Chicago White Sox

Reliever Crain 'ecstatic' to join White Sox

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Reliever Crain 'ecstatic' to join White Sox

Monday, Dec. 20, 2010
3:37 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

CHICAGO Last year, J.J. Putz cherry-picked enough easy wins to be considered the Chicago White Sox vulture, swooping down for surprisingly easy kills. But with Putz having departed for the Arizona Diamondbacks, the role is now open.

Early nominee for 2011 White Sox vulture? General Manager Ken Williams.

It happened very quickly, Jesse Crain recounted on Monday afternoon. We were negotiating with the Colorado Rockies and Boston Red Sox, they were offering a vesting third year, the White Sox called on Tuesday and we agreed on Wednesday Dec. 15.

It took 24 hours to get a deal done. I thought, These guys are serious.

Crain had his second-best professional season in 2010, going 1-1 with a 3.04 ERA and 2.3 KBB. His 3.45 Fielder Independent Pitching was equivalent to that of White Sox starter Gavin Floyd, and like Floyd he was lights-out at midseason, stitching together 21 straight scoreless appearances from June 12 to Aug. 4 and compiling a 0.28 ERA over 35 games between June and August. Crain tied for eighth in the American League with a career-best 21 holds, limiting hitters to a .215 average and stranding .769 of inherited runners. In his career vs. the AL Central, Crain is 20-7 with a 2.82 ERA.

His team-first makeup and his ascendant numbers pushed Williams to secure Crain for the next three seasons, paying him 13 million (4 million in 2011 and 4.5 million each in 2012 and 2013) in a contract made official on Monday.

Better yet, Crain feels hes only getting better.

I was sort of surprised to see just a few days ago on a Web site that my velocity has gone up over the last few years, he said. Im developing a new split-finger fastball to compliment his fastball, slider, curve and seldom-thrown changeup and Im really looking forward to working with Pale Hose pitching coach Don Cooper.

Crains correct, in that speed tracking finds that over seven professional seasons the righthanders fastball has increased in average velocity from 92.9 mph in 2004 to 94.8 mph in 2010.

Those numbers point toward Crain just reaching his professional peak. Yet hes chosen to ditch the deep gaps of Target Field for the summer bandbox that is U.S. Cellular Field. While there is some concern that Crains flirtation with being a fly ball reliever may make for a bad fit at his new ballpark (0.89 ground ball-to-fly ball ratio in 2010 but 1.23 in his career), the 29-year-old is unruffled.

Ive pitched in Chicago a bunch of times, Crain said. Yeah, the ball flies a little more, and some deep flies are going to turn into home runs, but you just cant let it affect you. You cant think too much.

The fireballer admitted to some surprise over Minnys reticence in re-signing him, claiming they told him right away the club wouldnt be looking for more than a two-year deal at 3.5 million per.

The Twins were never really in the running, Crain said. They said from the very beginning they wouldnt sign anyone for more than three years or 3.5 million per year. They told former Minnesota Twins reliever Matt Guerrier the same thing. We didnt negotiate with them at all.

Crains departure is just the latest from the Twins, who have lost key late man Guerrier to the Los Angeles Dodgers and second baseman Orlando Hudson to the San Diego Padres, and have yet to come to terms with key free agent starter Carl Pavano.

Im not sure what direction theyre going, Crain said. Im not sure whos going to come up. They have some prospects but with not much experience. Losing me and Guerrier is definitely going to hurt them.

As for handing in his deep blue Twinkies PJs to become a White Sox man in black, changing pinstripes in the midst of an intense rivalry, Crain didnt hesitate to admit he was entering uncharted territory.

I dont know, its going to be weird, he said of facing his old team. Ive never been anywhere else. I have a lot of very good friends there. But its going to be fun to go back there and face them.

With the closers roleand the makeup of the 2011 bullpen itselfin flux, Crain was assured of a key role on the back end. When Williams talked to Crain, the GM had the short man plugged in between Matt Thornton and Chris Sale as the last right-hander out of the pen. Its not inconceivable to see all three hurlers, as well as Sergio Santos, getting shots to finish gamesand if so, Crain is eager to give the firemans role a shot.

I closed games growing up all through the minors (42 saves in four minor-league seasons and 29 for AAA Rochester in 2003 and 2004), Crain said. I was ready to close in 2004, but the team traded for Joe Nathan and I never got the chance.

While never a closer in the years since, as Nathan became the ensconced finisher for Minnesota, Crains career save percentage of .188 is something the hurler is looking to reverse.

I feel confident I can fill that closer role, he said. Im excited to get the opportunity to do that and looking forward to closing with the White Sox.

For a guy bred for years to execute White Sox hittersCrain is 5-2 with a 1.45 ERA in 45 career games vs. Chicagothe 61, 215-pound pitcher is giddy with excitement to hop to the South Side.

Its exciting. If youd asked me in September whether Id be pitching in Chicago next year, Id have had no idea, Crain said. When the White Sox contacted me last week, I was ecstatic. I dont see why was cant go to the World Series.

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

Extreme makeover: White Sox bullpen edition

Extreme makeover: White Sox bullpen edition

With the White Sox entering rebuild mode in 2017 and the relief pitcher trade market not all that hot, general manager Rick Hahn found a perfect storm to unload some of his arms for future prospects.

Hahn continued that pursuit on Thursday, dealing left-hander Dan Jennings to the Tampa Bay Rays for 24-year-old prospect Casey Gillaspie. With the trade, the White Sox not have just one of their seven relievers from Opening Day on the current roster.

Below are the seven Opening Day bullpen arms, and where they've gone from April 5 to now.

- Zach Putnam (April 25) Putnam was the first of the bullpen arms to go, heading to the 10-day DL with right elbow inflammation. He did some throwing in early May but failed to make much progress. In late June Rick Hahn confirmed that Putnam had underwent Tommy John surgery. He finished with a 1.04 ERA in 8.2 innings.

- Nate Jones (April 28) Jones entered 2017 as one of the White Sox most important bullpen pieces. But the right elbow neuritis he dealt with never fully healed, and he needed nerve repositioning surgery on July 13 that ended his season. The former Tommy John surgery recipient finished 2017 with a 2.31 ERA, striking out 15 batters in just 11.2 innings.

- Michael Ynoa (July 8) After a stellar rookie campaign, Ynoa struggled in 2017, compiling a 5.90 ERA in 29 innings. He walked 22 and struck out just 23, and he allowed seven runs and recorded just four outs in his final two outings before the White Sox designated him for assignment. He's currently on the DL at AAA Charlotte.

- David Robertson (July 18) Rick Hahn gave up his closer right after the trade deadline, sending Robertson to the Yankees in a seven-player trade. Robertson had plenty of value, sporting a 2.70 ERA while going 13-for-14 in save opportunities. In four games with the Yankees he's allowed just one earned run - a homer - while striking out six.

- Anthony Swarzak (July 25) A surprise on the Opening Day 25-man roster, the 31-year-old Swarzak dominated in his time with the White Sox. He sported a 2.23 ERA and struck out 52 batters in 48.1 innings. He did some of his best work just before the trade, too: he had scoreless outings in 13 of his final 14 appearances with the Sox, good for a sparkling 0.56 ERA with 22 strikeouts and five walks in 16.0 innings. In return the White Sox received 25-year-old outfield prospect Ryan Cordell.

- Dan Jennings (July 27) The sixth bullpen arm to depart, Jennings was sent to the Rays for 24-year-old switch-hitting prospect Casey Gillaspie. The left-hander finished his White Sox season with a 3.45 ERA. Left-handed batters hit just .169 with a .497 OPS against him.

- Jake Petricka (still on team) It'll be tough to swing a deal for Petricka, who had a 10.24 ERA in June after returning from a DL stint. He hasn't yet pitched in July.

That's not including Tommy Kahnle, who joined the 25-man roster just a few days into the season. Kahnle was part of the deal that sent Robertson to the Yankees.

Now, here's the current bullpen: Jake Petricka, David Holmberg, Gregory Infante, Chris Beck, Juan Minaya, Tyler Clippard, Brad Goldberg, Aaron Bummer

White Sox continue dealing, trade Dan Jennings to Rays for prospect

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White Sox continue dealing, trade Dan Jennings to Rays for prospect

The White Sox continued their run of trades on Thursday morning, dealing relief pitcher Dan Jennings to the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for Casey Gillaspie.

Gillaspie, 24, was rated by MLB.com as the No. 10 prospect in the Rays organization. The switch-hitting first baseman batted .227 with nine homers, 44 RBIs and 45 runs scored in 95 games for AAA Durham.

The 6-foot-4, 240-pound left-hander began the year ranked as the No. 74 prospect in baseball by Baseball America and was a Southern League All-Star in 2016.  The first-round pick in 2014 was a New York-Penn League All-Star that year and a Midwest League All-Star in 2015.

“Casey is a recent first-round pick who has shown a quality approach at the plate with some power throughout his minor-league career,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “He gives us yet another highly touted hitter who has stood out at every level in the Rays system and increases our organizational depth as we continue to add prospects to the system.”

Casey is the young brother of Conor Gillaspie, who spent three seasons with the White Sox from 2013 to 2015.

Jennings went 3-1 with a 3.45 ERA in 48 appearances for the White Sox this season, his 48 appearances are tied for second in the American League.

Jennings tweeted a farewell to the White Sox following the trade.

It's the fourth trade the White Sox have made in July. They began by dealing starter Jose Quintana to the crosstown rival Cubs for four prospects, including 20-year old phenom Eloy Jimenez.

Hahn and the White Sox bundled David Robertson, Todd Frazier and Tommy Kahnle to the Yankees for a prospect package that included 2016 first-round pick Blake Rutherford.

The White Sox also dealt reliever Anthony Swarzak to the Brewers and received 25-year-old Ryan Cordell in return.

In a corresponding roster move to replace Jennings on the 25-man roster, the White Sox are calling up left-handed reliever Aaron Bummer.

Bummer, 23, was selected  by the White Sox in 19th round of the 2014 MLB Draft. In 28 appearances across three levels in 2017, Bummer has a 3.31 ERA and a 1.306 WHIP.

The White Sox now have just one reliever on their current roster who was also on the Opening Day roster is Jake Petricka.