Frank Thomas: Don't blame White Sox bullpen for bad start

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Alex Shapiro
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Frank Thomas: Don't blame White Sox bullpen for bad start originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

One of the White Sox' strengths heading into the 2021 season, if not their greatest strength, was the bullpen. Yet one week into the season, the White Sox find themselves with a 3-4 record, with all four losses belonging to relievers. On the surface, it seems like the bullpen should take the lion’s share of the blame for the slow start, especially with Matt Foster’s sixth inning meltdown on Wednesday fresh in our minds. But on "White Sox Postgame Live," Ozzie Guillén and Frank Thomas deflected blame from the relievers, saying the team hasn’t set up the bullpen for success.

“Why is the bullpen taking all the heat?” Guillén said on Wednesday night. “Because the (starters) aren’t going deep enough. I know — I was a player and a manager — I know it’s early in the season, but those guys have got to go a little longer. Tony (La Russa) had to use the bullpen a lot, and with the new rule that they have to face three batters, it makes it harder for the manager. Then it’s not easy to control those games.”

Speaking specifically about Wednesday’s 8-4 loss to the Mariners, Guillen would’ve given Dallas Keuchel a longer leash knowing the bullpen had been taxed over the previous week. Keuchel was at 93 pitches, nursing a 4-1 lead, with men on second and third with nobody out when La Russa made the move for Foster.

“The way I looked at the game, with how many pitches there were, I’m thinking another inning from him. You know what, you made all this mess? You’ve got to take care of your own mess.”

“You thought with three top veterans at the top of this rotation, they could easily coast into the 6th inning,” Thomas said. “That hasn’t happened this first week.”

Not only have Sox starters not coasted into the 6th inning, they haven’t made it past the 6th inning at all. In seven games, the deepest any starter has gone is 5.1 innings (Lucas Giolito hit that mark twice). That’s left a whopping 25.2 innings for the relievers to cover in seven games.

But being a hitter himself, Thomas wasn’t going to let the offense off the hook either. Despite averaging six runs per game, which is tied for sixth in MLB, the White Sox could’ve scored even more. With runners in scoring position, the team is hitting a paltry .222, which ranks 19th in the league per FanGraphs. They’ve already left 55 men on base this season, the third most in the league.

“On paper, it looked like it was going to be a lot easier for us this season because we’ve had such a strong offense,” Thomas said. “We’ve got to find a way to come home, get this offense going, so that the bullpen get back comfortable and the starters get back comfortable.”

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