Jose Contreras was in top form for an inning and two-thirds Saturday night. His fastball was in the mid-90's. His forkball was dancing. He even ditched the sidearm delivery that so often gets him in trouble.
Then he had to run to cover first base.
With 2 outs in the second, Jacoby Ellsbury hit a groundball to Nick Swisher at first. Contreras took a bit of circuitous route to cover and take the flip. He stumbled as he got close to the base line, missed the flip from Swisher, and crumbled to the ground as he crossed the bag. He stayed down for a couple of minutes, and needed help to get off the field, the victim of a ruptured achilles tendon.
We have probably seen Contreras throw his last pitch in a White Sox uniform, possibly ever. With Contreras' age and the long recovery time for an injury of this type, I'd be surprised if we ever see him throw another pitch as meaningful as his last one. Contreras' career as a major leaguer might have ended in a heap just a few feet beyond first base.
For the White Sox, the obvious question is who replaces Contreras? Unfortunately, there are no easy answers, and the complicated answers are probably less than satisfactory as well. The Sox have three routes they can take to replace Contreras in the rotation:
Give the job to Carrasco -- DJ Carrasco has made two excellent extended relief outings this season, including the 4.1 innings of 1-run ball Saturday night. Unfortunately, with Scott Linebrink on the shelf, Carrasco has taken on more high-leverage work in the bullpen. Moving him to the rotation would mean extra high-leverage work for Dotel, Russell, and whomever is called upon to replace Carrasco.
Dip into the minor league well -- The Sox have already gone this route once before with dubious results. Clayton Richard showed what it looks like when you bring up an unheralded pitcher who started the season in A-ball, a lot like '06 Boone Logan, who I'll get to later. Aside from Richard, who I assume has been removed as an option following his last two lackluster performances, the only realistic options in the Sox minor leagues are Jack Egbert, who I jinxed with a mention last week, and 2007 first rounder, Aaron Poreda, whose last three starts in AA have been spectacular.
Scour the waiver wire -- Jarrod Washburn has already cleared waivers, and if Paul Byrd hasn't already, he'll easily slip through in the near future. But there's an obvious reason those two will be available; they're not very good. They'll give you consistently poor outings with a few good ones sprinkled in there just to keep you intrigued. And if the Sox have to give up actual talent, or take on actual salary, they're hardly of any interest to me.
While the Sox obviously have to replace Contreras, there's another member of the pitching staff who's overdue being replaced, Boone Logan. In his last 12 outings, he's allowed 20 runs in just, including 4 Saturday, and he's only pitched 8 innings. He's allowed 20 runs in his last 24 outs. There's little reason to keep a guy going through a stretch like that on even the worst team, let alone one trying to win a division crown.
So, assuming the Sox chose option 1 or 2, and I suggest they should, they'll need to be looking at both Egbert and Poreda either way. Whether it's Poreda getting a baptism by fire in the rotation or as a left-handed reliever, they'll need to drop to the minors to pick up two pitchers either way.
[Note by The Cheat, 08/09/08 10:04 PM CDT ]: As I wrote this entry, Buehrleman commented that 670 the Score has reported the Sox have already chosen option 3. They've traded Paulo Orlando, who sucks, and was probably one of the prospects Wilder used to skim money from the Sox, for Kansas City's Horacio Ramirez, who also sucks, but has found success by throwing junk in the strike zone out of the Kansas City pen. Also on the move, though yet to be confirmed, Boone Logan and Josh Fields appear headed to Charlotte. No word on who will be replacing them on the roster, though an infielder would figure to replace Fields; Chris Getz, anyone?
[Uptade by The Cheat, 08/09/08 11:15 PM CDT]: Dave Van Dyck confirms everything we wrote in the previous paragraph.