After Sunday's game, the White Sox optioned Eric Surkamp to AAA Charlotte. This move was made to allow the Sox to make room for Matt Lindstrom's return to the Sox bullpen. It also means that the Sox will go without a lefty in the bullpen.
This is the first time in recent memory that the Sox have gone without a lefty in the bullpen. Last season, after Matt Thornton was traded, Donnie Veal appeared from Charlotte. Going back through the years, the Sox have gone from lefty to lefty without a break. Matt Thornton had been on the Sox since 2006. Neil Cotts held down the lefty spot in 2005. Damaso Marte was the default lefty from 2002 to 2004.
2001 seems to have the last gap. After pitching in 83 games in 2000, Kelly Wunsch was the lefty out of the pen for the Sox again in 2001. In mid-June, he was injured, leaving the Sox without a lefty. The Sox eventually picked up Alan Embree to be the lefty out of the pen, but the two week gap without a lefty was probably the least of the Sox' pitching problems that season. That season also featured nine starting pitchers with at least 10 starts (with Cal Eldred and Jim Parque throwing in a few extra just for fun).
Now, the Sox could go a little longer without a lefty than in 2001. Barring a DL trip, Surkamp has to stay in Charlotte for ten days, and with Shawn Hill's release from Charlotte, Surkamp could be heading back to the Charlotte rotation. It also looks like the Sox were interested in seeing if Donnie Veal might be their lefty answer again.
@paomso white sox wanted to know how Donnie Veal would perform coming into an inning. They found out. It's a development thing.— Seth Lakso (@SethLakso) August 10, 2014
With Taylor Thompson cruising with a one-run lead, he was pulled with one out in the ninth to see what Veal could do. It wasn't pretty.
|Donnie Veal (L, 3-5)||0.2||2||3||3||1||0||0||6.02|
While this might seem like the perfect audition time for guys in the minors, who would audition is the problem. Charlie Leesman and Frank De Los Santos have both been on the DL and are back now. Leesman picked up a 20.25 ERA in his sole appearance with the Sox this season and De Los Santos was with the Sox for one day but did see the field. Leesman is going to stay in the bullpen for the rest of the season for Charlotte, while De Los Santos stays lightly worked, often going four days between appearances, and the Sox don't seem anxious to see more of him.
There are other options, sort of, at Charlotte, but they don't figure to be part of the White Sox plans for this season. Scott Snodgress and Jarrett Casey have been pitching out of the Charlotte bullpen too. Snodgress has gone from top prospect to "oh that guy" over the past two seasons. The Sox seem to be trying to salvage something out of him in Charlotte's bullpen. Casey, who turns 27 in October, has had a nice season, but part of that is from being old for Winston-Salem and Birmingham. He's not a serious option to be called up.
We've known for a while that the bullpen is a mess. We've also known that Charlotte is also a mess because their depth has been stretched with 10 callups and a few injuries. As fans, we've been spoiled a bit with a continuous run of capable lefties in the bullpen for 12 seasons. Scott Downs was supposed to be that lefty for this season and next, but a shaky spring training turned into a shaky regular season before being shown the door. Donnie Veal, Down's understudy, looked less like the end of 2013 Donnie Veal and more like this Donnie Veal.
While Eric Surkamp seems likely to be back with the club in September, the Sox could be without a lefty in the bullpen until then. Meanwhile, "capable bullpen lefty" figures to be high on Rick Hahn's long shopping list for next season.