ANAHEIM, Calif. -- They didn’t put up much of a fight on Friday night but Robin Ventura likes the effort he has seen from the 2014 White Sox.
While Friday’s 8-4 loss to the Los Angeles Angels drops the White Sox back to the .500 mark (again), this team has shown the White Sox manager much more than it ever did during a dismal 99-loss campaign a year ago.
Despite myriad injuries and a patchwork starting rotation, issues that sunk the White Sox a year ago, this season they’ve managed to tread water thanks to a revamped lineup. So even though Andre Rienzo was hit hard -- he allowed seven earned runs and nine hits in 3 2/3 innings -- Ventura is confident his team will bounce back on Saturday night when Chris Sale takes the mound.
“You have to know how we got there,” Ventura said. “With the injuries we’ve had and guys coming in and out, our rotation, the way we started and where we’re at now. For me it’s more the mentality and the competitive nature of the team more than what their record is. I think their focus day-to-day, of being able to come in and put yesterday behind them is pretty good. And to deal with injuries and not have it put you in a tailspin is pretty good.”
Oh, the injuries.
It’s not the sheer amount of them, but rather whom they have taken out.
The bullpen lost arguably its two best relievers in Nate Jones and Matt Lindstrom. Sale missed five weeks with a sore left flexor muscle injury. Another starter, Felipe Paulino, has been on the disabled list since mid-April and is nowhere near returning. Meanwhile, rookie starter Erik Johnson has continued to struggle at Triple-A Charlotte after a demotion.
The top four hitters in Friday’s lineup, one Angels starter Jered Weaver successfully navigated by bending but not breaking, all have spent time on the DL.
Yet even though Adam Eaton, Gordon Beckham, Conor Gillaspie and Jose Abreu have all missed at least 15 days, the White Sox have continued to produce and find ways to win.
The team’s offense has been in a bit of a rut since Abreu went on the DL on May 18. But that’s when the team’s starting rotation stepped up.
Before the Angels rallied for five runs on six hits in the fourth inning against Rienzo to take a 7-1 lead, White Sox starters had been on a roll. The group carried a 2.03 ERA in its past 15 games buoyed by the success of Sale and John Danks.
Adam Dunn blasted the 450th home run of his career in the ninth inning off Angels closer Ernesto Frieri. It moved him past Vladimir Guerrero and Jeff Bagwell for 36th place all-time.
To Ventura, these are all signs of fight the White Sox never showed in a miserable 2013 whose only good result is that the club was able to draft Carlos Rodon with the third overall pick on Thursday.
Though the White Sox haven’t reeled off a long winning streak, they haven’t fallen apart either. Considering how many players are still young in their careers, Ventura thinks that’s a positive development.
“You’re seeing guys that are trying to establish themselves, but you also have to do it within a team concept and sometimes that doesn’t quite catch on the way it should and these guys have been good even in spring training,” Ventura said. “Even the younger guys coming in understanding the day-to-day grind of it and establish themselves within the framework of ‘This is team game and we have to do it as a team and learn how to win as a team.’ And that has been there.”