GLENDALE, Ariz. — Pitching coach Don Cooper has another assignment this spring after the White Sox claimed pitcher Maikel Cleto off waivers from Kansas City.
Calling the 6-foot-3, 250-pounder a “bit of a project,” general manager Rick Hahn said he made the claim because Cleto has a big arm and Cooper and the organization have a strong track record with those kinds of pitchers.
Cleto, 24, can touch 100 mph on the radar and has a slider that could become a weapon if polished, Hahn said. To add Cleto to the 40-man roster, the White Sox designated infielder Jake Elmore for assignment. Cleto is expected to report to White Sox camp on Thursday.
“He’s a little inconsistent with his delivery at times, doesn’t quite know where its going and its just a matter of trying to clean up a few things,” Hahn said. “Fact of matter is Coop and our minor-league pitching coaches have a pretty good track record of helping guys like this so why not bring in another big arm at a low cost and see what we can figure out over the next four to five weeks.”
Cleto went 3-5 with a 5.52 ERA and 89 strikeouts in 35 games (10 starts) last season between Triple-A Memphis (St. Louis) and Triple-A Omaha (Kansas City). He only appeared in one game at Memphis before he was suspended for three games after a minor-league brawl that resulted in the ejection of nine players and coaches. Kansas City claimed him off waivers later that month.
Hahn said the White Sox don’t have any concerns about Cleto’s character.
“You don’t know about a guy’s makeup for sure until you have him day in and day out, but our guys do a good job on background, best they can when you’re evaluating somebody from another organization,” Hahn said. “We certainly don’t at this time have any concerns about that. If we solely based our personnel decisions on guys’ reputations or things that happened elsewhere that we’re not fully informed of there would be a handful of guys in pictures around me who wouldn’t be in a White Sox uniform. We tend to make our own judgments.”
The team’s call to designate Elmore for assignment came down to having too many similar pieces in camp. Hahn praised the utility infielder, who the White Sox claimed off waivers in November, for being a good kid with high energy.
Hahn also said he doesn’t expect Elmore to be without a team for long.
“We’re at a point right now where we’re blessed with a little bit of middle infield depth,” Hahn said. “Jake unfortunately got squeezed out and there will be some interest in him, probably swing a small deal for him in the coming days.”