CLEVELAND -- As Robin Ventura and Rick Hahn determined what the White Sox need the most right now the solution seemed pretty simple: a relief pitcher.
Rather than replace second baseman Gordon Beckham -- who went on the 15-day disabled list on Friday with a broken left hamate bone -- with another infielder or a left-handed bat, the White Sox decision-makers determined the team needs another arm in the bullpen and promoted right-hander Deunte Heath from Triple A Charlotte.
Through nine games, White Sox relievers have pitched 29 1/3 innings, or roughly 3 1/3 per contest. Although the figure seems high it’s only 1/3 of an inning more than the major-league average and nine fewer than the Toronto Blue Jays, who lead the majors at 38 1/3 innings. But the bullpen’s workload has been heavy enough that Ventura is in favor of turning to Heath, who has six strikeouts in three scoreless innings at Charlotte.
“The way our last games have gone, you’re sitting there and looking at using guys over and over again,” Ventura said. “I think the way we use our lineup and everything else, guys just play. You don’t see a lot of pinch-hit opportunities in there and things like that. They’re either playing or they pinch run. For right now, it lets guys kind of get a break.”
Thus far three runs or fewer have decided all nine of the White Sox games. Knowing his team will play in close games where a home run can offer the team renewed life, Ventura likes the idea of an eighth reliever in the bullpen.
“It seems like those are how our games are,” Ventura said. “Whether you’re up two or down two, you’ve got to stay in the game, just to get a shot at coming back, which we have the ability to do because we can hit home runs.”
Beckham is expected to miss at least six weeks after he recovers from his surgery, which has been set for Tuesday. The second baseman will stay in Cleveland for the procedure after both the team and his representatives determined a local facility is his best option.
Hector Gimenez is in the lineup and Tyler Flowers will rest for Friday’s series opener against the Cleveland Indians.
Ventura said several factors played into his decision, one of which is that Flowers is hitless in his last 17 at-bats. The Indians are also starting right-hander Justin Masterson and Ventura wanted to counter him with Gimenez, who bats left-handed and has only made one appearance in the team’s first nine games.
Flowers went 0-for-11 as the team was swept in Washington.
“There were a lot of different things that went into it,” Ventura said. “You get swept and you don’t want to get swept. Just stay patient and consistent with worrying about today rather than just what happened the past three days. That’s the focus for everybody. We’re early in this and don’t panic.”