On this week's edition of the South Side Sox podcast -- subscribe on iTunes or SoundCloud! -- one of the questions I answered in P.O. Sox is a popular cry: "Why is Ronald Belisario still on the team?"
The short answer: Because somebody always finds a way to be demonstrably worse than him. And this month, it's happening in triplicate.
First it was Taylor Thompson, who looks like he fits the mold of a AAAA reliever. He proved to be eminently hittable, giving up six runs on nine hits (including a homer) and four walks over 5⅓ innings. That didn't come as a surprise, but at the point he received the call, there was no harm in trying.
Andre Rienzo's flop registered as an actual stunner. Rienzo had enjoyed stretches of success as a starter before hitting a wall, so it seemed like a shift to relief might be nature running its course. Then he posted this line in three August appearances: 2.1 IP, 13 H, 10 R, 9 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 3 HR, which was good for a 34.71 ERA.
Now it's Matt Lindstrom's turn to flatter Belisario. His return from the DL seemed rushed to me, as he alternated poor outings with encouraging ones during his rehab stint. Through three appearances with the Sox, the ugly games have a 2-1 edge. He's allowed six runs on seven hits and a walk over his last inning of work -- he didn't retire any of the four batters he faced on Monday -- which has caused his ERA to jump two runs in three days (3.26 to 5.57).
"It's a little frustrating right now," Lindstrom said. "I can get guys strike one, strike two, it's just a matter of putting them away. That's been kind of elusive for me the last couple outings. That's been kind of a tough pill to swallow, especially since the game is so close right there."
But I didn't expect much better, given the ankle injury, the long layoff, and a mixed bag at Charlotte. His command isn't there yet, and his velocity is a tick short of where it was in April and May, so can he be slotted ahead of Belisario? I wouldn't feel that great about it.
Outside of Jake Petricka and Zach Putnam (with Javy Guerra, who's on the bereavement list, running third), Robin Ventura's pitching changes are basically educated guesses. Maybe I'd avoid letting Belisario inherited runners whenever possible (thankfully Chris Sale cleaned up his own mess), but beyond that, good luck figuring it out.
And when September rolls around, an expanded roster isn't going to automatically provide answers. We've learned from this year and 2012 that chucking more un(der)qualified relievers at a shaky bullpen doesn't constitute an improvement, and making three or four pitching changes just makes bad innings harder to watch.
Then again, Ventura might end up knowing -- and distrusting -- most of the extra arms next month, which could eliminate noise. It also sets up nicely for a guy like Chris Bassitt, whom Larry mentioned on Monday. If Bassitt gets called up and shows Ventura a big arm and an ability to miss bats at the end of a season like this, Ventura may never want to let him go.