Besides giving Chris Sale and friends an extra day of rest during a prolonged stretch of consecutive games, Miguel Gonzalez was supposed to show the White Sox a future for the fifth starter beyond John Danks.
Instead, he more or less proved that Danks' standard isn't the easiest bar to clear.
Gonzalez gave up five runs on 11 hits and two walks over 5⅓ laborious innings in his no-decision against Toronto on Monday.
(How laborious were they?)
They were so laborious that Gonzalez ended up with the highest pitch count by a White Sox starter this season with 113. Apologies if my humor is too pungent for you.
It could've been worse for Gonzalez, too. He gave up some loud outs (the Blue Jays punished his pitches up in the zone), he benefited from a tremendous throw by Adam Eaton, and he was at 94 pitches through four. An 11-pitch fifth inning preserved some dignity and changed the tenor of his White Sox debut some:
"I went out there for the sixth inning, that was important,’’ Gonzalez said. "Just go out there and make better pitches.’’
"He threw strikes, he was around the zone and I thought he battled through it,’’ Ventura said.
It wasn't nearly enough for Ventura to guarantee another start, but whether it's next week or next month -- OK, those are the same thing -- there's reason to give him another look. According to Brooks Baseball, Gonzalez averaged 90-91 on his fastball. That's about 1-2 ticks below where he usually sits, but better than his spring reports indicated. If he's still heating up, his old self might not be completely out of the picture. If he's got nothing more in store, he's still competition for Danks, for better or worse.
"He pulled something in his back the first day, which will go down in folklore history of weird things that happen to people," Ventura said. "We were thin tonight. We were looking around to see who could catch. Tonight, we were making sure (Navarro) didn't try to beat anything out and pull anything. He was the only guy I ever said, 'Don't run hard, don't pull anything.' "
Jerry Sands was Monday's emergency catcher, and Tyler Saladino has also occupied that role in the past, but Ventura sounds as though he doesn't want to court danger. Assuming Smith's back doesn't miraculously heal, the Sox are in the awkward position of needing to replace Smith before he even played a game.
Since this post is a bit of a downer, here's a positive from Monday: Jimmy Rollins made sure the 2016 White Sox wouldn't resemble last year's team by stealing third base.
In 2015, the White Sox failed to record a steal of third for the first time since 1949. They were 0-for-3, and all three were the results of pickoffs, meaning Rollins made progress just by successfully taking off for third on a pitcher. Actually finishing the job was icing on the cake.
In the discussion, it was noted that the hesitation by Ventura's Sox to steal third base isn't an inherently bad thing. The White Sox haven't had the most accomplished of baserunners, and in most cases the extra 90 feet wouldn't be worth the risk of sending somebody who isn't up to the task.
Caution is welcome, but it's still sad the 2015 White Sox couldn't even get halfway to executing something as unremarkable as the play above. Fortunately, plays like these -- and games like those -- help bury last year's White Sox a little more every day.