Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Posted: 2:53 p.m.
By Brett Ballantini
CHICAGO With a number of ex-Chicago White Sox turning up on the transaction wires as spring training camps broke, lets catch up on where some former Pale Hose are plying their wares:
Jose Contreras has just been named the closer in Philadelphia, as Phillies closer Brad Lidge has succumbed to a partially torn rotator cuff and will miss up to six weeks. Contreras is the rare pitcher whos found success outside of the White Sox and their pitching guru Don Cooper (although to be fair, it was Cooper who rescued Contreras career on at least a couple of occasions). With the Colorado Rockies in 2009 and Phillies last season, Contreras has, improbably, turned into a formidable reliever, starting just two of 74 games and notching four saves. His ERA since leaving Chicago is 2.58, compared to a healthy 4.66 in six seasons on the South Side.
In less sunny White Sox ex-pitcher news, J.J. Putz delayed the opening of his spring training work as the new Arizona Diamondbacks closerretiring just four batters in Cactus League actionwhile battling back stiffness. He had a so-so final tune-up against a Mexican League club Tuesday, recording three strikeouts but also allowing three baserunners and a run, with his fastball topping out at just 93 mph. Putz wasnt great with save opportunities a year ago, with far south of a 50 success rate, and that was when he was apparently healthy for much of the summer. He would have been better suited setting up or alternating save opportunities with best buddy Matt Thornton here in Chicago.
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Is it possible that Freddy Garcia refused to enter 2011 as a prospective White Sox long reliever, then changed his tune in Gotham, when he came close to being cut from the New York Yankees? Garcia and the White Sox were always a perfect match, and while the muculent hurler appeared to be squeezed out by a White Sox rotation that numbered six in the offseason, he signed on in New Yorkand a coaching staff unversed in treating him, both physically and emotionallyfor just 500,000 more than he made in Chicago during his resurgent 2010 campaign. Garcia did finish spring strong, allowing a run on four hits, with two walks and three strikeouts in 4 23 innings Tuesday in a win over the Detroit Tigers, but expect a scary summer from Sweaty Freddy under the bright lights of the big city.
Jon Garland, plying his wares as somewhat of a journeyman pitcher since being dealt from the White Sox to the Los Angeles Angels for Orlando Cabrera in 2007, signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers but will miss Opening Day with a strained oblique muscle. Garland is now 131-114 over 11 major league seasons, with a 4.32 overall ERA thats a touch lower than his 4.41 ERA over eight seasons in Chicago.
Jayson Nix, who scraped his way onto the 2010 White Sox before getting cut loose and left for the Cleveland Indians to employ, was dealt from the Wahoos to the Toronto Blue Jays, where Nix will occupy his perpetual bench spot. The 28-year-old put up a .677 OPS for the two teams last year, occasionally flashing say-what power but mostly being mediocre.
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Once a rising star for the White Sox, John Shelby was dealt to the Tampa Rays for future considerations. Shelby regressed last year at AA Birmingham, with a .705 OPS and just 15 steals in 440 plate appearances. In five seasonsnone above AA, Shelby put up a .785 OPS and compiled 105 steals.
On a similar note, former first-rounder Kyle McCulloch was sold to the Cincinnati Reds. The Texans five seasons were considerably less productive for the White Sox, going 33-40 with a 4.54 ERA and 1.48 WHIP. In his last-gasp season at AAA Charlotte, McCulloch put up a 5.94 ERA in 24 games.
Fan favorite Joe Crede had signed with the Rockies in February, but opted not to report to spring training, so hes a free agent, likely battling some form of back trouble, and looking forward to a new season of University of Missouri basketball hoops this winter.
Josh Fields, forever a part of White Sox lore for his grand slam to provide Mark Buehrle all the cushion he needed in his 2009 perfect game vs. the Rays, has bounced from the Pittsburgh Pirates to the Rockies, who are apparently bent on collecting Chicagos hot corner castoffs. Fields was dealt to Kansas City in the Mark Teahen trade two Novembers ago, and hit three homers in 13 games with the Royals while battling injury all season. Fields caught on with the Pittsburgh as a free agent, but failed to break camp with the Pirates.
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The other half of that Teahen trade, Chris Getz, is faring much better for the Royals. The 25-year-old is basically Kansas Citys Gordon Beckham, batting second (vs. righties, at least) and playing second. Of course, thats where the comparisons end, as Getz played only about half the time for the Royals a season ago, compiling a beyond-paltry .579 OPS.
And finally, Kip Wells, a key component of the worst trade Ken Williams has made as GM of the White Sox, has caught on with the Diamondbacks after last pitching for the Long Island Ducks of the Independent Atlantic League. Wells had been cut by Cincinnati prior to the 2010 season, and put up a 4.00 ERA in 27 innings in the northeast. Wells, who owns a 4.71 career ERA over 11 seasons, was dealt to the Pirates along with Josh Fogg and Sean Lowe for Todd Ritchie. None of the three pitchers dealt went on to superstardom, but Ritchie was so abominable in 2002 in Chicago (5-15, 6.06 ERA) that he would never pitch in the majors again.
Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute White Sox information.