With the Sox scheduled to face Scott Kazmir and Johan Santana on the extended holiday weekend, I decided, unsuccessfully, it might be a good time to take a holiday away from their games. I missed big chunks of each game, but couldn't bring myself to ignore the games completely as the Sox offense mounted respectable-but-not-spectacular performances on two consecutive days against top flight left-handed starters. The 4 run output against Santana is the best the Sox offense has mounted since he really got a feel for his changeup 3 years ago, a span of 14 starts, 12 of which he allowed 2-runs or less.
How tough is Pablo Ozuna?
I hate to admit it, but my first thought when I read in the comments that Pablo had a serious injury was 'good, maybe now we can do something productive with his roster spot.' Ozuna doesn't really bring anything other than speed to the table, and has been receiving far too much playing time thanks to Jim Thome, Alex Cintron, Juan Uribe and Joe Crede all missing time for various reasons combined with the Sox being without a left fielder. Ozuna, when utilized properly, is a nice 25th man, but he's pretty useless if he's the first bat off the bench, which is what he had become under Ozzie.
It wasn't until I saw the replays of his injury that I began to feel bad for Pablo. In the replays, you could see his leg make a wrong turn somewhere above his ankle but below his knee, only to have it swing back into place as he lifted his caught spike out of the dirt. He then proceeded to get up and walk around on an injury that required a plate and 3 screws to fix, walking off the field under his own power.
The immediate prognosis after his surgery was that it would take 3 months before he's back on the field, which would put him back right around the time rosters expand. I don't expect him back this season, and I don't expect him to ever contribute meaningfully ever again. Ozuna's main value lied in his legs. Any marginal drop in speed renders him pretty much useless at the major league level. Thankfully for Pablo, the Sox decided to hand him a guaranteed contract next year, which is probably bad news for us fans, as Ozzie will probably trot out a healthy-but-no-longer-effective Ozuna whenever there is an empty position to be filled.
Andy Gonzalez is his replacement?
When I heard Ozzie's post-game comments Sunday, I was surprised that he was leaning towards Gonzalez as Ozuna's replacement. I figured the obvious replacements for the two newly open roster spots were Jerry Owens and Dewon Day (more on Day later). Charlotte, who recently lost Pedro Lopez to Louisville when the Sox tried to sneak him through waivers, had just played their last two games with Josh Fields at shortstop. They had only Gonzalez as a true middle-infielder. With Gonzalez gone, Fields played his third consecutive game at short today, breaking his streak of getting on base at least twice at 8 games with a 1-4 day off of top pitching prospect Homer Bailey.
Then today I read a comment that Cintron has to rest his arm "because it gets sore after every game he plays." In other words, our back-up infielder, who hasn't appeared healthy at any time this season, well, isn't.
Gonzalez hasn't been hitting well of late in Charlotte, but has kept a respectable on-base percentage thanks to a good walk rate, and he displayed a good eye in his few plate appearances during his last call-up. Since he doesn't really have a future as a starting 2B, I don't see a reason why we're keeping around an injured back-up infielder who doesn't get on base in favor of one who is both healthy and does get on base. I imagine that Gonzalez will take over Cintron's backup role next season after Cintron and Podsednik get non-tendered.
Dewon might never have his Day
Prior to the '06 Arizona Fall League, the book on Dewon Day was that he had a great slider but no control of his fastball to serve as its compliment. He's seemed to harness the natural movement on his fastball this season to post some ridiculous strikeout numbers in the Southern League. But after just one outing in the majors, I thought I could see part of the reason that ridiculous strikeout rate was partnered with a ridiculous BABIP. Go to the comments yesterday for my snap judgment.
I never saw the slider that was advertised through Baseball America and MiLB, but was impressed by the movement on his fastball. He had a nice tight slider, but it didn't seem to have enough lateral break to get off the bat of major league hitters.
Hey, Mr. Wilson!
The White Sox added Craig Wilson, who was recently release by Atlanta, to their AAA roster. On first glance it appears to be a good pickup, mashes lefties, can play LF (albeit defensively challenged). But closer inspection reveals that, like Ozuna, Wilson may have reached the end of his effectiveness at the major league level. He's a career .290/.389/.527 hitter against LHP, but that has slipped to .266/.368/.445 since '05 and .261/.340/.455 since the start of last season. He struck out in almost half of his at-bats this season with Atlanta, and probably has crossed the threshold of swinging-and-missing too much to still be effective.
On the bullpen
I could probably spend an hour writing about how pathetic the bullpen has been the last 3 weeks, but I'm already an hour into a 30-minute recap. So here's a couple of links that puts some numbers to the ineptitude. AVG/OBP/SLG by the bullpen since 5/06 (scroll to bottom) and the pitching lines for all Sox pitchers since 5/06, which is just an arbitrary date that I used last time to illustrate this same point.