ROOKIES SPARK WHITE SOX REVIVAL
With today's 2-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals, the Chicago White Sox are 49-39 and 3.5 games ahead of preseason favorite Detroit. What I have observed is that the Sox are another testament to something I have pointed out for years. That is that the foundation of a good 21st Century team is the bullpen.
This should not surprise anyone as they have seen how the Rays can piece together a bullpen with the likes of Kyle Farnsworth, Grant Balfour and Joel Peralta as they have done in the past. What makes this bullpen intriguing is the rookies. Due to the fact that four veterans (Jesse Crain, John Danks, Brian Bruney and Phillip Humber) on the DL and the performance of Will Ohman causing the White Sox to designate him for assignment. the Sox have eight rookie pitchers on the roster. All eight of them have come out of the pen.
The loses of Humber and Danks in the rotation have been remedied by the additions of Jose Quintana and Dylan Axelrod. Axelrod has had three rough outings and Quintana was off against Kansas City on Friday. Besides that, Axelrod has been nothing short of a solid 5 and Quintana has been electric. Axelrod, 26, held the Yankees to two runs in 7 innings and earned his first victory in Friday's 14-inning marathon in Kansas City. Quintana, 23, had an ERA of 2.04 going into Friday's start against the Royals. Both have come out of the bullpen even after their move to the starting rotation.
Jhan Mariñez, Leyson Séptimo and Brian Omogrosso are the newest additions to the roster. Mariñez, 23, made his first appearance in the 14-inning marathon against the Royals Friday. He gave up no runs over 1.2 innings. Mariñez was part of compensation sent to the White Sox by what was then known as the Florida Marlins for the hiring of manager Ozzie Guillén. Séptimo, 27, made his major league debut in June against the Yankees. In his debut, he struck out Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Canó. Septimo participated in the 2009 Futures game and was a Southern League All-Star as a member of the Mobile BayBears in the Diamondbacks organization. Omogrosso, 28, debuted less than a week before the All-Star break and has hasn't quite held it down in his first three appearances. Home grown, the White Sox selected Omogrosso in the 6th round of the 2006 Draft. He brings a high leg kick and a last name you don't see every day.
Another home grown pitcher the Sox have brought up this season is Nate Jones. One word to describe Jones this season is consistent. Jones, 26, has made 34 appearances out of the bullpen with a 3.43 ERA. He has proven to be everything you expect out of a 7th inning guy. He throws hard and is reliable. That's all anyone can ask of him. That and, of course, the not-so-subtle irony of watching him walkout to "Mr. Jones" by the Counting Crows
The back of the bullpen not named Matt Thornton includes rookies Addison Reed and Hector Santiago. Santiago, 24, had a strong Spring Training and opened the season as the closer. Santiago made his ML debut around this time last year against the Royals. His fastball touches 96 and his repertoire also includes a screwball. Inland Empire native Addison Reed was named the closer at the end of May. Reed, 23, has converted 14 of his 16 save opportunities. He has the mental makeup of a big game closer, and as I predicted this preseason, has the potential to be a centerpiece of this White Sox bullpen for years to come. Reed has a live fastball that sits in the upper 90's. It is worth noting that he was the closer at San Diego State when Strasburg played for the Aztecs. He was also the lone Sox representative on Baseball America's top 100 prospect list. [Link: http://www.baseballamerica.
com/today/prospects/rankings/ top-100-prospects/2012/ 2612998.html]
After watching this Sox rookie class, I am confident that these kids can hold it down in the midst of a pennant race while other arms are recovering. There are only two questions I have for the Sox bullpen. First, How will Nestor Molina fare in his imminent September call-up? Lastly, what will Addison Reed choose as his walkout song. [Link:http://mlb.mlb.com/news/wall/
1 - Baseball America, Hyperlink from the word "list."
2 - MLB: Hyperlink from the words "walkout song."
Photo Caption: Addison Reed, seen tossing his cap in frustration, has endured the ups and downs of being a rookie closer in an effort to establish himself as the centerpiece of the White Sox bullpen.
Photo credit: http://espn.go.com