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.

Rule 5 pick Dylan Covey takes advantage of showcase as White Sox down Indians

Rule 5 pick Dylan Covey takes advantage of showcase as White Sox down Indians

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — If Carlos Rodon starts on the disabled list as expected, the White Sox won't turn to any of their vaunted top prospects in the interim.

The news on Rodon has been encouraging so far as no structural damage has been discovered. Still, the White Sox won't clear Rodon until after he receives a second opinion on Monday. While the length of Rodon's absence won't be determined for several days, the White Sox are certain of one route they won't take — they don't want to disrupt the development of their young starting pitchers. Were a DL trip for Rodon necessary, the White Sox would likely select either Saturday's starter, Dylan Covey, or minor leaguer David Holmberg over their top prospects. Covey made a strong impression on Saturday afternoon with 3 2/3 scoreless innings pitched and the White Sox rallied for a 10-7 victory over the Cleveland Indians at Goodyear Ballpark.

"When you have an opportunity to stabilize action or movement for players it serves them better," White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. "They get a little more comfortable where they're at. They get comfortable with the staffs they're working with and the information they're gathering, being in a routine. It is a little disruptive going from team to team to team. It happens, but it's not the most conducive (to learning)."

The White Sox are all about development this season. Therefore, they have no plans to call upon Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Carson Fulmer or Michael Kopech unless they're A) ready and B) throwing every fifth day in Chicago. Renteria's comments Saturday reiterated Rick Hahn's earlier message, saying the club doesn't want to disrupt the development path.

That puts Covey, a Rule 5 draft pick in December, with a decent opportunity to make the club out of camp. Covey commanded the strike zone on Saturday only hours after Renteria said he hoped to see the young right-hander replicate an Arizona Fall League performance that initially warmed the White Sox up to him.

Aside from a two-out walk in his final inning, Covey was sharp the whole way. He allowed three hits and struck out three.

"My last couple of outings I was definitely feeling the stress," Covey said. "I was kind of pitching a little passive, pitching to not make a mistake instead of just going right after guys. So today and yesterday I just thought I'm just going to throw every pitch with conviction and see what happens. I got a lot of weak contact today and some swings and misses, so I felt good."

Covey threw 44 pitches, 27 for strikes. He potentially could stay in Arizona on Thursday and make an additional minor league start to build arm strength, which would get him to roughly 60 pitches before the regular seasons started.

The White Sox don't officially need a fifth starter until April 9 and they're off the following day. That break could allow the White Sox to start Covey as part of a bullpen day. Covey said he recently changed his mindset after lackluster results in relief this spring. The right-hander has a 6.94 ERA this spring in 11 2/3 innings.

"Obviously my last two outings out of the pen I wasn't getting crushed, but I just wasn't commanding the ball or commanding the count as much as I would like to be," Covey said. "The mistakes get hit a little harder when you're falling behind in the count. Today I wanted to have the mindset of attacking hitters, throwing everything down in the zone and going right after them, and it worked out."

The White Sox blasted six home runs in the contest, including a majestic, go-ahead grand slam by first baseman Danny Hayes in the top of the ninth inning. Hayes is hitting .351/.400/.595 with two homers and is tied for the team lead with 13 RBIs this spring. Jose Abreu, Nick Delmonico, Cody Asche, Everth Cabrera and Jacob May also homered for the White Sox. 

White Sox: Carlos Rodon feels reassured after clean MRI

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USA TODAY

White Sox: Carlos Rodon feels reassured after clean MRI

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- While he still has a second opinion ahead and is likely to start 2017 on the disabled list, a clean MRI has Carlos Rodon feeling relieved after a bizarre Thursday.

The White Sox pitcher described Saturday the strange experience he’s had the past few days dealing with soreness in his left bicep.

In the span of 48 hours, Rodon -- who will receive a second opinion on Monday -- went from feeling good enough after a midweek bullpen session to request that his first start be moved up to likely landing on the DL. As he prepares to navigate the rehab process, Rodon is more at ease after an MRI on Friday showed no structural damage.

“(Thursday) was a weird day for me,” Rodon said. “I wasn’t very happy with it. I got that checked out, trying to figure it out.

“I feel better. It’s reassuring.”

“(Your arm is) your tool. It’s concerning. But that’s why you go get those things checked out and make sure everything is ok. That’s what we did.”

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Rodon, who went 9-10 with a 4.04 ERA and 168 strikeouts in 165 innings in 2016, has one more checkup before he’s all clear. He travels to Los Angeles on Monday for an appointment with Dr. Neal ElAttrache. General manager Rick Hahn said Friday that a second opinion is “protocol.”

Though he has already been reassured -- the club’s diagnosis was he had no structural issues after a physical exam and then the clean MRI -- Rodon wouldn’t mind more confirmation. The left-hander said he hadn’t experienced the kind of tightness he suddenly felt in his biceps tendon before Thursday. He could lift his arm above his head, but Rodon said his stuff wasn’t the same. After he informed them, the White Sox determined to be cautious.

“It’s pretty tight up there,” Rodon said. “I’ve never really been that tight. I couldn’t really step on some balls I wanted to throw to get that arm going. So, I had to get it checked out. It didn’t feel too good.”

The White Sox already had Rodon on a delayed schedule where he needed to hit every mark to be ready for the regular season. They did so in hopes of helping him avoid the fatigue he experienced last summer and also reaching the 200-inning mark this season. Now it appears Rodon will begin the season on the DL, according to Hahn.

Though he’d like to start the season on schedule, Rodon wants to make sure he’s physically good to go.

“Just trying to be healthy man,” Rodon said. “You don’t want to go the start of the season and be behind the best guys. You are a tick down from the best guys in the world. It’s not fun pitching when you are not feeling too good. I want to be 100 percent when I’m out there. That gives our team the best chance of winning.”