Hector Noesi's grasp on a rotation spot was tenuous even before he took a comebacker to the hip. His abbreviated start in the opener of the doubleheader, followed by Carlos Rodon's successful six innings, merely provided the last necessary motivation to proceed with the next phase of the project.
So Rick Hahn confirmed that Rodon is taking Noesi's place in the rotation -- with stipulations -- starting on Friday in Oakland.
That's one of two obvious moves the Sox needed to make this month before the season gets too far away from them. The other is one we've long championed here -- replacing Micah Johnson with Carlos Sanchez.
Rick Hahn gave Johnson a vote of confidence on Tuesday:
"We'd much rather have options, especially at premium positions, and Carlos is doing a great job," Hahn said. "If and when the need arises in Chicago, we know that Carlos at the very least will provide quality defense and be a tough out.
"There are some elements of Micah's game you can't replicate -- the pressure he puts on a defense in the way he's able to disrupt a pitcher's rhythm, which helps the hitters behind him when he's on base. That is why he's here now and he's the right guy."
Of course, if the ax is dangling over Johnson, Hahn probably isn't going to say it. He might send a message to veterans, but it's not necessary for a rookie who is probably well aware that he's in over his head in some aspects of the game. If Hahn does have plans to demote Johnson to Charlotte, from our vantage point, I'm guessing it'll look like it just happened.
And it needs to happen, because the game's not getting any easier for him in the field. His defense is so rough it requires Batman sounds.
Gerardo Parra found him immediately on Monday, and in defense of Johnson's defense, this wasn't an easy play:
But this one from the first inning on Tuesday -- catching a throw from Jose Abreu after Chris Sale picked off Carlos Gomez -- was easy:
And then he almost cost Sale a 1-2-3 seventh inning here with simple miscommunication:
And while this error is often the fault of both players, it was Garcia's ball, and he called for it:
Could hear Garcia calling off Johnson from the press box on that pop.— Daryl Van Schouwen (@CST_soxvan) May 13, 2015
This isn't the first time we've GIF'd Johnson's misplays, and when you add it all up, it's easy to understand why the metrics haaaaaaaaaaaaaaate his defense. According to Defensive Runs Saved, he's on pace to end up 47 runs below average over the course of a normal workload (135 games).
If you think -47 sounds bad ... it's worse than you think. Going through the last eight years of Bill James Handbooks, I can only find one year from a second baseman who was worse than -19 (Rickie Weeks, who was -34 in 2012).
If Johnson were anything resembling an average defender at second, they could live with his output at the plate. While his power is nonexistent at this point, his .333 OBP is above league average (.317), and his speed will allow him to make up bases at points. (He'd be even better if he could keep replicating imaginary catcher interference calls.)
But with his defense and his current baserunning -- 3-for-5 stealing bases and three outs on the basepaths, including this one Tuesday ...
... he'd have to hit like Howie Kendrick right now to be a tenable second baseman, and that's just too much to ask. And if the Sox think Robin Ventura is better than the team is showing, perhaps they could help him out by freeing up some of his bandwidth:
Ventura alone has spent many hours working with rookie second baseman Micah Johnson on his footwork, hand location and overall mental approach to a position he’s still trying to get better at.
It's easy to understand the patience required for Johnson's plight, but even Ventura's empathy is sliding from Johnson to the pitching staff:
White Sox manager Robin Ventura is hopeful the improvement from all comes quickly so his pitchers don’t face more pressure.
"That has to clean up because we can’t expect pitchers to go out there and try to overthrow and try and do that," Ventura said. "They can do it, but you don’t want it to feel like they have to do that to stay away from getting in trouble. So we’re going to have to be better.
"Everything goes together. You have to mesh it together to be able to feel confident with those guys going out there that they don’t have to be superhuman to get people out and get through it."
And while Johnson isn't the only infielder struggling -- Alexei Ramirez had a horrible game in the field on Monday, and Conor Gillaspie botched an easy one on Tuesday -- he's the only one without a track record of acceptable-or-better defense, at least for stretches, and he's the only one who can be swapped out for somebody's who is more MLB-ready. That would give Ventura the quick improvement he seeks, and it wouldn't require all that much hoping.