White Sox notes: Quality starts, bullpen key early success

White Sox notes: Quality starts, bullpen key early success
April 5, 2013, 5:45 pm
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By Vinnie Duber
CSNChicago.com contributor

The White Sox averaged just over two runs per game in their season-opening series with the Royals, but they grabbed a series victory thanks to a dominant group of pitchers.

All three starting pitchers turned in quality starts for the Sox, something that hasn’t been seen on the South Side since the World Series season of 2005, when the starting rotation pitched five consecutive quality starts to open the campaign. White Sox pitchers have allowed just three earned runs and five overall. That’s the lowest total since 1991, when the Sox staff yielded just two tallies in their first three games.

“It’s been great. Those guys have gone out there and they’ve done the right thing,” second baseman Gordon Beckham said. “They’ve thrown strikes, they’ve filled up the strike zone, made it tough on the opposing hitters. They’ve definitely done their job.”

And the Sox bullpen has been nearly perfect, blanking opponents over 7 1/3 innings of work. It’s one of three relief units in the game that has yet to allow a run, the other two being those of the Nationals and Dodgers.

[More: Unlike Tigers, White Sox comfortable with their closer]

“It was real strong last year, and with the addition of [Matt] Lindstrom, it made it that much better,” closer Addison Reed said. “Everybody can do everything. We’re ready all the time. Obviously, I think anybody can step in any role. Any of us can throw the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth inning. That’s the good thing about us. There’s not anybody that’s limited to they’ve got to throw at a certain time. It’s good knowing that any of us could get plugged in at any time.”

“I think everyone’s just comfortable this year,” reliever Matt Thornton said. “We had a lot of young guys last year who got a year under their belt, comfort level a little higher for them right now. On top of that, I truly believe the cold weather’s an advantage to pitchers. I really do. I think it’s hard for hitters to stay loose and keep going out there. At the same time, we have a lot of good arms out there and a lot of guys throwing the ball well this time of year.”

Danks update

Though he says there’s still a long way to go until John Danks returns to the mound, White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper said Friday that the left-hander took what he called “a little step forward.”

“I mean, it’s going to be start-by-start thing,” Cooper said of Danks’ rehab. “Obviously we all saw what we saw the last time we saw him in Arizona. And he’s got some work to do and a climb ahead of him. Yesterday was a bit better from what I understand from the report I got from the pitching coach down there. It was a bit better, so things are coming a little bit. As far as how long or what it is, I don’t think anybody’s got the answer to that.”

Danks made a rehab start in extended spring training on Thursday, and Cooper said the reports were good.

“Velocity up a little bit, he threw more strikes,” Cooper said. “Over the innings that he pitched, the pitch total was a very workable pitch total: five innings, I think he went, 77 pitches. So he was more efficient that means. I did hear there was a play or two that wasn’t made, but that happens everywhere. He was able to still fight through that.”

[More: White Sox want Danks to be patient]

Danks has been working his way back to the Sox since undergoing shoulder surgery in August. Danks was trying to make it back for Opening Day, but he started the season on the 15-day disabled list.

“It’s not an easy situation for anybody. The DL is not a fun place to be,” manager Robin Ventura said Friday. “For him, trying to work his way back, he worked as hard as anybody to try to get ready to be able to break with us at the beginning of the season. And it just didn’t happen. He wasn’t back to what he was before. That’s the hard part, is to be able to stay focused in that rehab to make it all the way back.”

Sox not worried about early defensive miscues

After committing just 70 errors last season -- a number that ranked as the fewest in the American League -- the White Sox are off to a bit of a rocky start in the field in 2013.

The Sox have racked up four errors so far in their first three games of the season, the second-highest number in baseball, trailing only the six of the Los Angeles Angels heading into play Friday. Obviously, a bad day in the field on Wednesday, when the Sox committed three errors, is the biggest contributor to the total.

[SportsTalk Live: Is defense a concern for the White Sox?]

But, like early-season batting averages, the Sox feel it’s just a matter of a small sample size being placed under the super-powered April microscope.

“I think it’s a long season. You never know what it’s going to be,” Beckham said. “That’s just part of what happens in the course of the season. We had a bad day the other day. It happens. Just because you’re making a lot early doesn’t mean you’re going to make a lot the rest of the season.”

Right fielder Alex Rios compared the play in the field to the play at the plate, saying sky-high batting averages and a bunch of errors can be the same thing in so little playing time.

“Everything magnifies either way, good or bad, during the first games of the season because there’s only so many at-bats, so little games,” Rios said. “It just magnifies.”