Colby Lewis looked the part of an Opening Day starter Friday, striking out nine in six innings of two-run ball against the White Sox. The key for Lewis was his command of the outer third of the plate and outside corner against righties, who were generally baffled by his fastballslider combination.
Of Lewis' 100 pitches, 78 registered as either a fastball or slider. And he absolutely pounded the outer third with those offerings:
Graph via Brooks Baseball.
Lewis hardly has overpowering stuff, and his slider was, on average, only six miles per hour slower than his fastball. But Lewis lived on the outside corner, as the graph shows, and when he missed, he missed away against right-handers. He only went inside a few times, and when he did, he was pretty effective with it.
It's easier said than done to attack a pitcher like this, since Lewis made it incredibly difficult to differentiate between his fastball and slider out of his hand. And he rarely missed over the plate -- but when he did, the Sox were so off-balance by his pounding of the outer third that they didn't always take advantage of it.
One key sequence
Dayan Viciedo led off the third with a double, representing one of those precious few times a Sox righty took advantage of a bad offering from Lewis. But Lewis turned the tables on Gordon Beckham, busting the second baseman inside when it was clear he was looking to push the ball to the right side to advance Viciedo. As a result, Beckham took three straight strikes and went down looking.
Alejandro De Aza followed that up with his worst at-bat of the game, ending in a strikeout on a low-and-inside breaking ball. And then Lewis went to work on Brent Morel, who looked completely lost against the Rangers starter -- four straight sliders and back-to-back fastballs finished off Morel and the first White Sox scoring threat of the season.
The White Sox acquired minor-league pitcher Colton Turner from the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday in exchange for catcher Dioner Navarro.
Turner, 25, has a 1.33 ERA in 44 games this season across three levels with 70 strikeouts in 54 innings. The White Sox assigned Turner, who missed all of 2014 after he had reconstructive elbow surgery, to Double-A Birmingham.
“Ever since he got back (from pitching in Australia), he seems to have hit his stride well,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “Fastball/slider mix, good command.
“You can obviously see from the numbers he has done impressive work against righties for a left-handed reliever, which is nice to see.
“We’re going to wait to get to know him better. He’s had a real nice year and we like the stuff, we like the command and we’ll see if he’s able to continue to build on what he has done this year and try to figure out that more in 2017, the role he’ll play going forward.”
Zack Burdi hasn't been in the White Sox organization for long, but he's certainly showing why the club drafted him with the 26th pick in this year's draft.
The 21-year-old pitcher is thriving in the minors with a little over two months in to his professional career. Burdi worked his way through four affiliates and is currently in Triple-A Charlotte.
In 22 games and 31.1 innings pitched over four levels, Burdi has a 2.90 ERA with 46 strikeouts and 13 walks. In addition, the Illinois native hasn't allowed a run in the last 18.1 innings pitched with Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte.
"One of the things we want Zack to work on is his consistency with his delivery out of the stretch," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said on Thursday. "The only problem is he’s not allowing any baserunners on, so he’s not really having a lot of opportunity to work on that. We are going to tell him to put more guys on.
"But no, in all seriousness a lot has already been thrown at this kid and he’s responded essentially to every outing, with the exception of the first one at Birmingham was rough. It’s been a lot about the consistency of his delivery and fastball command and fairly simplistic stuff that he’s taken to very quickly and he’s got a world of ability."
[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]
Burdi was rated as the No. 21 best prospect in Baseball America's top 500 prospects prior to the draft.
Before joining the White Sox in June, Burdi finished off his collegiate career at Louisville. He was named to the All-ACC First Team, USA Baseball Collegiate National Team and Third Team Louisville Slugger All-America.
The White Sox made room for the return of veteran catcher Alex Avila by trading Dioner Navarro to the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday night.
The club activated Avila off the 15-day disabled list and acquired left-handed minor league pitcher Colton Turner in exchange for Navarro, who spent the previous two seasons with the Blue Jays. Turner, who has a combined 1.33 ERA in 44 minor league games this season, has been assigned to Double-A Birmingham.
Navarro hit .210/.267/.339 with six home runs and 32 RBIs in 298 plate appearances this season.
[SHOP WHITE SOX: Get your White Sox gear right here]
Avila, who has been on the disabled list since July 5 with a strained hamstring, went 7-for-11 with a home run and two walks on his assignment. He caught 12 innings during his rehab, including seven on Thursday.
“I’m ready to go,” Avila said.
The team has been happy with how rookie catcher Omar Narvaez has performed since he joined the club in July when Avila went on the DL. Narvaez has an .831 OPS in 43 plate appearances this season.
“I know Omar, with him being here and doing what he’s doing, you want him to get a little more of the shot of being able to play,” Ventura said. “I think he’s worked his way into that.”