Chicago White Sox

Stone's Mailbag: Big Z and Sox pursuit of Dunn

Stone's Mailbag: Big Z and Sox pursuit of Dunn

Thursday, July 8, 2010
3:48 PM

Steve Stone dives into his mailbag to answer some of your questions about the White Sox being buyers, Andrew Cashner starting, what to do with Carlos Zambrano, and more!

Question from JJ S.--Oak Park, IL: J.J. Putz has undergone an interesting transformation, throwing his fastball significantly less and his splitter significantly more this year than he did in his heyday with Seattle. And yet, he's had about as good of success as he did in his dominant 2006-2007 seasons. Steve, did you or anybody you played with ever undergo such a drastic change in his pitch selection, and did you or he ever do it with as much success at Putz has had?

Steve Stone: Well before we anoint him as the next Mariano Rivera, lets wait a little and see what happens. Coming back form the arm problems he is coming back from, that necessitated the change in repertoire somewhat to take some pressure off the arm. The point remains, he has been most valuable; given the opportunity to close, there have been a lot of pitchers over the years who have transformed their repertoire. Sometimes its losing a pitch and gaining another, sometimes its coming back from a surgery or injury that necessitates a change. Baseball is littered with guys who have abandoned one or two pitches or refining another pitch they have. J.J. is no exception to that. I think the Sox and I both hope he continues with his resurgence. He was a dominant closer; he still remains as a useful and piece of the puzzle for the bullpen and Kenny is happy with him. No matter where he puts him, he will get an outstanding effort from him.

Question from David F--Wood Dale, IL: Steve, in regards to the White Sox, which areas do you think they can improve in? Do you feel they need to make trades to improve these areas?
Stone: I think the Sox would be the first to tell you that, a lot like the Cubs in this respect, they could use a left handed run producer. That being said, they are difficult to come by. When the cubs didnt make a specific offer to Bobby Abreu and allowed him to go to the Angels, only to try to fill that spot with first, Fukudome and second, Milton Bradley, it gives you some sort of an idea on how difficult it is to find that guy. Occasionally a player like Raul Ibanez will come onto the scene but not only his age and his position precludes some teams from acquiring him. Obviously the number one choice remains Adam Dunn; then it becomes, do you want to use him as a 2.5 or 3-month rental. If you do, its difficult to rationalize giving up one of your best young control and inexpensive major league players or giving them a couple very advanced but still young and controllable minor league players. That could be one of the sticking points as Washington looks to get rid of Dunn as others try to pursue him and see him as the missing piece of the puzzle. One area to look at is the bidding war for Seattle's Cliff Lee. He is probably the biggest prize as far as trade-ability is concerned. If you take a look at baseball standings, although things will clarify before the July 31st trade deadline, you can take a look at teams who are going to be sellers, looking to unload some players include Oakland, Seattle, Kansas City and Cleveland as well as Baltimore and quite possibly Toronto from the American league. In the national league, you have Arizona, Pittsburgh and Houston, certainly Washington and before its all over, the Cubs who at this writing are 10 under 500 and 9.5 games back in the central. They might find it advantageous if they fall a little deeper behind in the All-Star break to start to unload some of their higher salaried guys with or without the full no trade protection.

Question from Steven S--Orion, IL: With the turmoils and issues of Big Z and a no trade clause in his contract, what do you think are the Cubs best options to get this issue straightened out? Will they get him right or can they get some team to take him of the Cubs hands?

Stone: Fortunately that tricky bit of negotiation lands squarely in the lap of Jim Hendry who did manage to sign him to a long-term 91 million full no trade clause contract. I think it all comes down to, of the 45 million owed to the formerly Big Z, Jim is going to have to go to his owner Tom Ricketts and the Ricketts family and figure just how much he would be willing to ear of this contract. Already out there trying to trade Fukudome and eat as much as 12 million of his remaining guarantee dollars, one can only wonder just exactly how much of the contract or Big Z will they be able to move. It has been clearly illustrated before the blowup and after the blowup that at this point in his career; Tom Gorzelanny can actually out pitch Carlos Zambrano. And so, if Z does come back and is accepted on to the Cubs, the option of putting him back in the semi-limbo in the bullpen does not sound particularly appealing. Far be it for me to suggest to the boys on the North side on just how to get themselves out of this position, but I do know if you have some assets that are fairly valuable, it would be wise to move those assets before perhaps something happen that renders them unmovable. I of course am referring to the immediate attempt to trade Silva. They owe him 18 million for the remainder of this year and next year, and he is throwing the ball exceptionally well. However an occasional leg problem will lead to occasional back problems and I would be rushing onto the trade market to see if I can dump his contract, eliminate some salary for this year and next and perhaps get something of value before a guy who weighs what he does, eventually and inevitably starts to break down.

Question from Larry S--Chicago, IL: Do you see Andrew Cashner eventually ending up as a reliever or starter for the Cubs?
Stone: I think Andrew has the chance to be an exceptional pitcher. He has picked up some losses and the opposition has gotten to him but the Cubs envision him as a starter. I believe he has a very good speaking disposition; I had an opportunity to speak to him during CubsSox series. I think he would like to start, and Cashner being a young pitcher, an inexpensive pitcher, a controllable for a long time pitcher as far as the organization goes, I believe he will find his way into the starting rotation. He will certainly get the chance after this season, but could very well start in 2010 as an opportunity to stretch him out if they fall out of this race. If they do put together a hot streak and get back in the race, there is a good chance he stays in the bullpen for the remainder of this year.

Question from John S--Elmwood Park, IL: With two no-hitters, two perfect games, and one should've-been-perfect game, is this the year of the pitcher?

Stone: It certainly appears to be the year of the pitcher. Occasionally you have that which shows you a couple different things. One is that there are a lot of very good young pitchers coming up tot he Major Leagues and two, a lot of pitchers find themselves with quality bullpens behind them which on days when they dont have their great stuff, come in handy. I look at Felix Hernandez of Seattle and I see a guy despite a 6-5 record, has a 3.03 era, he just went and shut out the New York Yankees in New York. You look at baseball and you see some really good pitchers, Cincinnatis Johnny Cueto, the Yankees have Phil Hughes, Tampa Bay has David Price, Washington has Stephen Strasburg (though he hasnt had much of an opportunity to this point). You could probably go on and on with young pitchers around baseball that have suddenly burst on the scene and done a terrific job. No one can understand why one-year pitchers dominate. Hopefully there wont be any knee jerk reactions like in 1968. As a result of that year, the mound was lowered from its height of I believe 13 inches to 10 inches high where it still stays today. I would hope that baseball would not make any such tinkering with the mound again in a way to let the hitters resurge. I believe there is enough hitting and there is always going to be good pitchers, but now because of economics, they are giving younger pitchers with great arms a chance to get to the big leagues faster.

Chris Volstad earns first MLB victory in five seasons as White Sox top Astros

volstad.jpg
USA TODAY

Chris Volstad earns first MLB victory in five seasons as White Sox top Astros

HOUSTON -- Two weeks ago Chris Volstad was focused on Hurricane Irma prep when the White Sox called to invite him to the majors. On Thursday night, he earned his first major league victory in more than five years as the White Sox defeated the Houston Astros 3-1 at Minute Maid Park.

Volstad, who had only made 10 big league appearances the previous four-plus seasons and spent all of 2017 at Triple-A Charlotte, allowed a run in 4 1/3 innings to pick up his first win since Sept. 10, 2012.

He hadn’t just shut it down after the Triple-A season ended, Volstad was actually shuttering his Jupiter, Fla. home and business the day the short-handed White Sox called.

“I was probably a little mentally shut down,” Volstad said. “But yeah, it’s kind of crazy how things can change. I guess it’s been about two weeks now. At home getting ready for a hurricane and then getting called back up to the big leagues.”

Volstad received word he might pitch early in Thursday’s game when a blister on Carson Fulmer’s right index finger worsened. Fulmer felt some discomfort after his Friday start at Detroit.

The White Sox let Fulmer try to go but yanked him after 20 pitches, including two walks. That brought out Volstad, who along with Al Alburquerque was promoted Sept. 10 after the White Sox lost several pitchers to injury.

The White Sox actually had to track Volstad down two weeks ago as he’d already been home for a week. He spent part of the time prepping for Irma, including boarding up his brewery.

He escaped a first-inning jam with a double play ball of the bat of Carlos Correa and ended a threat in the second with a pickoff at second base of Alex Bregman. After he surrendered a solo homer to Brian McCann in the third, Volstad retired the final eight men he faced.

[MORE: Why the White Sox are optimistic about their middle infielders' potential

He was awarded his first victory since he defeated Thursday’s Astros starter Dallas Keuchel 1,836 days ago here. Volstad remembered the win because Houston was still in the National League and he had a base hit in the five-inning start for the Cubs. He went 3-12 for the Cubs that season.

“You’re able to lock it in pretty quickly and get focused at the big-league level, you have to,” Volstad said. “But being home in Triple-A for the last few years, just getting called up about 10 days ago, I’ve got people following it, but it’s kind of unknown I guess. It’s a little surprising, but I’m glad to be a part of a team for sure.”

Fulmer, Volstad, Jace Fry, Mike Pelfrey, Gregory Infante, Aaron Bummer, Danny Farquhar and Juan Minaya combined on a three-hitter for the White Sox. Tim Anderson extended his hit streak to 12 games with a ninth-inning solo homer, his 17th.

White Sox add two cross checkers to amateur scouting department

8-24_guaranteed_rate_field.jpg

White Sox add two cross checkers to amateur scouting department

The White Sox hired two new national amateur scouting cross checkers, Tim Bittner and Juan Alvarez.

Bittner was a one-time White Sox farmhand who was included in a package for Scott Schoeneweis in 2003 while Alvarez was an undrafted pitcher who pitched in 80 major league games for the Angels, Rangers and Marlins from 1999-2003.

Bittner previously worked as a Houston Astros area scout while Alvarez held the same role for the Cleveland Indians. They replace Joe Siers, who moved over to the team’s pro scouting staff, and Mike Ledna, who took a job with the New York Mets.

“Both are very smart guys with playing experience,” amateur scouting director Nick Hostetler said. “And they’re also coming from two clubs with a lot of recent success.

“I want to add as many smart, passionate, high-energy scouts to what I feel is a department already filled with scouts that check those boxes.”

The White Sox expect to have at least a top-four selection in the 2018 amateur draft. They headed into Thursday’s game with the second-worst record in the majors. Hostetler praised the 2018 draft class for its depth earlier this week.