No surgery for Morel; Hudson gets the start at third

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No surgery for Morel; Hudson gets the start at third

By Paul LaTour
CSNChicago.com contributor

Third baseman Brent Morel received some good news Tuesday -- he does not need surgery. Time is all that is needed for Morels ailing lower back that forced the White Sox to place him on the 15-day disabled list.

The lumbar strain injury was originally believed to be a disk issue, which would have required surgery and a much longer stay on the DL.

This is really good news, Morel said prior to Wednesdays game against the Minnesota Twins at U.S. Cellular Field. This injury is never operated on, and can be controlled really easily in the training room. Its nothing long term, which is nice.

Morel, who hasnt played since May 17, had an MRI done May 10 that showed a bulging disk. But Morel said doctors reviewed the MRI when he wasnt responding to the treatment for the disk, and discovered that wasnt the problem.

The injury has nagged Morel since spring training, but he would not blame it for his poor start to the season. He is hitting .177 in 35 games with only five RBI and two extra-base hits (both doubles).

Im not going to say its affected me too much, Morel said. When Im in there I feel like I can play. I dont know how much correlation this has had.

After a few days of trying new exercises that will target strengthening the lower back, Morel said hell get back to hitting and go from there regarding his return to the lineup.

In the meantime, Orlando Hudson appears to be the choice to replace him at third. Hudson joined the Sox on Tuesday, and made a late-inning appearance in a 9-2 loss to the Twins, his former team.

Hudson is making his first career start at third in tonights game.

I have to make sure I catch the ball, and keep the pitcher on the mound, Hudson said. I dont want to be out there booting balls and throwing balls away. I want to keep the ball in front of me and make the play.

Hudson had an incident-free debut Tuesday. He entered as a defensive replacement in the eighth inning, and later hit a single and scored Chicagos second run. He only fielded one ball, throwing out Jamey Carroll at first.

Part of that was to get him out there and get his feet wet, said manager Robin Ventura, who sported a Chicago Police Department cap as he addressed reporters before the game. The White Sox are honoring the CPD tonight for the work they did during the NATO meetings. (Hudson) looks fine over there. He came in and had an aggressive at-bat. Thats part of bringing a guy in. He wants to prove himself, and hes going to get that shot.

Despite his vast experience at third, Ventura said he doesnt plan to offer hands-on advice to Hudson on any of the intricacies of the position.

Im too old to go over there and tutor anybody, Ventura said, laughing.

As for Morel, Ventura, a former third baseman himself, said the injury isnt something to worry about too much.

Every third baseman has back problems, Ventura said. I had them. You learn to deal with them and take care of it. If it was something structural, that would be different.

What White Sox 'fireman' Anthony Swarzak has done to increase trade value

What White Sox 'fireman' Anthony Swarzak has done to increase trade value

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Anthony Swarzak held a high-leverage audition for a potential contender on Sunday long before the Kansas City Royals walked off the White Sox.

The nonroster invitee to big league camp continued a stellar campaign as he took over in a critical spot midgame and helped the White Sox escape with the lead. The White Sox bullpen ultimately relinquished the lead and Brandon Moss sent them to their ninth straight loss — Kansas City won 5-4 — with an RBI double in the ninth inning.

But Swarzak continues to thrive in the opportunities handed to him and could make for an interesting trade chip before the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline.

“He’s been excellent,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. “He’s become for us, with (Nate Jones) going down and (Jake Petricka) going down he’s actually become a fireman. He’s come in in some of the highest-leverage situations we could possibly get. And then we use him for multiple innings.”

A free agent after the season, Swarzak has 50 strikeouts and a 2.30 ERA in 47 innings for the White Sox this season. He also has only allowed nine of 33 inherited runners to score (27.2 percent), including two on Sunday. The American League average for inherited runners scoring entering Sunday was 30 percent, according to baseball-reference.com.

All this has come in a season where Swarzak went to camp with the White Sox with no certainty of making the 25-man roster. The right-hander not only thrived in camp, he came out strong in April with 19 2/3 scoreless innings to start the season. Combined with early injuries to Jones and Zach Putnam, Swarzak’s performance helped him climb the totem pole in the White Sox bullpen from the outset. His stature has grown even more of late with the injury to Petricka as well as the trades of Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson.

“As far personal expectations, I’m right where I want to be,” Swarzak said. “More to accomplish for this year, absolutely. But I like what I’ve done so far and I like the opportunity that I have to accomplish even more.

“That’s the situation we all work so hard. That’s the situation we want and it’s why we all work so hard in the offseason in general is for situations like that.”

Swarzak took over for starter Derek Holland in the fifth inning with the White Sox ahead 4-3 and runners on the corners. He threw three straight sliders to Jorge Bonifacio and struck him out to strand the pair.

“It was huge, what he did coming in right there,” Holland said.

As significant as it was, it only held off the Royals for the time being. And as much as Swarzak has enjoyed things on a personal level, it isn’t making what the thinned-out White Sox roster is experiencing any easier to handle.

“Everything going on around here right now is pretty hard to swallow,” Swarzak said. “We’re going out there losing 8-0, 6-0, we’re up 6-0 and we end up losing. We lost a 1-0 game against the Dodgers and the next night we lose 10-1. We’re kind of losing all types of ways right now, which is really hard to swallow because as a bullpen guy we take pride in holding the lead and right now it seems like we’re not getting it done at all, any aspect of it, as a group.”

With eight more shopping days left before the deadline, chances are high that Swarzak may not be part of the current group much longer. He has already seen the departures of Robertson and Kahnle and knows his impending free agency could result in a trade elsewhere. But the veteran reliever is doing his best to keep his focus on the mound.

“It all comes back to quality pitches and getting guys out,” Swarzak said. “If you’re getting guys out, you’re going to get some attention from the league and if you’re not they’re going to close the book on you. It’s very straight forward for a pitcher, for a major league baseball player in general: Do better. Get it done and you’re going to play for a long time and you’re going to have the success that goes along with getting it done. That’s really all I’m worried about is continuing to make good pitches and hopefully get the results I’m looking for.”

White Sox: The big-picture reasoning behind Rick Renteria and bunting

White Sox: The big-picture reasoning behind Rick Renteria and bunting

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Rick Renteria wants his players to be able to execute a bunt regardless of how much it drives White Sox fans crazy.

The White Sox manager wants to win now, but he’s also looking at the big picture.

Even though he knows how much a team’s chance of scoring decreases when an out is surrendered via the sacrifice bunt, Renteria is using the opportunity to see what abilities his players have. He wants to know what they can do.

Renteria is well aware that his calls for sacrifice bunts aren’t popular with fans (see: Twitter’s reaction to Yoan Moncada’s bunt tries on Saturday). But he also thinks there’s no better time to work on bunts than during a game. So as much fury as it brings, Renteria will continue to ask his players to work on a skill he’d like to see remain part of the game.

“Listen, (Moncada’s) a plus runner,” Renteria said. “He’s going to be able to use that as a part of his arsenal. I see a whole lot of home run hitters dropping bunts right now against shifts and things of that nature. I don’t think that art should disappear. We’re in the era of quote-unquote the long ball, but like I’ve said, sometimes you need to do certain things to kind of put your club in a better position.

"If you think that’s one of the things that’s available to you, you use it. I don’t think you’re necessarily giving it up in terms of an out, because when you’ve got guys who can run anything is possible. You end up loading the bases possibly. I know our guys are very cognizant of just playing the game. If they feel like they want to get two guys in scoring position on their own, they do it. It’s not something I want to take away from them. I think they read the defenses. Sometimes we talk about other ways of dealing with the defenses, but I think they’re understanding that we’re going to want that to be a part of all their abilities.”

As for the team’s execution, Renteria isn’t satisfied with the results. That means you can expect to see more bunts the rest of the way.

“It’s still a work-in-progress,” Renteria said. “I think that would be a falsehood to say we’re at the point where I go, I’m very, very happy with the way we lay down bunts. It’s still a work-in-progress, something that we’re going to continue to emphasize. Something we’re going to continue to work on. And then again, the only opportunities you get in real time are games, and that’s when you need ‘em.”