BBQ: In need of relief? White Sox 'pen says no

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BBQ: In need of relief? White Sox 'pen says no

Sunday, Nov. 14, 2010
9:06 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

With rumors, whispers, and team sources ever swirling through the offseason, turn to the BBQ to provide a bit of a reality check. Talk this week turned to Chicago White Sox GM Ken Williams supposedly looking into acquiring Tampa Rays free agent closer Rafael Soriano, so its time to toss this rumor on the barbie for a reality check:

Why would a bullpen full of power arms need a 10 million per year closer?

Funny, Foxs Ken Rosenthal who reported that the White Sox are looking into signing Soriano didnt ask himself that. On a team with closer possibilities including Matt Thornton, J.J. Putz, Bobby Jenks, Sergio Santos and Chris Sale and gaping holes at catcher, first base, and designated hitter, closer is the last thing Williams is kicking the tires on.

Wait a minute, bubJenks?

OK, OK, youre right. Rosenthal reported the White Sox interest in Soriano as further evidence that Jenks would be dealt or non-tendered, but the White Sox might well have batting practice pitcher Kevin Hickey as their top closer candidate and still wouldnt be planning on welcoming back Jenks.

How did Jenkss stock fall so fast?

Its been a gradual decline for the onetime wunderkind, but yeah, the door usually does hit you in the hiney after getting shoved out in the end. Mostly, the White Sox have some real questions about their closers motivation and dedication. Jenks has conditioning issues that would be easier to ignore if not contributing to an increasing amount of time injured and on the DL in his career.

Williams was generally sunny at least sunny from KWs hardscrabble perspective about all aspects of the White Sox in his final media address of 2010, with the exception of Jenks. You read it at CSNChicago.com first, and not long after his sweet swan song of a doubleheader save at the Boston Red Sox on Sept. 5: Jenks would not pitch for the White Sox again.

But Williams loves power arms, and Soriano was arguably the best closer in the majors last season, so wouldnt he be a fit?

Sure, and with a New York Yankees budget or even with merely the money they were burning across town at Wrigley over the past few years Williams would happily swap out Jenks for Soriano. But there are three additional, and monumental, reasons why Soriano is a bad fit for the White Sox, beyond the fact that there are an abundance of power arms in the Chicago bullpen:

1. Scott Boras is Sorianos agent.

2. The White Sox would be buying high on Soriano and Williams simply does not buy high on players, budget restrictions or no.

3. Soriano will probably sign north of five years and 50 million. Thats downright loco terms for a closer with less than two years of brilliance in his back pocket and one who will turn 31 next month.

We hear all the talk about the Chisoxs limited budget, but there is wiggle room to sign somebody, right?

Yes. But as much as Williams would like to make a big splash even simply in throwing seven figures at Konerko to re-sign him for the South Siders it could turn out that any player addition wont qualify as major. For example, reasonable inkings at catcher, first, outfield and the bullpen could greatly bolster the team (say A.J. Pierzynski, Derek Lee, Andruw Jones, and J.J. Putz) despite a decided absence of sexiness.

It could turn out that like the last offseason where the big moves were a salary - aided trade for Juan Pierre and the ill-fated Mark Teahen acquisition Williams work could be under the radar.

The Minnesota Twins are the defending AL Central champs, and the Detroit Tigers are talking about chasing not one but two major bats this offseason. Dont the White Sox have to spend to keep up?

Youd think so. But the one key advantage the White Sox have strength and depth in the starting rotation is crucial. Williams is counting on that as the team looks to 2011.

So then, whos the 2011 White Sox closer?

Of the four names listed up top, Putz wont close even if he comes back. Sale is ticketed for the rotation an arm like his cant be frittered away in the pen. That leaves Santos and Thornton, and it could well be that lefty-righty combination sharing setup and closing duties, matchup by matchup.

But you know what? Im not going to just nibble at the possibilities for the 2011 White Sox. On Monday, tune in for a look at my take on the ideal 2011 White Sox roster.

BBQ Verdict on the Soriano Rumor: Propane Fumes

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute White Sox information.

Slumping White Sox get huge boost after Miguel Gonzalez 'defended his ground'

Slumping White Sox get huge boost after Miguel Gonzalez 'defended his ground'

Every factor but one suggested there was no way Rick Renteria would remove Miguel Gonzalez in the seventh inning on Monday afternoon.

Of course, Gonzalez didn’t know that.

But even as he walked to the mound with two on and no outs in the seventh and Wrigley Field roaring, Renteria didn’t have any intention of pulling Gonzalez.

Trades and injuries have given the White Sox manager even less wiggle room with which to work than the one-run lead Gonzalez was trying to protect. As long he was convinced his pitcher was game, Renteria would stay with Gonzalez. Gonzalez acquiesced and soon thereafter the White Sox were on their way to their first victory since July 8. The White Sox topped the Cubs 3-1 and in doing so snapped a nine-game losing streak.

“I just went in there to reaffirm that we were thinking the same way,” Renteria said. “He was thinking the same way. It was kind of easy.

“He said ‘I got this.’ He defended his ground.”

[Such a mighty wallop: How does Matt Davidson's mammoth home run stack up?]

Even though he had a front-row seat for the conversation, catcher Kevan Smith had little understanding of what transpired. The rookie said Renteria and Gonzalez spoke entirely in Spanish after Jon Jay and Javier Baez singled to open the bottom of the seventh inning. Smith heard Renteria mention to Gonzalez that lefty David Holmberg was ready to face switch hitter Ian Happ. Beyond that, all Smith heard from Gonzalez was ‘bueno’ and ‘listo,’ and Renteria was headed back to the visiting dugout.

But you don’t have to be a linguist to decipher what issues the White Sox pitching staff faces after a trying month.

Prior to Gonzalez pitching into the eighth, the White Sox hadn’t had a starter complete seven innings since June 16. An already overworked bullpen has also had to deal with season-ending injuries to Zach Putnam, Nate Jones and top relief prospect Zack Burdi. And those issues have been even further compounded by the trades of Jose Quintana, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle in the past 12 days.

So even though Gonzalez was on the verge of facing the top of the Cubs order a fourth time, Renteria had to stick with him so he could save top relievers Dan Jennings and Anthony Swarzak for later.

“I said ‘Just give me the ball,’ ” Gonzalez said. “ ’I’m OK. I’m fine. I’m feeling OK.’ Just walked away and I was able to get out of that jam. That was a big one.”

Smith was also happy with the decision. He liked how Gonzalez — who threw strikes on 73 of 105 pitches — had competed. Smith thought Gonzalez had great stuff and heard positive reviews from opposing hitters.

“(Gonzalez) had it,” Smith said. “The guys were coming up to the plate saying this guy has got some stuff today. It was a big moment to kind of prove that he can be a long guy, especially late in the game like that. Big pressure situation. Obviously it was getting pretty rowdy, but he stayed composed and pitched his way out of it.”

First was a five-pitch strikeout of Happ that ended with a swinging strike on a curveball. Jason Heyward then popped out to shallow center for the second out. Kris Bryant worked a five-pitch walk to load the bases. But Gonzalez jumped ahead of Anthony Rizzo in the count 1-2 before he got the star first baseman to fly out deep to center to strand the bases loaded.

Gonzalez returned in the eighth and retired one more hitter before he exited after a Kyle Schwarber single. The effort was plenty for Renteria and the White Sox, who also wiggled out of jams in the eighth and ninth inning.

“Sometimes you just don't have any other option,” Renteria said. “You just have to do what you have to do. They had a really good idea of how they wanted to attack those guys. …

“Miggy did a really nice job.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Sox win game one of Crosstown Series

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Sox win game one of Crosstown Series

Patrick Finley (Chicago Sun Times), David Haugh (Chicago Tribune) and Ben Finfer (ESPN Radio) join Kap to go over the exciting first game between the White Sox and the Cubs.

Plus, the latest on trade rumors linking Justin Verlander and Alex Avila to the Cubs. Do the Cubs really need to make another move?

Finally, the guys discuss whether Kyrie Irving asking for a trade out of Cleveland is the dumbest career choice, ever.