DENVER -- Don Cooper and Felipe Paulino met on Tuesday and the message was clear: improvement is needed. Fast.
The four walks Paulino issued in Monday’s loss will be a problem for the White Sox if the issue isn’t addressed soon. Same goes for rookie Erik Johnson, who struggled Friday in his first start, Cooper said. Johnson makes his second start on Wednesday afternoon against the Colorado Rockies.
But as good as they feel about Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and John Danks, the White Sox can’t survive if Paulino and Johnson pitch as they have so far.
In three starts, the two have combined to allow 26 hits, 15 runs (14 earned) with a hit batter and nine walks in 14 1/3 innings.
“If you’re not going to throw it over, we will have to get somebody else,” Cooper said. “If you constantly don’t throw it over -- major league pitchers throw it over. …
We’ve helped other teams out a little bit more than we need to.”
Paulino knows he needs to be better and was quick to say so Monday after he put 13 men on base and allowed six runs in an 8-1 loss to Colorado. He knows he needs to get ahead of more batters and be able to put them away.
But it’s not a question of stuff for Paulino, who has had reconstructive elbow surgery and shoulder surgery in the past two years.
Paulino’s fastball averaged 94.5 mph on Monday and topped out at 96.8 mph, according to brooksbaseball.net.
“He’s healthy,” Cooper said. “He’s back.”
But Paulino had no command of the fastball or the changeup on Monday and his slider isn’t back where it needs to be, Cooper said.
“The slider is the missing link,” Cooper said. “He’s making too many mistakes with his breaking balls in the zone. … That’s a mistake that has been coming up too much for him.”
Manager Robin Ventura saw the constant mistakes and knows Paulino and the White Sox are lucky the game didn’t get further out of hand. Ventura, who played 24 games at Coors, is well aware of the park’s reputation for hurting pitchers who walk too many batters. He feels fortunate to have only needed relievers Daniel Webb and Jacob Petricka to complete the final 3 2/3 innings.
“You need to pitch well here,” Ventura said. “You can’t walk guys. Errors and walks will kill you, plus they have a good hitting team, so those are things you have to clean up. It could have been worse, the first game here, as many guys as they’ve had on base. … There are games that look just like that that can get out of hand real quick.”
Cooper wants to remedy the pitching woes of Johnson and Paulino in quick fashion. He spent part of Sunday morning with Johnson in the bullpen session working on the right-handers slider. The slider is Johnson’s second best pitch and in Kansas City it got him in trouble. Cooper is hopeful things will improve.
He’s also confident change is on the horizon, one way or the other.
“We’ll see if we can shape Paulino’s starts up a little better,” Cooper said. “He’s certainly strong enough, he certainly has enough stuff. Same thing with Erik. We’ll see where that takes us and if they can make improvement, great. And if not, well, things happen. That’s the reality.”