Poetry in Pros: Freddy's been steady

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Poetry in Pros: Freddy's been steady

Monday, Aug. 16, 2010
7:20 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

CHICAGO It was just five days ago that Freddy Garcia sat languidly in his clubhouse chair, ice on his shoulder and in his veins.

I dont care about doubters, he said, citing some slightly fuzzy math of just three of 22 poor starts on the season (actually, four of 21). I believe in myself.

Thats good, because not a lot of fans do at the moment. As Garcia labors through his two historically worst months (July and August, home of his two ugliest single-month ERAs and the only two months he owns a career record below .500), the pitchforks and torches are coming out.

One of the mob members is a favorite Chicken Little of White Sox baseball, a newspaper expert who today evoked the names of Gio Gonzalez, Clayton Richard and even John Ely (!) as fifth-starter solutions, sigh, if only. (My my, if sweet-swinging Chris Carter, a former White Sox farmhand swapped for Carlos Quentin who the same critic tirelessly bemoaned the loss of, ever gets a major-league hit, prepare the full-on Schadenfreudemania.)

Well, hey, theres no doubt that Garcias recent performances are a cause for concern. But even updating the numbers to include yesterdays five runs in five innings, Garcias sentiment last week was right, as he shushed his doubters by pointing to his low percentage of games he had no chance in: Its not that bad.

Five blowouts in 22 starts are the cold, hard facts. And for a fifth starter, thats an endorsement of, not an argument against, Garcias value. White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen has consistently admitted pure shock over how well Garcia pitched all season and insists that a fifth starter is doing his job by simply giving his team innings. And as usual, Ozzies right.

All the scuttlebutt implies that Garcia has been an unsteady influence in the White Sox rotation. Thats far from the case. Believe it or not, Garcias percentage of quality starts (.682) has not only been terrific in his second stint with the White Sox, it has been superior to his QS percentage on his first go-around (.549). That quality start percentage is second only to John Danks among White Sox starters, and just barelyDanks, esteemed as a breakout ace this season, sports just one more quality start than Garcia and a .696 QS percentage overall.

Unfortunately, as the second-oldest player and oldest pitcher on the White Sox, Garcias fall-off has been reminiscent of many veterans in the Chicago clubhouse. J.J. Putz scuffled over the weekend, while Andruw Jones misplayed consecutive flyballs to pave the way for the Detroit Tigers comeback on Sunday. Paul Konerko has cooled, Omar Vizquel seems a step slow and A.J. Pierzynski and Mark Kotsay have done little of late to reverse season-long slumps.

No doubt, Garcias giveaway effort in Sundays series finale vs. the Tigers, allowing five runs and eight hits in a laborious five innings, dug a hole for the White Sox they could only briefly rise out of before, as is customary in Garcias starts, the bullpen failed late and lost the game.

I pitched better today. I felt really good out there, Garcia said after Sunday's start vs. Detroit, pointing to situations in nearly every inning in which he narrowly avoided escaping damage. I feel bad. I should have gone one more inning to spare the bullpen.

Another thing thats too easily overlooked about Garcia is his capacity for leadership. Unlike Konerko, whose captaincy is unquestioned and his calm rarely dismissed as dispassion, Garcia is viewed not only as expendable on the field, but when preaching calm, hes viewed a bit like a beach-bum goofball.

Why? Perhaps its a language barrier, as the veteran is a native Spanish speaker who employs English deliberately, though with unflinching honesty. Perhaps as a player who wasnt being counted on coming into the season, Garcia cant help but be viewed as ancillary to the real team on the field.

But dont dismiss the significance of Garcia. Hes leaned on by Guillen as a veteran the manager can trust, one who wont fail to be straight with him and give 100 percent on the field. By extension, Garcia can play a primary leadership role among the significant Latino segment of the team. He may not be the Venezuelan Konerko, but Garcias significance on and off the field should not be disregarded, particularly among younger players like Sergio Santos, Alexei Ramirez, and even Alex Rios.

Were very positive, Garcia insisted Sunday, even in light of the sheer horror of the game. Thats exactly the sort of thing Konerko would and has said, through the ups and downs of the season. Garcia is just less frequently queried.

And in the same session, Garcia also was willing to go farther than any other White Sox playerperhaps too far, evenin describing what awaits the Sox in the Series of the Season up in the Great White North.

Weve got to get in a groove and play better vs. Minnesota, he said. We have to play almost perfect to beat them. They make smart plays.

Along with many candidates, Garcia is an unsung MVP of this contending White Sox club. And dont be too quick to dismiss the role hell play in eight or nine starts down the stretch.

Por que? Try this on: Garcia is at his best in the stretch, going 28-11 with a 3.28 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in his career September and October starts, his best marks of any month.

Wonder what the Chicken Littles will do with that.

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

Jose Abreu hopes to be ready for White Sox next game after leaving with injury

Jose Abreu hopes to be ready for White Sox next game after leaving with injury

Jose Abreu said he hopes to be ready to go when the White Sox start their series against the Detroit Tigers on Friday.

The White Sox first baseman took an awkward-looking fall on the infield grass while trying to field a grounder in the fifth inning of Wednesday’s win over the visiting Kansas City Royals, leaving the game with what the team announced as a mild right hip flexor strain. Abreu was labeled as day-to-day.

Manager Rick Renteria didn’t have any sort of update after the game — though he said he didn't think it was serious — but in his comments to reporters, Abreu said he felt fine after receiving treatment and will be ready to go for Friday’s series opener in Detroit.

“I feel good right now,” Abreu said. “I got treatment and I feel good. The day off tomorrow is going to help and I hope to be ready for the first game in Detroit.”

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Both Renteria and Abreu said the first baseman had no desire to exit Wednesday’s game but that Renteria was being appropriately cautious.

“He did not want to come out,” Renteria said. “He was pretty adamant but I think all of us, you don't take any chances. I think it was just the right thing to do at that time.”

“When you are on the field, you didn’t want to leave the field. It doesn’t matter what’s the reason or what’s happening,” Abreu said. “But he’s the boss and he made that decision and you have to accept it.”

Abreu went 2-for-2 with a two-out RBI double in the first inning Wednesday before he left. He has had two hits in each of his last four games and is 8-for-15 during the White Sox current four-game winning streak.

The White Sox are off Thursday. The team said Abreu will be reevaluated then after arriving in Detroit.

With White Sox hitters' support, Jose Quintana picks up first win of 2017

With White Sox hitters' support, Jose Quintana picks up first win of 2017

Four runs isn’t exactly an eye-popping total. But for Jose Quintana and his luck, it can seem like a gigantic number.

The White Sox starting pitcher is famously left wanting for run support nearly every time he takes the mound. So after the visiting Kansas City Royals erased a two-run White Sox advantage by the middle of the sixth inning Wednesday, it looked like Quintana might be heading for another bad-luck no decision — or worse.

But Avisail Garcia, he of the resurgent 2017 campaign, came to Quintana’s aid, belting a two-run homer in the bottom of the inning to put the White Sox back in front. It put Quintana in position for his first win of the season, which he officially earned when things went final a few innings later.

“He hit the ball at the right time. It was a good time,” Quintana said after the 5-2 victory on the South Side. “He told me, ‘That’s for you.’”

Quintana’s own 2017 season hasn’t gotten off to the kind of start you’d expect from the 2016 All Star. He took a loss in each of his first four outings and didn’t pitch like his normal self, entering Wednesday’s game with a 6.17 ERA.

But Wednesday saw Quintana return to form. He struck out 10 batters, a season high and the eighth such effort he’s had in his career. He surrendered just a pair of runs, only one of which was earned.

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Third baseman Todd Frazier said he saw something a little different in Quintana on Wednesday.

“I saw it in his face. He had some look about him,” Frazier said. “It was weird. He was getting mad at me because I didn’t get the ball back to him in time. I love that stuff. I’ll definitely make sure I get it to him quicker. He had a mentality about him, you know, put fear in some hitters eyes.”

Quintana, who kept saying that he “needed” this kind of performance in this game, confirmed it was an accurate assessment.

“Yeah, it was a mission,” Quintana said. “Everybody was doing their job. I needed this outing, so I felt really good on the mound. It was extra motivation to win my first one.

“I needed that outing, I needed that win. I never started like that (with four losses), so I’m really proud of the first win for me. The first of many, so I can’t wait to keep doing my job.”

While the pitcher was different this time around, so too was his offense. The White Sox are locked in some kind of offensive surge right now, combining for 33 runs during a four-game winning streak.

In Quintana’s first four starts, the team mustered just four total runs, shut out in two of those games. While certainly everyone would like the offensive production to continue, it was performances like Wednesday’s that remind you that even when the team isn’t scoring for him — and that’s been often — he still has All-Star stuff.

“As a teammate, you always enjoy when one of your pitchers is having that kind of performance that Quintana had today,” Leury Garcia said. “You’re always trying to help him, you’re always trying to do your best to help your teammates to win games. And for us, the defense was good just to stay there and watch him do his stuff. That was good.”