For those of us who read the minor-league box scores every day, Charlie Leesman's name is a familiar one.
That name will finally make it into a big-league box score tonight. Leesman is scheduled to make his major-league debut starting for the White Sox in the second game of today's doubleheader against the Minnesota Twins, which would cap a climb that has taken seemingly forever.
Granted, a lot of players wait longer to get the call than Leesman. The White Sox picked him in the 11th round of the 2008 draft, and five years isn't an unusual development period (Hector Santiago needed six years before his first real shot, for example). But his path has taken more twists and turns than usual, especially for a college arm the Sox liked.
The front office talked him up frequently, and put him on the fast track during the first couple seasons. He made it to Birmingham within two years of being drafted, throwing 11 successful starts in Birmingham during the second half of 2010.
He started the 2011 season with the Barons, and ended up staying the whole year because his control took a step back. Nevertheless, the Sox added him to their 40-man roster after the season. He started 26 games for Charlotte and improved his numbers across the board, which would've earned him a September call-up ... but he suffered a knee injury while trying to avoid a collision during the International League playoffs. That cost him not only the rest of his 2012 season, but the resulting surgery on his ACL forced him to miss spring training and almost the first two months of 2013. In between, the White Sox released him to open room on the 40-man for Tyler Greene back in April.
Leesman never really left. The Texas Rangers claimed him, but Leesman rejected the assignment to Triple-A Round Rock and opted for free agency instead. He didn't play the field, instead returning to the White Sox about a week later on a minor-league contract.
The decision has worked out pretty well for him. After some rehabbing, he finally made it back on the field in late May, and he's gone on to have a respectable season:
He won't be around for long. As the 26th man, he'll have to return to Charlotte after the day is up. As long as misfortune doesn't befall him -- either in his start, or his subsequent Triple-A appearances -- he'll be back soon enough when rosters expand. He's really the only lefty in Charlotte worth considering since Donnie Veal and David Purcey joined the club, and he stands a good chance of beating at least one of those guys out for a job next season.
While he's started his entire career, a lot of people figure that he'll have to move to the bullpen, because he's got LOOGY-like splits this year (with a three-quarter arm slot to match), and his control can abandon him for stretches. His fastball works on both sides of 89 mph with sink, and he has a good changeup, but I've never heard raves about his breaking stuff.
He'll get a chance to prove his starting mettle in his debut, and the length of his leash could depend on how John Danks fares in the first game. That said, if there were any day for starters to go long, today would be it. The Twins are hitting .219/.288/.342 and averaging 3.3 runs per game since the All-Star break, which basically means Danks and Leesman will start for the White Sox and against the White Sox (.246/.297/.340; 3.3 runs). We've seen opposing starters throw strikes to White Sox hitters and see what happens, and that'll be a good gameplan for a potentially nervous rookie to follow.