like this, that's all it needs to be.

We've talked about Rodon needing to come along and show that he'll be an above-average guy to rely on in 2016, allowing them to take a harder / more relaxed view toward Jeff Samardzija (who is totally gone); this will do just that.

2. Tuesday was a good night for the fringy futures. Trayce Thompson, was given a prominent opportunity against not just a righty, but a flame-throwing right-hander Carlos Carrasco. Carrasco, hurtling off the DL after getting a cortisone shot in his shoulder, was sitting 96-98, albeit a highly-erratic 96-98. Thompson turned a 97 mph fastball around into left with a shortened-up swing in the second, took a full-count walk that ended Carrasco's night in third, and added one more ripped single off an inside fastball from another hard-thrower in Ryan Webb in the seventh. The smart, shortened-up approach against big right-handed velocity policy was real nice to see for someone who figures to have a bench, or part-time job waiting for him if he can play just well enough to encourage the Sox to throw money at one of their other sinkholes.

Speaking of which, Rob Brantly running into a 97 mph fastball for a big three-run bomb, and keeping Rodon going smooth helped him on the path to a 2016 backup catcher job that the Sox don't want to put anymore energy toward if they don't have to.

Combined, the pair collected three hits, two walks and five RBI. They did ok.

Mike Olt, on the other hand, can go get right up out of here whenever, as far as I am concerned.

3. It was also a good night for the Cuban core. After going 2-3 with a double and two runs scored hitting out of the two-hole again, Alexei Ramirez is hitting .305/.345/.479 in his second half "please pick up my option" drive, which could even drag him up within spitting distance of career norms if it persists much longer.

Jose Abreu got himself back on 30+ HR pace by smacking his 26th way out to left in the third inning. Jim Margalus noted it was his first purely pulled home run since May 26, with 17 homers in between. The fun part is that Carrasco struck Abreu out with a burrowing 92 mph nightmare that tunneled out of the bottom of the zone in the first. His next time up, Carrasco threw the same pitch in the exact same location, but perhaps a little less sharply, and Abreu was sitting on it and annihilated it. That's working smarter.

4. Bless Robin's heart. Rodon handed him over a 7-1 game with two innings to cover in a meaningless September game, and he managed to get Nate Jones, Zach Duke and David Robertson all in the game.

After Nate Jones gave up a two-run homer in his inning of work, Ventura not only got so cautious that he brought in another one of his core relievers, he waited until lefty pinch-hitter (and .559 OPS-haver) Jose Ramirez was announced, before stopping the inning before it started to bring in Zach Duke. For that extra effort, Duke gave up a solo shot to Ramirez. Now panicking because he was in save situation, Ventura got Robertson up, and still brought him into the game, despite Duke getting the next two outs without incident.

Robertson threw one pitch. He did not qualify for a save. Beyond managing a six-run lead like it's Game 2 of the ALCS, and bypassing a clear opportunity for someone like Frankie Montas, Ventura isn't getting paid by the hour, is he? Two mid-inning pitching changes in the ninth after starting with a four-run lead?

5. Despite possibly being non-salary, Robin Ventura affirmed his intention to return to manage his fifth season of White Sox baseball in an interview with the press that gave its best quote to refute the dumbest line of criticism against his regime.

Ventura has plenty of money, so I always assumed his presence, and him signing that extension was a decent indicator of his investment in his job at least on a day-to-day basis. A lack of histrionics has never been what any serious observer would consider the problem with him. Speaking of histrionics, it hasn't been too long for me to appreciate that he's not manufacturing a stupid dispute about having to manage without the security of an extra contract year going into 2016.

There are some semi-serious sounding tones with Rick Hahn's quotes about everyone being evaluated, and how Jerry's watching closely, but this is a guy they've never wavered in support of at any point and comports himself like he's got a long rope, except Tuesday, perhaps.

A more interesting discussion, even from Ventura, would be specifics about what he thinks he could do better, or habits he tries to keep himself out of, but it can be hard to open up about that sort of thing without going too far. 

6. Also receiving semi-serious tones from Rick Hahn, is the idea of making some sort of significant change for the 2016 offense.

Dan Hayes:

While Hahn plans to be reasoned, it also doesn’t sound as if he intends to stand by and return with the same team. Hahn also identified an offense that has averaged 3.91 runs per game as the team’s biggest issue.

’You don’t want to overreact to the underperformance and try to change too much and therefore create more problems,’ Hahn said. ‘At the same time, we’re very cognizant of the fact we need to look at everything right now. It’s not producing wins at the major-league level we want, and therefore we’re going to have to make some changes.’
— Dan Hayes

The Sox are obviously looking for answers at third base, given Mike Olt's presence, but does the aggression move on to adding middle infield upgrades? Chasing one of the big corner outfield options (Justin Upton, Yoenis Cespedes, Alex Gordon if he comes available, cheapo defensive-minded options like Gerardo Parra, Dexter Fowler, disasters waiting to happen like Colby Rasmus)? Slapping a new bandaid on the 1B/DH situation? My guess is that the Sox try to find a new third baseman, and knock out one more of those other issues at a maximum, since there are too many mildly intriguing options like Trayce Thompson, Carlos Sanchez, Micah Johnson, Avisail Garcia, for them to bail on all at once.

7. The White Sox "tentative" 2016 schedule was released Tuesday. Here's to bringing baseball back with four-game road trip in Oakland! As Nick has pointed out, flying out to Oakland and getting settled in a day or two ahead is better than dropping in mid-week like usual, but starting the season off in that darkened house of horrors with reigning MVP Marcus Semien, Pheggle Rock, and probably Chris Bassitt is blood-curdling. Maybe they can bring back Kurt Suzuki just for added terror. After that trip to Oakland, the Sox only have one more trip to the West Coast, which is also conveniently right after the All-Star Break on July 15.

Other notes:

--The Cubs series is returning to back-to-back two-game sets at each other's ballpark, on July 25

--The home opener on Friday, April 8 vs. Cleveland is the only home series out of the first four of the season.

--The NL East is the source of interleague opponents. The Sox will play in front of New Yorkers when they take on the Mets at Citi Field on May 30-June 1, and a smaller amount of New Yorkers in Miami from Aug. 12-14.

--The Sox end the year with seven-straight at home, four with Tampa Bay, and a final three against the Twins, which could very well be a showdown for the AL Central titl---hahahahah ok, this has been fun.

8. SoxFest is returning to Hilton Chicago again Jan 29-31. Get bent, Palmerhouse! The location, nuzzled next to the S-Curve on Delaware Plaza, is conveniently close to...other luxury hotels! A Best Buy! Various expensive restaurants! A frozen lake to go walk out on if you're left disillusioned by the weekend!

SoxFest is great if you're a reporter looking for some fresh quotes. SoxFest is great if you want to see what Sox players would wear to a casual dinner party at your house that ends with drinks on the balcony. And if you're a hardcore autograph hound...I guess there's value in paying in one big burst to get a shot at a lot of people? Even with the lines? As someone who is quick to defend fans for their attendance habits against the criticism from media that is paid to go to games, I've been credentialed for a SoxFest and...why does this fill up so easily every year? They're not even playing baseball. That's what baseball players are good at! They're not necessarily good at public speaking. Some are outright bad at it.

Ok, whatever, live your lives, everyone.

9. What the hell did they expect to happen? They should have had Gordon Beckham practice blitz pick-up against Alex Brown while they were at it.

10. Jeff Samardzija, blessed with blistering raw talent and suffering through an awful season, with a 4.87 ERA and a league-leading 200 hits allowed, is facing Josh Tomlin Wednesday night. Tomlin is the recent recipient of Tommy John and had major shoulder surgery just this year, is unable to even average 89 mph, but is striking out batters at a career-high rate and has a 2.55 ERA through 35.1 innings.

I will enjooooooooy this game. (I possibly will, but in a sardonic way as I scan through mock drafts to see who is falling in the sandwich round).