White Sox turnaround could be 'remarkable'
The White Sox entered Saturday three and a half games behind Detroit in the AL Central and three games behind New York for a wild card spot, an encouraging change from 2013's forgettable 99-loss season.
It's only mid-June, and it's too early to label the White Sox as contenders — especially since the club entered Saturday with a 33-35 record. But the team has generally been competitive as the season nears its halfway point, leaving the door open for a July/August/September run that could put the White Sox into the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
If that happens — and it's still a big if — it'd represent a turnaround manager Robin Ventura said would be "remarkable."
"After last year, to go through all we went through, to be able to do that," Ventura said. "We're not going to look that far down the road. We're better off if we're just focusing on what we're doing today and trying to win this game, as simple as it can be, pitch to pitch, inning to inning."
Only one American League team appears truly buried in the AL playoff race — the MLB-worst 26-42 Tampa Bay Rays. Even Houston, a club undertaking a full-scale rebuild, is only five and a half games out of a wild card spot, one more than the defending World Series champion Red Sox.
The AL Central is even more bunched together, with Kansas City entering Saturday one and a half games back, Minnesota three games back and Cleveland and the White Sox three and a half back.
"I think everybody's making steps to where every series, I don't think you can just guarantee what's going to happen in every series," Ventura said.
Johnson's struggles still a mystery
Erik Johnson has walked 27 in his last 28 innings with Triple-A Charlotte, a span covering six starts in which the right-hander has a 9.32 ERA.
Johnson seemed to be getting things on track in his first three starts after his late-April demotion, only issuing two walks with a 2.41 ERA. But since then, the bottom's fallen out in rather puzzling fashion for the 24-year-old.
"You have people that are watching and you get reports on him, but when you just see the numbers, it does make you scratch your head because you know he has talent," Ventura said. "We’ve seen it. We’ve seen it up here, so to get that combination back where he has the confidence, the location, the ability to do it, that’s when you get that call back up."
White Sox deal for outfield depth
The White Sox acquired outfielder Michael Taylor from Oakland for minor league pitcher Jake Sanchez on Saturday, adding outfield depth to their minor league ranks.
Taylor, 28, will report to Triple-A Charlotte. In 26 major league games with Oakland from 2011-2013, Taylor hit .135/.210/.189 with one home run. A former top prospect, Taylor was part of package of players Philadelphia traded to Toronto in 2009 for ace right-hander Roy Halladay (Taylor was immediately flipped to Oakland for first base prospect Brett Wallace).
Taylor was hitting .243/.357/.385 with five home runs, 33 walks and 50 strikeouts in Triple-A this season.
Sanchez, a 24-year-old right-hander who formerly pitched for the Joliet Jackhammers, had a 2.80 ERA in in 61 innings with Single-A Kannapolis this season.