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Round 3: That other team

I'm going to start off by writing about the Twins tonight. They played a 3-game set with the Brew Crew in a battle of Ya Hey Der country. They sent Johan Santana to the mound in the rubber match. Santana was his usual self, but left the game on the hook for the loss.

I'm probably making this point on the wrong day, because Minnesota's pen actually gave up more runs than Johan did. So what. Take a look at the respective ERAs of the four relievers than Ron Gardenhire turned to.

Rincon 2.76 Nathan 1.96 Romero 1.02 Crain 1.20
These four pitchers have combined to allow 1 HR in 67.1IP, all while striking out 65 and walking just 24. There's no team in baseball that can match that. So who did Ozzie Guillen turn to in the 6th inning, while his team was leading by just a run, with Cubs ace Mark Prior on the mound? -- Oh yeah, guys with 6.20 and 5.56 ERAs entering the day. That's a good idea.

Ozzie's response after being questioned by reporters was a predictable one.

"Second guess me after the shit happens," Guillen said. "I want this kid to leave the mound with his head up and a chance to win the game. ... I wanted this kid to know what kind of manager he has. You're going to see a lot of this kid in the big leagues. Hopefully, not this year. He showed myself, he showed Kenny Williams just what kind of pitcher he can be."
I want to assure you Ozzie, I'm not second guessing you after the fact. I'm first guessing you before the fact. My exact quote over at BTF's game chatter, upon seeing Ozzie call for Vizcaino from the pen, was,
Bah that's the best thing for the Cubs right now... Here comes nutin' but sliders.
7 minutes later, I got to say "I told you so."

The current bullpen situation, while far from dire, is also far from great. There are three guys who I feel comfortable giving a ball to in close situations. The other four are like playing with matches and gasoline. It's only a matter of time before you end up getting burned.

The way I see it, the Sox are missing two key cogs to a solid pen.

  • The LOOGY -- Neal Cotts is not it. Damaso Marte is too valuable to be used only for one or two batters. Kevin Walker might be the solution, though he looked very shaky in his outings, and I see DFA in his future. Having a LOOGY wouldn't be a necessity if we could add one more lights out arm to the pen. Jeff Bajenaru, I'm looking at you. (I linked to his Major League stats for last season, and now you're scared. Here's his current AAA numbers.)
  • The long-man -- The Sox went the entire season last year without a swingman or long reliever. These are usually failed starters, guys who couldn't quite crack a major league rotation. If healthy, Felix Diaz (current AAA numbers) profiles as a perfect swingman.
The problem is there's too much dead weight on the back end of the Sox pen to get these guys up here. Luis Vizcaino has been an unmitigated disaster this season. I suppose this was to be expected, as this is an odd numbered year. Neal Cotts is, well, Neal Cotts. And, Shingo Takatsu, who just may be coming around, is nowhere near the pitcher he was last season. Sooner or later, Dustin Hermanson is going to give up a run or two, and this pen is going to look very human, very quickly.

Vizcaino is out of options, so he's going nowhere, fast. Cotts' ticket to AAA may be a cheap one because it's been booked so far in advance. Takatsu could easily be sent to AAA, but that's highly unlikely. That means the only way we get both a LOOGY and a swingman on the staff is by carrying 13 pitchers, which won't happen as soon as The Big Hurt is ready.

Enough about the bullpen, the rest of the game and BMac superlatives below the fold.

  • Mark Prior had a perfect game going until Tadahito Iguchi broke it up with a HR to right field in the 4th.

  • The top of the fourth was a key inning for Prior. After the bomb by Iguchi, Aaron Rowand doubled. Prior followed that with a walk to Paul Konerko. The Sox looked like they had Prior on the ropes, and had a big inning brewing. With one out, A.J. Pierzynski roped a line drive that would have gotten by 90% of first basemen. Derek Lee made the snare look easy, and caught Rowand well off of second to get the easy double play, ending the threat.

  • In the 7th, it was Konerko and Pierzynski sitting on first and second with none out, that had Prior on the ropes again. Jermaine Dye, who had homered earlier for his third of the series, didn't quite get squared up on a Prior fastball sending a long, lazy fly ball to center. Konerko was able to get to third on the play. That essentially ended the threat once again, because...

    Joe Crede and Juan Uribe were the two remaining batters due up. You wouldn't even have had to watch the game to know what the outcome of those at-bats were; two infield pop ups by the two coldest hitters on the team right now. Together their batting averages have dropped a collective 97 points since May 12th.

    As soon as Dye flied out to Patterson, you knew Prior was going to complete the game, no matter how many pitches he had to throw.

  • Brandon McCarthy pitched as well as can be expected of a rookie making his major league debut in about as hostile of an environment as he could ever face. He was exactly as advertised. Having watched all of his spring training starts and interviews, I expected nothing less. He's a guy who rises to the occasion.

    McCarthy's lone mistake was a first pitch fastball right down the middle to Henry Blanco. In that at-bat, McCarthy learned a valuable lesson that most National League pitchers learn early on; Make the #8 hitter hit your pitch, especially when there's two outs. Obviously, McCarthy missed his spot with the fastball, but it that situation, I don't even know why Blanco was getting a fastball.

  • I understand Ozzie's reasoning for pulling McCarthy when he did, but I don't have to agree with it. This is a very poised rookie. He does not act like a 21 year old. That much was evident from just one interview I saw in spring training. After seeing multiple interviews, it was plainly obvious that McCarthy was something special. I would expect Ozzie to get the same feeling from all the time that he has spent around the kid since pitchers reported back in February.

    Ozzie wanted to let McCarthy "know what kind of manager he has." Congratulations Ozzie, he now knows that you'll pull him in favor of a couple of arsonists just to protect him from himself. Had McCarthy given up a 2-run HR to Arimas Ramirez, he wouldn't have imploded, never to be heard from again. That's not the type of player he is. He would have attacked the next hitter he faced, as long as you let him. He would have learned from the experience. All he has learned now is that he's got to be perfect to get a win at the big league level. That's not a good lesson.

  • I was just watching NBC 5's Sunday night sports show, whatever it is called. On it they had a dual interview with Jon Garland and Mark Buehrle. During the interview, the woman reporter(can you tell I wasn't paying much attention?) quoted a White Sox blog, but they showed a screen shot from this blog, which is definitely not a White Sox blog. Is this more lazy journalism, or is there another Sox blog out there that I'm unaware of says "SOXBLOG" in big letters across the top left?