Once struggling for his major league life, Hector Noesi has at the least joined the conversation to be part of the 2015 White Sox rotation.
The right-hander delivered seven sharp innings on Wednesday night and with the aid of Jose Abreu helped the White Sox snap a seven-game losing streak with a 3-2 victory over the Cleveland Indians at U.S. Cellular Field.
Abreu had two RBIs and three hits, including a go-ahead single in the seventh inning and Zach Putnam earned his fourth save as the White Sox won for only the fifth time in 19 games.
“He is (part of the conversation), especially where we got him,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “To be at this point and doing the things he’s doing, tonight he looked sharp. He had an extra day of rest. His fastball was extra sharp tonight. He was sneaking it up on some people and that’s throwing it 93 or 94.”
Noesi has started to sneak up on the rest of a league that spent the first few seasons of his career kicking him around.
Before the White Sox claimed him on April 25, Noesi had a 5.82 ERA in 196 1/3 career innings for the New York Yankees, Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers.
But after he ended on June 3 a winless streak that stretched back 25 months, Noesi has won eight of 13 decisions.
He limited the Indians to two runs and six hits over seven innings and the White Sox improved to 12-10 in his starts. Noesi, who is 8-8 this season with the White Sox, has a 4.34 ERA and averaged six-plus innings over 22 starts.
“He’s thrown really well,” said outfielder Adam Eaton, who doubled, tripled and scored two runs. “He threw really well again tonight. His offspeed stuff looked very good, he kept the ball down and he throws 95.”
Noesi clearly isn’t comfortable talking about next season yet. He knows he needs to finish the 2014 campaign off strong before he can think about what he might be doing next season.
But one area Noesi has felt comfortable — and he said he has since the start — is with the White Sox. Whether it’s comfort with his Spanish-speaking teammates, the mechanical adjustments he and pitching coach Don Cooper made or realizing the opportunity in front of him, Noesi has shown more and more confidence the longer he’s here.
“When you spend time with people who’ve been here a long time, you learn from them and from the team on the other side, you know?” Noesi said. “You watch every day on the field and you’re learning.”
White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers faced Noesi earlier this season when he pitched for Texas. Even though they tagged him for seven runs, Flowers remembers Noesi was better than he appeared to be. From a stuff perspective, Flowers didn’t find Noesi to be a comfortable at-bat because of a fastball that has averaged 93 mph this season, per fangraphs.com.
The key to Noesi’s current run — Wednesday was his third quality start in five outings— has been his offspeed stuff, Flowers said.
“The ability to throw offspeed for balls has actually been really big for him recently, being able to put guys away and not leaving them in the zone,” Flowers said. “Missing in effective spots.
“The confidence has probably gone up a fair bit. He’s seen a bunch of stints of success and being able to execute pitches so I think that has turned into confidence and keeps kind of snowballing for him.”
Flowers said more consistency is needed from Noesi, who has allowed 22 home runs in 140 1/3 innings, including a game-tying solo homer by Lonnie Chisenhall in the top of the seventh inning on Wednesday.
Noesi can afford to make mistakes in the strike zone with his fastball but he doesn’t have the offspeed stuff to do the same, Flowers said.
Therefore, Noesi must learn to miss inside with his curve and changeup or away and not down the middle, a concept it seems he has begun to grasp.
“(Coop) told me you need to throw, 0-2, this pitch here and I’m trying to, and it’s good when you’re trying,” Noesi said. “Sometimes you make it, sometimes you miss, but it’s good because you’re trying.”
That idea is far easier for him to discuss compared with next season. Perhaps its the lessons he has learned from his earlier stops, but Noesi is far too consumed with now to think about the future.
“We have to think about this year,” Noesi said. “We can’t think about tomorrow. I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow.”