The Chicago White Sox dropped the opening game of a three-game series with the Kansas City Royals by a score of 7-5, falling to 2-2 on the young season. Although it has only been four games, the White Sox have been on a bit of a rollercoaster ride to start the season.
Given that, there is plenty to talk about as the first week of action comes to a close.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Jose Abreu will be worth every penny of his 6-year $68 million contract. All of the reports from spring training indicated that the free agent first baseman had tremendous work ethic and displayed professionalism with his approach to the game. Not only that, but the guy can flat out hit! Abreu went 0-for-4 this afternoon, but he did pick up his 6th RBI of the season and is still hitting .313 with two doubles and a triple. Probably the most impressive aspect of Abreu’s hot start has been the power that he has shown to both right and center field. The ball seems to jump off Abreu’s bat, so if he continues to drive the ball to all fields, he will put up some serious numbers when the weather warms up.
Alejandro De Aza is doing everything he can to prove that he deserves everyday at-bats in left field by hitting three home runs versus the Minnesota Twins. I have been pretty adamant about my preference of Dayan Viciedo for the long-term, but I have to give credit when it is due. Despite the hot start, De Aza will have to prove that he can play better defensively and improve on his base running skills before I start to campaign for him. Last season, I saw way too many instances where either he wasn’t paying attention or lacked the fundamentals necessary to be an everyday player. Regardless of what happens, De Aza will find his way into the lineup or another team’s lineup via trade if he continues to hit.
Don’t look now, but Tyler Flowers has seven hits in his last eight at-bats to give him a .571 average. Obviously, this won’t last, but it is nice to see some production offensively from the catching position. I doubt that Flowers has “figured it out” and will be a .280 hitter, but the lineup will be a lot stronger if he can hit just .230-.240 with 15-plus home runs. We’ll see what happens as the season progress, but for now just enjoy it.
Chris Sale’s Opening Day victory was one of the best performances I have ever seen from him. The final line may not look as glamorous as his other stellar outings (7.1 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 8 K), but the way he pitched impressed me the most. Early on in the game, it was apparent that Sale did not have his best stuff (particularly his devastating slider), but he battled through it. After giving up two runs on two hits and a walk in the third inning, Sale settled down and relied primarily on his fastball and changeup to get through the Twins’ lineup. Sale retired 11 of the last 12 batters he faced, fanning four of the last five before departing with one out in the eighth inning.
Newly acquired Adam Eaton is also off to a fast start in a White Sox uniform. The leadoff man has done a great job getting on-base (.421 OBP) with five hits, two walks, and an HBP during his first 19 plate appearances. Eaton has definitely been the sparkplug that he was labeled as, and it is refreshing to see after watching an offense that looked dead for the better part of 2013. Not only has he done well at the plate, Eaton also made a fine running catch before slamming into the wall to rob Oswaldo Arcia of a game tying extra-base hit during yesterday’s contest.
While there have been plenty of bright spots, there have been some troubling issues as well.
Most notably, the bullpen has been brutal to start the season. Before the opener on Monday, manager Robin Ventura named Matt Lindstrom as the team’s closer going forward. I was really surprise by the move at the time, but it sort of makes sense now. Nate Jones was the favorite to land the closing gig in spring training, but he missed some time due to a strained glute. It appears that the injury is still an issue as Jones was placed on the 15-day disabled list this morning. It is possible that Ventura was still worried about Jones’ health heading into the season, and thus went with Lindstrom instead. Lindstrom figures to serve as team’s closer for now, but I have almost no confidence in his ability to hold the job for the entire season. While Lindstrom is a quality reliever, he doesn’t possess the career strikeout rate (7.2 K/9), walk rate (3.3 BB/9), or WHIP (1.42) that would project long-term sustainability in the role. It will be interesting to see who emerges from the pack, but I’m starting to like my Daniel Webb dark-horse call a little bit more each day.
Other than the on-field play, there are two things that Robin Ventura has done that I have to question.
First, I am not a fan of Conor Gillaspie hitting third. Nothing against Conor, but he is not a three-hole hitter. I understand that he had a great spring and Ventura might be playing the hot hand, but I hope this doesn’t continue. I am a big believer in having your best hitter hit third, and the best hitter on this team is Jose Abreu.
I can’t believe I’m about to say this but, why did Ventura have Paul Konerko hit for Tyler Flowers with the game on the line on Thursday? Yes, Konerko is the better hitter, but Flowers was for 4-for-4 and Konerko had been sitting on the bench for three hours. Thankfully it doesn’t seem as though that move fazed Flowers since he had a three-hit game today, but I wouldn’t be too happy about being pulled after getting four hits in a game. Having said that, it is important to point out that Ventura pushed all the right buttons during Wednesday’s comeback win by having Paul Konerko pinch-hit for Alejandro De Aza and then Dayan Viciedo for Tyler Flowers. Both of those moves were instrumental to the outcome of the game.
After four games I feel pretty much the same as I did before the season started. This White Sox team will be vastly improved over last year’s team. With a little luck, this team should be right around .500 at the end of the year.