It's often said that pitchers start spring training ahead of the batters. Based on the performance of White Sox pitching the last week, it appears as though the bats have caught up.
The Sox have allowed 44 runs over their last five games, including seven in a loss to the Rockies today. That's not necessarily a cause for concern, because in a lot of cases, the crooked numbers are due to regression for the fringe/non-roster pitchers -- especially those who last long enough to get into this time of year, when relievers start throwing every other day.
In today's case, Matt Albers gave up four hits and allowed both inherited runners to score, along with three unearned runs of his own (with an assist from a struggling Melky Cabrera in left). That's after he started the spring with four scoreless innings, over which he allowed one hit.
So when you look at the big board for the bullpen competition, it looks a little different from the last time we checked 10 days ago:
And jogging through their performances, just like the last time we checked:
Albers: Talking to Rick Hahn today as part of a blogger conference call -- I'll have more from it later -- I inquired about Albers' contract situation. Hahn said that Albers received the usual contract for a Article XX-B minor-league free agent, which C.J. Nitkowski outlined in a terrific post about working under a number of them himself:
Players with six years of major-league service time that sign minor-league deals now have what is called Article XX-B protection. Teams either have to put these players on the major-league roster or release them five days prior to the start of the MLB season. If they do neither, they must pay that player a $100,000 retention bonus. This is essentially a built-in out clause for veteran players. If you are an Article XX-B free agent, you also receive an automatic June 1 out clause if you're paid the $100,000. Most teams get around this retention bonus by releasing a player and then resigning him sometime before the five days prior to Opening Day.
Hahn said Jesse Crain is also working under an Article XX-B contract, and since he hasn't made any news since his setback, I'm guessing he might be the kind of case Nitkowski mentions in that last sentence. Albers, on the other hand, might be too close to contributing to yank around, even if he has to bide his time in Charlotte for a while.
Cleto: He bounced back from an ugly outing against the Brewers on Sunday (two batters, two walks, one wild pitch) with two clean innings against the Rockies, including a strikeout.
Guerra: Wait a second ...
Webb: That line represents an improvement, but he's still in search of the groove he last saw last spring. Charlotte seems like an inevitability.
Guerra: ... OK. He's thrown three scoreless innings over his last three outings, giving him the nicest-looking results of the group. The peripherals aren't anything to write home about, but as we saw the last time we dug into his numbers, his signature could very well be experiencing a moderate level of success without one.
At any rate, there are still seven games before the Sox have to decide on Albers. And as we saw since the last time, a lot can change from week to week when assessing unproven relievers. Further bulletins as events warrant.