MINNEAPOLIS -- The White Sox hope Jacob Petricka is part of the next wave of talented pitchers to join their staff.
Petricka, a second-round pick in the 2010 amateur draft, reached the majors on Saturday when he was added to the team’s 40-man roster. The promotion from Triple-A Charlotte is Petricka’s second of the season and is the product of a strong response to a move from the starting rotation into the bullpen.
In 54 1/3 innings pitched this season, Petricka, who was drafted out of Indiana State University, struck out 58 batters and has a 1.81 ERA.
After the departures of Jesse Crain and Matt Thornton, the White Sox appear to have several openings in their 2014 bullpen. They’d love to see Petricka thrive and take advantage of the opportunity he has been presented. Petricka is one of several minor-league pitchers the club believes can make an impact on an already young staff in the short term.
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Others on the list include: Erik Johnson, Scott Snodgress, Charlie Leesman, Chris Beck and Daniel Webb. Though the club sees several of their prospects as future members of the starting rotation, they could start out in the bullpen, similar to Hector Santiago.
“We've mentioned a few times over the past few weeks about feeling good about our young pitching going forward,” general manager Rick Hahn said by email on Saturday. “That's not just limited to the young guys who have already had success in Chicago. There are a handful of guys -- both starters and relievers -- who are about ready to contribute at the big league levels. We should have multiple options to choose from in the coming years.”
Petricka could be the first.
The 6-5, 210-pound right-hander has a fastball that sits in the mid-90 mph range and can touch 100.
After four seasons as a starter in the minors, the White Sox decided Petricka is better suited as a reliever, a move he said required a bit of an adjustment.
After a rough stretch in mid-May when he gave up six runs (four earned) over 6 1/3 innings, Petricka began to figure it out. He attributes his success -- he had a 0.91 ERA and batters hit .193 against him over 39 2/3 innings since May 24 -- to a conversation he had with Double-A manager Julio Vinas and pitching coach Britt Burns.
“They said ‘You’re not starting any more. You have to go out there and be ready from the get-go,’ ” Petricka said. “From that point on I put up good numbers. It clicked.”
Per Baseball America, Petricka has a solid changeup but needs to better develop his curveball. He also needs to improve command of his fastball and curve. In four seasons in the minors, Petrick has an average of 4.1 walks per nine innings.
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White Sox manager Robin Ventura is familiar with Petricka because he has been in big league camp the past two springs. He said Petricka reminds him of Nate Jones, who struggled with command during his minor-league career before he put it all together in 2012.
Similar to Jones, Ventura plans to use Petricka out of necessity.
“I kind of look at it a little like Nate was probably a couple of years ago,” Ventura said. “And working his way through, you know he throws hard and it’s more about location right now and being able to pitch. We did it a lot last year where we just bring guys up and throw him in there. The way our games go you know he’s going to get used.”
With three spots on the 40-man still available and another possibly there if Brian Omogrosso goes on the 60-day disabled list, the White Sox could provide plenty more young pitchers with opportunity in September.
Leesman, already on the 40-man, figures to be promoted and Johnson, who is 10-3 with a 2.14 ERA in 21 games, could too. Webb, who hasn’t allowed an earned run at Charlotte since July 9, also could benefit from his hot streak and see a September callup. Pitching coach Don Cooper said the promotions are a continuation of what the White Sox started last season, when the staff once used a major-league record eight rookies in the same game.
“We’re finding out about the future,” Cooper said. “We’ve got a lot of those arms here. …This is where we’re going to find out what our start point is. … The bottom of line is these guys have an unbelievably great opportunity laid in their laps and for them to make the best of the opportunity.”