Pitching fits: Garcia working hard, Jenks absent

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Pitching fits: Garcia working hard, Jenks absent

Monday, Sept. 20, 2010
Updated 11:10 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

OAKLAND Something to watch down the stretch, White Sox fans, is the fate of two of the remaining three pitchers from the 2005 World Series-winning Chicago squad, Freddy Garcia and Bobby Jenks.

Garcia has been gradually recovering from back pain hes attempted to fight through since the beginning of September. Garcia pitched six innings in his two most recent, aborted starts, the first an eventual 6-4 win over the Cleveland Indians on Sept. 1 and the second a two-inning effort in a 11-6 loss at the Detroit Tigers on Sept. 7. In the process of recovery, Garcia has even received an epidural to relieve the discomfort in his back and aid the then still-alive White Sox playoff hopes.

Garcia has been a true, key cog on the White Sox this season, and is arguably the biggest surprise of the team in 2010. His numbers are nowhere near gaudy (4.88 ERA, and his first sub-2.00 KBB1.93in a decade), but his 62 percent mark on quality starts is second-best among the teams four season-long starters, trailing John Danks by a wisp and leading Mark Buehrle and Gavin Floyd.

I expect Freddy to pitch this trip, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. I dont know where. I expect him to pitch again but hes got to throw in the pen first. I wont say Im counting on him, but I feel optimistic about having him on the mound before we return to Chicago.

Guillen has been awestruck by Garcias season, and of late, the veteran starters pain threshold. On the flip side, Guillen has been relatively dismissive of Jenks, subscribing to an outta-site, outta-mind philosophy with his wounded closer. Little changed in his comments on Monday in Oakland.

Bobbys home, Guillen said, surprising his pregame media gathering with the news that Jenks had been left behind. The six or seven days were going to be here, hes not going to throw, so I dont see why we would bring him here. White Sox trainer Herm Schneider knows better about what rehab Jenks is going to do.

Jenks, on the other hand, seems to have packed his season in. I said it last week, and Ill repeat it, with a relatively poor season (just 27 saves, a career low, and a 4.44 ERA, a career high and Jenkss first-ever ERA worse than the league average) marked again by iffy conditioning, Jenks is almost certain to leave Chicago after the 2010 season.

The burly closer has been increasingly slowed by injuries and was already on his way out after making 7.5 million this season and looking for a raise in 2011. But the strained forearm that will essentially erase his September has soured for good his future with the team.

While Jake Peavy is on this trip despite his best contribution to the team being antes to the pot on a bad poker night, Jenks is back in Chicago, purportedly to rehab his right arm in ways he could not on the trip with the team.

When Bobbys on the mound or available to pitch, our bullpen is better, said Guillen, chanting again the mantra hes spun all summer. But I dont know what direction were going to go, dont know what we have in mind. Bobbys been great for this organization since hes been here.

If it turns out Jenks has tossed his last with the White Sox, he will go down as the teams second-best fireman of all-time, with 173 saves trailing only Bobby Thigpens 201. And he will also have gone out on a high note, with badass doubleheader saves on Sept. 4 at the Red Sox.

Bringing Jenks back is the front office peoples job, Guillen said. I dont have any idea what theyre going to do. We havent talked about it yet. We havent had any meetings yet. I have to wait and have a clearer idea.

If that sounds like Guillen is hedging, he is. Theres a clear idea of what the future holds, and that future has any number of options, from Sergio Santos to Chris Sale to J.J. Putz to Matt Thornton, taking a crack at filling Jenkss shoes for a fraction of the price. It would be overly dramatic to say Jenkss lost September is the final straw, but while Garcia is fighting like hell to get back on the mound to finish out the season, Jenks is packing up his locker.

Its not just moxieor the lack ofthat has separated the two pitchers as their time in Chicago winds short. Garcias 2010 efforts have produced 1.4 WAR, which is by no means spectacular but downright stellar for the starters 1 million pricetag. Conversely, the only pitcher on the White Sox full-season roster worse than Jenkss 0.3 WAR is Tony Penas -0.6. As overpaid as Scott Linebrink is, he also boasts a 0.3 WAR for 2.5 million less than Jenks.

I hope when we get to Chicago, at least he can throw one or two innings to see if he can finish the year, Guillen said.

Guillen, while fully respecting the enormous role Jenks has played for the White Sox in his six seasons on the South Side, surely doesnt believe he will.

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

The last White Sox rebuild: Bobby Howry remembers aftermath of '97 'White Flag' trade

The last White Sox rebuild: Bobby Howry remembers aftermath of '97 'White Flag' trade

Bobby Howry wasn't aware of the fact he was part of one of the more infamous transactions in White Sox history until a few years after it happened. 

In 1997, with the White Sox only 3 1/2 games behind the division-leading Cleveland Indians, general manager Ron Schueler pulled the trigger on a massive trade that left many around Chicago — including some in the White Sox clubhouse — scratching their heads. Heading to the San Francisco Giants was the team's best starting pitcher (left-hander Wilson Alvarez), a reliable rotation piece (Doug Drabek) and a closer coming off a 1996 All-Star appearance (Roberto Hernandez). In return, the White Sox acquired six minor leaguers: right-handers Howry, Lorenzo Barcelo, Keith Foulke, left-hander Ken Vining, shortstop Mike Caruso and outfielder Brian Manning. Only Foulke had major league experience, and it wasn't exactly good (an 8.26 ERA in 44 2/3 innings). 

Howry was largely oblivious to the shocking nature of the trade that brought him from the Giants to White Sox until, before the 1999 season, he was featured in a commercial that referenced the "White Flag trade."

"I don't even know if I knew it was called that before then," Howry recalled last weekend at the Sheraton Grand Chicago at Cubs Convention. 

The trade was a stark signal that youth would be emphasized on 35th and Shields. Both Alvarez and Hernandez were set to become free agents after the 1997 season, and the 40-year-old Darwin wasn't a long-term piece, either. With youngsters like Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Lee rising through the farm system, the move was made with an eye on the future and maximizing the return on players who weren't going to be long-term pieces. 

Sound familiar? 

It's hardly a perfect comparison, but when the White Sox traded Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox in December for four minor leaguers — headlined by top-100 prospects in Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech — it was the first rebuilding blockbuster trade the organization had made since the 1997 White Flag deal. Shortly after trading their staff ace at the 2016 Winter Meetings, the White Sox shipped Adam Eaton — their best position player — to the Washington Nationals for a package of prospects featuring two more highly-regarded youngsters in Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez. 

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And there still could be more moves on the horizon, too, for Rick Hahn's White Sox (Jose Quintana has been the subject of persistent rumors since the Winter Meetings). But for those looking for an optimistic outlook of the White Sox rebuilding plans, it's worth noting that the club's last youth movement, to an extent, was successful.

Only Howry (3.74 ERA over 294 games) and Foulke (2.87 ERA, 100 saves over 346 games) became significant long-term pieces for the White Sox from those six players brought over in 1997. And it wasn't like Schueler dealt away any of the franchise's cornerstones — like Frank Thomas, Albert Belle and Robin Ventura — but with future starters in Lee, Ordonez and Chris Singleton on their way the White Sox were able to go young. A swap of promising youthful players (Mike Cameron for Paul Konerko) proved to be successful a year and a half later. 

And with a couple of shrewd moves — namely, dealing Jamie Navarro and John Snyder to the Milwaukee Brewers for Cal Eldred and Jose Valentin — the "Kids Can Play" White Sox stormed to an American League Central title in 2000. 

"It was great," Howry said of developing with so many young players in the late 1999's and 2000. "You come in and you feel a lot more comfortable when you got a lot of young guys and you're all coming up together and building together. It's not like you're walking into a primarily veteran clubhouse where you're kind of having to duck and hide all the time. We had a great group of guys and we built together over a couple of years, and putting that together was a lot of fun."

What sparked things in 2000, Howry said, was that ferocious brawl with the Detroit Tigers on April 22 in which 11 players were ejected (the fight left Foulke needing five stitches and former Tigers catcher/first baseman Robert Fick doused in beer). 

"About the time we had that fight with Detroit, that big brawl, all of a sudden after then we just seemed to kind of come together and everything started to click and it took off," Howry said. 

The White Sox went 80-81 in 1998 and slipped to 75-86 in 1999, but their 95-67 record in 2000 was the best in the league — though it only amounted to a three-game sweep at the hands of the wild-card winning Seattle Mariners. 

Still, the White Flag trade had a happy ending two and a half years later. While with the White Sox, Howry didn't feel pressure to perform under the circumstances with which he arrived, which probably helped those young players grow together into eventual division champions. 

"I was 23 years old," Howry said. "At 23 years old, I didn't really — I was just like, okay, I'm still playing, I got a place to play. I didn't really put a whole lot of thought into three veteran guys for six minor leaguers." 

White Sox Talk Podcast: Zack Collins discusses staying at catcher

White Sox Talk Podcast: Zack Collins discusses staying at catcher

White Sox 2016 first round pick Zack Collins joins the podcast to talk about his future with the White Sox, when he hopes to make the big leagues and the doubters who question whether he can be a major league catcher.   He discusses comparisons with Kyle Schwarber, his impressions of Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, why his dad took him to a Linkin Park concert when he was 6 years old and much more.