A foggy roster situation became even more obscured with the unwelcome news that Chris Sale won't make his start against Boston tonight due to tendinitis.
It's being described as "mild," because Sale initially wanted to pitch through it:
Sale said the issue flared up after Friday’s start against the Angels. In his past two starts, Sale has limited the Angels to four hits over 16 2/3 innings. He said he informed the White Sox he intended to pitch Wednesday but was convinced by team doctors to not. The plan calls for treatment the next few days and Sale expects to make his next start Tuesday against the Chicago Cubs.
"We collected as a group and sat in a meeting and the doctor explained to me that this is not going to happen," Sale said. "I just don’t like doing it. I want to be out there. I don’t want to put my job in other people’s hands. That’s not what I’m here to do. I’m here to do my job and make every start."
While this is obviously bad news, it could be worse. The last time Sale reported non-major pain, they almost named him closer for the season. Hopefully this means Sale has learned how to disclose discomfort without scaring the staff. At the moment, we can count the lack of mishandled media mayhem as a good start.
Other somewhat comforting signs under the circumstances:
No. 1: Sale's velocity during his last start matched what it's been all season, with no strange drops or spikes to apply backwards.
No. 2: It's good that he can be talked out of starting. He can learn a lot from Jake Peavy, but that kind of stubbornness is one lesson I'd like Sale to ignore.
It still might be worse than the Sox are letting on, but there are no gaps in the story right now. The only loose end is the fact that Hector Santiago's rubber arm will be put to the test. Not only will he be starting on short rest, but he'll be pitching a day after throwing his bullpen:
The left-hander threw 35-40 pitches and said he "kind of got after it" but expects no issues.
"It kind of sucks that I found out after I threw my bullpen today," Santiago said. "For the most part, I think I’ll be fine. I feel fine right now. I’ll wake up tomorrow and see how it feels."
Santiago might be able to pull a magic five innings out of his backside, but it's good that the Sox secured the series on Tuesday night. Jesse Crain, Addison Reed and Matt Thornton have all pitched on consecutive nights, and Matt Lindstrom worked on Tuesday, too. That leaves Nate Jones, Brian Omogrosso and Donnie Veal in position to do some heavy lifting.
At least there's an off day on Thursday. A lot of arms will be able to use it. The White Sox front office will welcome it, too, because there's a roster crunch about to happen.
While the Sox haven't officially made the move on John Danks, it appears that they're set on having him open the Miami series on Friday. With Sale pushed back, Ventura will be able to delay deciding on which starter loses musical chairs, although Santiago will be hard-pressed to impress given the short-rest duress.
Danks' return probably means one of Veal or Omogrosso will head back to Charlotte. If Santiago can't hold up and the Sox get blown out by Boston, you might be able to get a head start on figuring out the departing pitcher based on who has to eat up the most garbage time. That was Will Ohman's parting gift before his DFA last year, anyway.
The battle between Santiago and Dylan Axelrod is the same as it's always been -- Santiago offers more upside while Axelrod's shown the steadier hand. Then again, Santiago has proven to be more versatile in the bullpen, which is a double-edged sword for his rotation career. If the Sox want to send back Veal but want two lefties, Santiago is the only way to go.
The timing on that decision would be odd, because the events of the last couple weeks haven't demanded a second lefty. Thornton just emerged from a lull during which he threw only twice over 11 days, and while it's usually better to be proactive and not have to over-rely on Thornton, relegating a guy like Santiago to second-lefty work would be a waste of a great arm.
Either way, the Sox will have a few days to mull things over. Santiago will need time to cool down from his unexpected start, and it's not a given that Danks will lock down a rotation spot even if he does make his debut on Friday.
Gordon Beckham has played short during his last two rehab games, and it's caused an unexpected stir because some people are making some strange logical leaps:
If Beckham can play short as a backup, he probably can play it full-time, and such a scenario would open a door to making former Silver Slugger Award winner Alexei Ramirez available in a trade. As gifted as Ramirez is and as spectacular as he can be in the field, make no mistake, there are those in the organization who question his baseball instincts and are losing patience with his lack of attention to detail in the field and his gun-shy pursuits of short fly balls in the outfield. [...]
‘There is nothing too intriguing to make out of this other than the rehab assignment gives us an opportunity to look at some ways to potentially increase the flexibility of the roster once Gordon returns,’’ he said.
And that’s all it might turn out to be. But that flexibility also could open a door for a trade, and Ramirez’s contract would not be a drawback on the second year of a four-year, $32.5 million deal with a club option for 2016.
This excerpt displays both a lack of imagination and a runaway train of thought, which is a tough combo to pull off. Beckham should have gotten reps at short years ago, but not to threaten Ramirez. Rather, with Ramirez's durability, carrying a backup shortstop for the sake of a tidy depth chart is a waste of a roster spot (remember Omar Vizquel in 2011?).
If Beckham can handle short, the Sox can get away with only one backup infielder, because either Dayan Viciedo or Hector Gimenez can take over at first base if the Sox end up thin on a corner one day.
Needing only one backup infielder can allow the Sox to focus on which bat makes the most sense -- and on paper, that's Casper Wells. Wells found his way to the White Sox because they didn't have any righty bats in reserve, and that would still be a problem if the roster crunch forced Wells out.
The paper equation may not be so simple, though, because Wells' track record might be compromised by a lack of playing time. He's been jerked around by so many roster machinations that he's only amassed 21 plate appearances for four teams over the first eight weeks. The Sox have given him 16 of those, and he hasn't done much with them (2-for-15, one double, one walk, six strikeouts), which is understandable.
There won't be many opportunities for Wells as a traditional fourth outfielder. Alex Rios and Dayan Viciedo are everyday players, and Wells isn't a recommended start in center. But if Paul Konerko continues to look as lost as he does -- and I don't think he's one swing away from turning it around -- Wells could see more time in left with Viciedo sliding to DH when righties are needed.
But that assumes Wells will be able to get on track with limited at-bats. That's far from a given, but it's a risk the Sox can probably afford to take. History says Tyler Greene and Angel Sanchez can't match his bat even if Wells has a down year, so the Sox may want to ride with Wells until a better opportunity presents itself.
Actually, since Wells' DFAs have been followed by outfield injuries, perhaps the Sox should wait for two opportunities.