Entering Thursday night's game against Boston, the White Sox bullpen has a laundry list of discouraging stats to its name. No bullpen in baseball has a higher ERA (6.38), more losses (five), more walks (38 in 49 innings) or a lower strikeout rate (6.0 in nine innings).
Before Thursday's game, the White Sox designated left-hander Donnie Veal for assignment and brought up righty Zach Putnam, who fired six shutout innings for Triple-A Charlotte prior to his promotion. But there's no quick fix for a unit that issued nine walks in seven innings before turning things over to utility infielder Leury Garcia in Wednesday night's 14-inning marathon loss to the Red Sox.
"After the other night you thought it was getting back on track," manager Robin Ventura said, referencing the 2 1/3 scoreless innings four relievers combined to throw Tuesday night. "If you judged it on last night you wouldn’t be happy about it. I wouldn’t see it like that every night. I don’t think anybody sees that kind of performance and just base it on that. They’re going to grind. You look at they guys who are out there and eventually they will get the job done."
With only 15 of 162 games played, there's still plenty of time for the White Sox bullpen to turn things around. Ventura is confident in the talent there — Daniel Webb, despite his three walks in three innings Wednesday, has generally had success so far this season. Matt Lindstrom threw two shutout innings, though allowed the game-tying run to score in the ninth. Nate Jones remains out with a back injury, though his eventual return should boost a struggling group.
And Paul Konerko, who's largely observed the bullpen struggles from the bench, said he and his teammates haven't lost trust in the bullpen.
"They’re not carrying baggage in from the game before," Konerko said. "I think that’s all you can ask for with anybody out there. No one can tell the future and how it’s going to go. When you hit the field all you hope is that you’re getting that person’s best that night and they’re not carrying any negatives from the days before. I think the guys in our bullpen, their make-up is pretty good like that. You just trust them and move on."
Through 15 games, White Sox position players have accounted for 2.4 WAR, starting pitchers 1.3 WAR and relievers -0.3 WAR. But while the early returns have been discouraging, it's worth noting the 48-inning sample size isn't large (for reference, White Sox relievers threw 472 1/3 innings last year).
There's plenty of optimism around the 8-7 White Sox, a record that perhaps could be better with better showings from the team's relievers. But inside the White Sox clubhouse, Ventura said there's not any blame being specifically directed at the bullpen.
"You can't start pointing fingers at certain areas of the game," Ventura said. "You just play. It takes a total team effort to win games and everyone understands that."