Sox get relief, take Crain away from Twins

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Sox get relief, take Crain away from Twins

Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010
Posted 8:16 PM Updated 9:02 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

All indications late Wednesday were that the Chicago White Sox had signed Minnesota Twins free agent reliever Jesse Crain to a three year deal.

The signing, first hinted at by the Chicago Sun-Times and quickly confirmed by Peter Gammons of the MLB Network, fortifies the Chicago bullpen with a live, veteran arm who looks to slip right into the right-handed setup slot vacated by J.J. Putz.

The White Sox bullpen now shapes up to feature Matt Thornton and Chris Sale in a combination of lefty setup man and closer and Sergio Santos and Crain as right-handed setup men. Tony Pena, once ticketed to fill the role Crain now occupies, may well resume a long relief role, with another long man, preferably a lefthander, pending.

Crain had a career year in 2010 for the Twins, pitching in 71 games and amassing a 3.04 ERA, with a career-best 62 strikeouts out of the bullpen and an 8.21 K9. Stats guru Bill James projects Crain to regress in 2011, with an ERA jumping up to 3.55 and his K9 rate falling below 7.0.

Crain fits well in a Chicago bullpen filled with power arms, and features a wicked slider that has made a fool of many a White Sox hitter in the past. However, Crain has a tendency to give up flyballs, which could have a much more dangerous effect in homer-happy U.S. Cellular Field than at the Metrodome or Target Field in Minnesota.

While the closers role is open for the 2011 White Sox, dont expect Crain to throw his cap into the ring, with a dismal career save percentage of .188.

While the move could signify Sale assuming a starting role in 2011 (the status of a rehabilitating Jake Peavy for April is still up for question), unless Chicago wants to insert Santos as its closer, the addition of Crain means little.

Both manager Ozzie Guillen and GM Ken Williams have identified the likely 2011 closer as Sale or Thornton, and placing Sale in the rotation will leave Thornton (thus the likely closer) as the only late-inning lefthander in the bullpen. There is zero chance the White Sox will move forward with such an unbalanced relief corps.

Crain will join Matt Thornton, Sergio Santos and likely Chris Sale in the back end of the Sox bullpen in 2011.

Preview: Chris Sale starts for White Sox against Rays tonight on CSN+

Preview: Chris Sale starts for White Sox against Rays tonight on CSN+

The White Sox take on the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday, and you can catch all the action on CSN+. Coverage begins with White Sox Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Tonight’s starting pitching matchup: Chris Sale (16-9, 3.19 ERA) vs. Alex Cobb (1-1, 6.16 ERA)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.

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James Shields gets first win in two months as White Sox beat Rays

James Shields gets first win in two months as White Sox beat Rays

James Shields’ time with the White Sox has not gone well. But Monday night was one of the bright spots, and it came against his former team.

Shields allowed just one run in his six innings of work against the visiting Tampa Ray Bays — with whom he spent the first seven seasons of his career — and earned his first win since July 26 as the White Sox opened this four-game set with a 7-1 victory at U.S. Cellular Field.

Shields didn’t exactly keep the Rays off the bases Monday, running into jams with multiple base runners on in four of his six innings. But he did keep them off the scoreboard, for the most part, getting some help from his defense with a couple double plays. He finished allowing just one run on seven hits with six strikeouts over his six innings.

The win was his first in two months after a brutal August — six starts with four losses and an 11.42 ERA — and a couple of rough outings in September. It was Shields’ sixth victory on the season and fourth since joining the White Sox compared to 18 losses on the season, 11 coming with the White Sox.

“I had a few chances my last few starts to get some wins, but sometimes those things happen,” Shields said. “I’m just trying to finish the season strong right now. Body feels good, arm feels good, so hopefully I can get another win on Saturday to end my season and move into next year.”

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With just one more start on his schedule in the season’s final week, Shields won’t lose a visually upsetting 20 games. Avoiding that number might not make losing 18 or 19 much easier for fans and observers to swallow, but teammates understand what Shields has gone through this season.

“I think we’ve all been through it once or maybe even twice in our career. He works his butt off, though,” third baseman Todd Frazier said. “He looks at film. He watches everything he’s doing. To come out with the strong outing today, even in the first inning, getting two runners on and getting out of that jam, it goes to show you his resilience. Whenever he got runners on, he looked relaxed and induced a lot of ground balls which we needed.”

Certainly Shields’ teammates picked him up Monday. The two double plays while he was in the game were just half the infield’s total on the night, two more coming in the seventh and eighth, when Tommy Kahnle and Nate Jones put the first two hitters they faced on in each frame. But the double plays helped end those threats and keep the Rays down.

The White Sox struck first with a run in the first inning, Melky Cabrera scoring on Justin Morneau’s sacrifice fly. After the Rays tied it up in the fourth with an RBI single, the White Sox punched back, Frazier doubling, stealing third base and scoring on Omar Narvaez’s sacrifice fly in the bottom of that inning.

And as Shields and the relief corps danced out of jams, the White Sox added to their score. Jose Abreu singled in a run in the fifth, but it was a pair of two-run homers off the bats of Morneau and Carlos Sanchez in the seventh and eighth innings that provided the real insurance.

The win was the third straight for the White Sox, something that while positive won’t provide much solace in a season where competing for a playoff spot is a distant memory.

But, like Shields finishing his season strong, White Sox players in general can create individual momentum for each of their offseasons and into next year with good finishes to 2016.

“We want to end on a positive note,” Frazier said. “Everybody wants to meet their goals. Baseball is the most individualistic team sport there is. You have to have your individual goals just like your team goals, and our team goals are out the door right now. You don’t want to play for yourself, but at the same time play for your pitcher a little bit and help him out.”