A funny thing happened on the way to Micah Johnson's coronation for the wide-open White Sox second base job: Johnson regressed back to Earth, and Carlos Sanchez closed the gap.
Johnson: .500/.563/.929, zero errors
Sanchez: .273/.273/.273, one error
- Johnson: .444/.500/.667, zero errors
- Sanchez: .263/.333/.263, one error
Entering March 29:
- Johnson: .333/.392/.422, three errors
Sanchez: .355/.429/.355, one error
It's basically the tortoise and the hare, although Sanchez's speed is only turtle-like compared to Johnson's.
Two of Johnson's three errors occurred on the same play in the eighth inning of Saturday's loss to the Cubs, which inadvertently summed up what the scouting reports say about his defense. He can cover some ground, but playmaking ability toward the ends of his range often escapes him.
There's a bit of a small-sample punishment here, in that Johnson has only officially screwed up two plays. But then there were reports that he made two other non-error errors in an untelevised game, so that particular flaw is definitely starting to come into focus.
Elsewhere in run-prevention news, the White Sox bullpen is having a difficult time taking shape. David Robertson and Jake Petricka are battling forearm soreness, while Matt Albers and Maikel Cleto combined to allow eight runs over three outs (with Cleto absorbing most of the damage).
Spring training is long enough -- even with a mere week left -- that the entire corps could escape Glendale in the original order, but it's hard to assess the backup plans right now:
Petricka might be on a slower path than Robertson. He played light catch on Saturday, five days after he was shut down. Petricka intends to ramp up the intensity every day if his forearm is willing but also doesn’t know when he might take the mound.
If Petricka isn’t ready in time, that could lead to Zach Putnam and Zach Duke sharing the setup duties, though Ventura hasn’t announced who would handle what role aside from Robertson as closer. Matt Albers and Javy Guerra could also take some of the late innings, too. And the White Sox plan to take a good look at Kyle Drabek, who they claimed off waivers on Friday, when he arrives in camp.
If the sketchiness here bleeds into the regular season, then I'd rather like to see the best possible defense supplementing relievers who could be pitching above their pay grades. That alignment would have Sanchez at second and Gordon Beckham at third.
That could very well be a reality, and not just because Sanchez is suddenly right on Johnson's six in the meritocracy battle. We outlined some potential consequences of the 40-man roster crunch in our discussion of the Drabek acquisition, and the Sox can buy themselves some time by holding off on adding Johnson. That obstacle has been present for Johnson this whole time, but it looked a lot more conquerable when he easily outpaced the competition and the Sox could go without adding a reliever.