July 22, 2010
Bobby Jenks(notes) had a heck of a run going for two months, just like all of the White Sox. But with Chicago on a 2-4 skid and Jenks scuffling a bit, all bets are off with the erratic closer. Ozzie Guillen is ready to shake things up.
Jenks blew the save in Wednesday's extra-inning loss at Seattle and it's the second time in three appearances that he's been knocked around. Add up the damage and we're looking at six runs (five earned) against just four outs recorded. It doesn't matter that Jenks converted 15 straight save chances from the middle of May to the middle of July – the White Sox are in a division battle and Guillen isn't going to sit back and watch things get any worse.
"All options are open now," Guillen said after Wednesday's defeat. "I get paid to win games. ... I put the guy in with the best shot."
Normally this sort of news is a real plum for the save-speculating crowd, but things are tricky in Chicago because the White Sox have so many good relievers. J.J. Putz(notes) hasn't allowed a run over his last 25 appearances, and Matt Thornton(notes) has a similar streak over 15 outings. Sergio Santos(notes) is also in the mix, a fireballing youngster who has been tabbed as a future closer. Guillen mentioned all three of these names Wednesday night, which means this could be a matchup-driven committee for a while.
Guillen also made it clear that he'd prefer to get Jenks back to the ninth eventually and that his best bullpen, in theory, has Jenks as the closer. But in the meantime Jenks will have to earn his way back into the mix with some set-up work. He's currently carrying a 5.09 ERA for the year and there's a debate as to his velocity – Guillen says it's down of late, Jenks denies it.
If I had to speculate for saves from a non-Jenks guy, I'd go Putz first, Thornton second and Santos third, but there's no crystal ball in the World of Ozzie. As much as the Chicago bullpen is going to be matchup driven for a while, it's also going to be whim driven and mood driven; that's just how the mercurial skipper rolls.
• Joel Pineiro's(notes) recent winning streak garnered a lot of attention but mostly it's been an Orange County story. He's got a 2.37 ERA and 1.11 WHIP when working in Anaheim this season, but the stats blow up on the road (6.67 ERA, 1.59 WHIP). The Yankees kept this theme going on Wednesday afternoon, collecting 11 hits and six runs off the struggling sinkerballer. I suppose there are some road parks where Pineiro looks like a safe play, but there's no way I'd roll with him in a place like Yankee Stadium.
Javier Vazquez(notes) wasn't that much better for the Yanks (five runs allowed, just one strikeout) but he did just enough to get the victory. Day games have been the bugaboo for Vazquez; he's got a 6.16 ERA under the sunbeams, but it trims down to 3.77 (with a 1.15 WHIP) under the lights.
• Batting practice is pretty much a private affair for home teams in baseball; they're just finishing up their cuts when the gates are opened. But the Pirates gave their PNC Park faithful a treat over the last two days, saving their batting practice for the actual game.
The Bucs bashed David Bush in the series opener and on Wednesday night it was Randy Wolf's(notes) turn to get lit up (13 H, 12 R). Delwyn Young(notes) and Pedro Alvarez(notes) homered off the struggling lefty, and Alvarez added a second clout against Kameron Loe(notes) three innings later. Alvarez now has four homers in the series and seven in his last 14 games; he's starting to look comfortable after a messy opening go-round with the club.
"Obviously, those first few weeks, it's a million miles an hour, and as time goes on you get used to it a little bit more and more," the 23-year-old rookie said. "You kind of just play and not try to do too much, and that's what's going on right now."
Sounds like the kid has seen plenty of Bull Durham; those are quotes straight from Crash Davis on the bus. Milwaukee manager Ken Macha is more to the point. "I think we're going to need a little advice on how to pitch to Alvarez," he shrugged. Alvarez is currently available in 85 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
• Houston's big trading chip is definitely right-hander Roy Oswalt(notes), but teams would be wise to also consider Brett Myers(notes), who's quietly having a solid year of his own. Myers averages just under seven innings per start and his 3.24 ERA is the lowest mark of his career. He'd have a lot more than seven wins if the Astros weren't such a mediocre ballclub; Myers certainly pitched well enough to win at Wrigley on Wednesday (7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 8 K) but had to settle for a no-decision. So long as Myers doesn't land in the AL East, I'd give his fantasy value a spike with just about any contending club.
• Cliff Pennington(notes) batted leadoff for the Athletics on Wednesday while Coco Crisp(notes) dropped to ninth; it's a logical flip to make given that Pennington has reached base about 40 percent of the time over the last two months. Alas, Pennington didn't do much with the immediate chance, going 0-for-4 with a walk while Crisp went 2-for-4. Pennington is owned in just 20 percent of Yahoo! leagues; this is not a bad speed option (15 steals) for the middle infield.
Injury Blog: Carlos Gonzalez(notes) reinjured his index finger and left early on Wednesday. He's considered day-to-day. … Fred Lewis(notes) tweaked his ankle and missed the second half of Toronto's loss at Kansas City. … Austin Kearns(notes) still has a sore knee, which has allowed Jayson Nix(notes) to pick up two starts in left field this week. … David Eckstein(notes) (calf) went on the 15-day DL, which pushes Kid Hairston over to second base. … Ramon Hernandez(notes) (knee) should come off the DL on Thursday, and might get a start at first to rest Joey Votto(notes). … The White Sox continue to play it safe with Carlos Quentin's(notes) hand injury. … Nate McLouth(notes) (post-concussion) got back to the Braves but was buried in the batting order, hitting eighth. … Will Venable(notes) (back) is off the DL and stole his 15th base for the Padres, though he'll have trouble getting anything past platoon at-bats. … Carl Crawford(notes) (groin) didn't play Wednesday afternoon, as expected.
Speed Round: Ty Wigginton(notes) clubbed his second homer in two days, heating up just in time for the trade season. And remember the Luke Scott(notes) rules; he homered twice on Tuesday, then posted a 4-1-2-1 line Wednesday. Ride him out for the rest of the homestand at least. … Andrew Bailey(notes) needed a day off so Michael Wuertz(notes) worked the ninth against Boston. … Generally I don't like to use any pitcher fresh off the disabled list and Clay Buchholz(notes) provided another piece of evidence in Oakland (five runs over four innings). … Bronson Arroyo's(notes) seven-run game looks worse than it actually was; he was squeezed on a bunch of low-ball strikes and Miguel Cairo(notes) couldn't corral what would have been an inning-ending line-out double play (Scott Rolen(notes), four inches taller, makes that play easily). This doesn't mean Arroyo gets a long-term endorsement, just know that this outing could have been a lot better.
Detroit needed a shutdown effort like plasma and Max Scherzer(notes) gave it to them against Texas (7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 5 K). … If the Blue Jays want to shop Jose Bautista(notes), mark down the White Sox and Tigers as interested parties. … Although Charlie Manuel refuses to call it a platoon, basically that's what's going on right now between Raul Ibanez(notes) and Ben Francisco(notes) in left field. The next southpaw matchup comes Sunday against Colorado's Jeff Francis(notes). … Chris Johnson(notes) hated to leave Wrigley Field. He went 6-for-13 with two homers and a walk over the three-game set. … Arizona shocked the world by getting eight scoreless innings from its bullpen in Wednesday's extra-inning victory over the Mets. Meanwhile, Jerry Manuel managed strictly by the save rule and never got Francisco Rodriguez into the 14-inning affair. … Chad Billingsley(notes) went the route against the Giants, a five-hit shutout that expended 125 pitches. Let's hope this doesn't have a carryover effect at San Diego next week.
Images courtesy Associated Press (Jenks, Alvarez) and Getty Images (Gonzalez)