COMMENTARY | A convergence of issues is leading to several potential lineup changes and demotions/promotions for the Chicago White Sox. The recoveries of Gordon Beckham, John Danks, and Angel Sanchez mean that three current players will be demoted or released. The poor play of others, like Jeff Keppinger and Tyler Flowers, leave them likely to see their portion of playing time decrease if their struggles persist.
Gordon Beckham Returns, Keppinger or Gillaspie to Bench
Gordon Beckham began his rehab assignment in Triple-A Charlotte on Saturday, May 18. Nothing concrete has been floated in terms of his timetable, but it seems unlikely that he will spend any longer than a week rehabbing if there are no setbacks. This presents the culmination of a problem I foresaw a couple weeks ago in my article about how Conor Gillaspie's great play and Jeff Keppinger's poor play will likely result in neither player getting the right amount of playing time when Beckham returns.
Conor Gillaspie has clearly earned his way into a starting position, or so it seems. Likewise, Keppinger seems to have played himself out of the lineup with sub-par defense and even worse offense. The right baseball decision seems to be relegating Keppinger to the bench, leaving Gillaspie at third, and plugging Beckham back in at second.
Unfortunately, things are not so simple. Keppinger was awarded a three-year contract as the White Sox's marquee move of the offseason, coming off of a career year in Tampa Bay. He is not owed a tremendous amount of money, $12 million in total, but it is enough that management will not simply bench him for good. Look for Beckham's return to reduce Keppinger's time, but not replace it entirely. Keppinger will get starts at several positions, mostly third base, against most left-handed starters and fill in occasionally at other positions in the infield.
Reshuffling Role Players
With Beckham's activation from the disabled list, it is likely that Casper Wells will find himself the odd man out. Wells, on his fourth team of the 2013 season already, has not produced much in limited at-bats and was rendered mostly unnecessary when Dayan Viciedo returned from his injury. DeWayne Wise will likely be the only outfielder on the bench, though Angel Sanchez could likely suit up in a crunch, as well as Adam Dunn.
Angel Sanchez is finally rehabbing in Triple-A Charlotte as well and will account for a far simpler roster move. When Sanchez went down with injury, Tyler Greene was called up to take his place. Despite some hits in the early going, Greene's contributions have been minimal on both defense and offense. His greater versatility on defense and switch-hitting ability should make the decision to keep him simple.
Donnie Veal was called back up to the White Sox before Saturday, May 18's game. After a complete shellacking, he may be an immediate candidate for a demotion. His stellar performance as lefty specialist in the second half of last season appears to have been just a flash in the pan. There are not obvious candidates to replace him in Triple-A Charlotte, but left-handed David Purcey may get a brief look.
John Danks Returns, Dylan Axelrod or Hector Santiago to Bullpen
John Danks' return in the next week or so will also cause some shuffling. The White Sox may choose to keep Veal until Danks' activation, in which case Veal would certainly be demoted. This does not solve the issue of who remains in the starting rotation. The situation was starting to shape up clearly in favor of Hector Santiago over opening day fifth starter Dylan Axelrod until he was pulled quickly in Saturday, May 18's start in Anaheim after walking three batters in a row. He was credited with three earned runs in just over three innings.
I advocate going to a six-man rotation for the near term, but MLB.com's Scott Merkin has reported that the White Sox coaching staff is not warm to this idea. Hector Santiago is inarguably the more talented pitcher of the two. Many would also agree that Santiago will outperform Axelrod in the rotation, if given the chance.
The other factor is the one created by the fall of Donnie Veal. While Matt Thornton has been of the most reliable left-handed relievers in recent memory, he is not a prototypical lefty specialist. The White Sox may want another lefty in the bullpen, though it should also be noted that Santiago is not statistically any more effective against left-handed hitters than right-handed ones. Manager Robin Ventura has been fairly mum on this topic so far, however. Scott Merkin did report that Ventura stated he feels Axelrod and Santiago are equally capable of relief pitching and that it would not impact their decision, though that statement was made before Veal's implosion against the Angels.
John Danks had more trouble with his control in Saturday, May 18's outing, making it only 4 and 2/3 innings and walking 4 while striking out 5. He did only surrender 2 hits, allowing 2 earned runs out of 3 total. Out of 95 pitches, only 51 were strikes. So far, there are no new reports on his velocity. While no management has commented yet, Danks may need another start in the minor leagues before making his season debut in MLB.
If not, he is currently on a schedule that would have him pitching against the Miami Marlins, which would be a nice transition matchup between Triple-A opposition and high-powered American League offenses.
Tyler Flowers Challenged by Josh Phegley
Finally, as I mentioned in my article updating some notable White Sox minor league performances, Triple-A backstop Josh Phegley is putting up astounding numbers. Tyler Flowers will not be replaced yet, but he will have to be showing improvement by the time June rolls around if he wants to avoid having Phegley threaten his starting position.
There is good news, despite Saturday's disappointing loss to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. This White Sox team, fresh off of a four-game winning streak, should be receiving reinforcements soon. Beckham and Danks should provide solid performance and emotional boosts to the clubhouse, while Angel Sanchez and whichever starting pitcher loses his spot will bolster the team's depth. Furthermore, Josh Phegley is currently providing intriguing depth in Triple-A Charlotte in case Tyler Flowers is unable to turn around his slow, streaky start.
Jacob Long, a native to the Chicago area, is a writer for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. He has experience covering sports and news for WMC-TV in Memphis, TN and has contributed to sports blogs such as The Flapship. Follow him on Twitter @jlongrc.
- Sports & Recreation
- Jeff Keppinger
- John Danks
- Gordon Beckham
- Chicago White Sox
- Tyler Flowers
- Angel Sanchez
- Hector Santiago
- Conor Gillaspie