With an off day Thursday and no one else available to start Wednesday, the White Sox are giving Johnny Wholestaff a shot against reigning AL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer.
It's a bullpen day on the South Side, with Hector Noesi getting the start and everyone but Ronald Belisario available behind him. The hope is Noesi — a former starter who's pitched exclusively as a reliever since May 2013 — can give the White Sox 55-60 pitches, which equates to three or four innings. Guys like Jake Petricka, Daniel Webb and Zach Putnam can throw multiple innings, too.
It'll be an opportunity for a bullpen that's largely struggled this season to prove itself over the course of an entire game. Entering Wednesday, White Sox relievers had the highest walk rate in baseball (5.56/9 IP), the lowest strikeout rate (6.24/9 IP) and the sixth-worst ERA.
"Bullpens are always a tough thing, since they're pass or fail every time they come in," manager Robin Ventura said. "It's not like a hitter that can go 0-for-8 and get a couple hits in the next game, anytime they don't do well it's immediate and sometimes the results make you lose a game."
But Ventura's seen some encouraging signs from a few of the younger relievers. Petricka has only allowed one run over his last 7 1/3 innings (despite walking as many as he's struck out in that span), and Putnam's thrown 4 2/3 scoreless innings over his last two outings.
The improvements have been modest, though Ventura's hoping they'll continue in the face of a difficult challenge Wednesday against Scherzer and the Tigers.
"They're fairly new to us," Ventura said, "but guys kind of move their way up the chain, sometimes down by how they do an perform in certain things."