Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Sox streak snapped, lose last two in Oakland

While it was sad to see the White Sox’ eight-game streak come to an end, especially on a pair of miffed fly balls late in the last two games against Oakland, it was a pretty nice run.

For now the Sox need to think about what’s going to happen with their roster. After injuries to infielders Pablo Ozuna, Juan Uribe and Tadahito Iguchi, the Sox had to resort to desperate measures in Wednesday’s 2-1 loss.

Joe Crede played his first major league game at shortstop, while Chris Widger played his first professional game ever at third. Then after Crede was given the boot by umpires in the ninth, Jermaine Dye took over at shortstop for the first time since before he was a pro.

With the team with its back against the wall, I have to say I’m impressed with the creativity Sox manager Ozzie Guillen showed by moving his players around the way he did. After all, what would have been the options?

The Sox could have optioned lefty Neal Cotts and brought up an infielder from Charlotte. That probably wasn’t a good idea, since the shortstop options there included 30-year-old Felix Martinez and recently re-signed Greg Norton, who probably can’t handle the position anymore at the tender age of 32.

Angel Gonzalez, who is hitting .333 with a .424 on-base percentage for Birmingham (Class AA) might have been an option, too, but besides the fact his numbers have only been over 48 at-bats, I don’t know that we can even coin his hitting thus far a success. He’s slugging .354 with one extra-base hit this season. He’d get the bat knocked out of his hands in the majors.

So, even ignoring the fact that Cotts is the freshest arm in the Sox pen at the moment, it doesn’t look like the Sox had any internal options, making the first plan ineffective.

That means the other option, putting one of the injured guys on the DL, wouldn’t work out either. The Sox would still be working with the same options.

In addition to that, I’m sure the Sox wouldn’t want to risk losing one of those guys for 15 days if it turns out the injury isn’t very serious. In the case of Osuna (swollen/bruised wrist) and Iguchi (bruised knee), they probably just need a few days to heal. Uribe, with his hamstring injury, might really need a visit to the DL.

So the Sox got by with what they had, and it seemed to work out OK. At least it worked out well enough that nobody should be bemoaning the loss of Wilson Valdez.


Moving to his left:
Joe Crede acquitted himself well at shortstop, or at least as well as you can expect from a guy that hasn’t played the position in almost five years. He didn’t make an error and was involved in a pair of double plays.

This got me thinking about the last time the Sox moved their regular third baseman over to shortstop. It was May 20, 1994, in another game in Oakland. Craig Grebeck had to leave the game, so then-manager Gene Lamont shifted Robin Ventura off the hot corner over to shortstop.

Sure, you could point out other guys like Juan Uribe, Greg Norton, Chris Snopek or any of the other guys the Sox have trotted out to third base and say, “Hey, didn’t those third basemen play some short?” To which I’d respond, “Yes, they did, but they weren’t THE team’s third baseman.”

What makes this so special is that Joe Crede has rarely played the position, and if not for the injuries in Tuesday’s game, would never be asked to. Unlike those other guys that were utility infielder types.

So how did Ventura do? He made his ninth and 10th errors of the season in eight chances, to begin and end his career at shortstop with a .750 fielding percentage.

Ventura went 2-for-5 with a run scored and an RBI in that game. The Sox won 13-6 and picked up a game on Cleveland, boosting their lead to 1 ½ games in the first year of the AL Central Division. Ah, what might have been that season.

Worth his money:
Freddy Garcia lowered his ERA to 2.83 by tossing seven innings of one-hit ball. His WHIP for the season is now an outstanding 1.00. He walked two and struck out four. His K-rate of 4.89 is still pretty low, so maybe his ERA is in for a jump. We’ll see, but for now he’s earning every penny of his 3-year, $27 million contract.

Keep your eye on the ball:
Dye dropped a ball in ninth inning of Tuesday’s 9-7 loss, with the error leading directly to Marco Scutaro beginning the inning on second base. Without the mistake, Oakland still might have pushed across a run for the win, but we’ll never know. Maybe the Sox could have won their ninth.

Rowand lost one in the sun to give Oakland a similar head start in Wednesday’s ninth inning.

How these guys play defense is important to watch, because beyond the obvious reason, it could help determine who gets their playing time cut the most once Frank Thomas returns.

After going 0-for-4 Wednesday, Dye’s average slid to .177, with his OBP also at .203. As we get ready to wrap up the end of the season’s first month, the Sox need to seriously think about finding more room for Dye on the bench.

Rowand hasn’t been as putrid as Dye, but his .253/.306/.354 line is going to have to improve, or he could be spending more of his time watching Scott Posednik play center field. From the bench.

Benching Dye every other day in favor of Carl Everett seems like a good idea to me, while benching Rowand seems like a hasty move, and probably a bad one. But these guys are going to be fighting for playing time. No matter what Guillen says about Frank having to fight his way back into the lineup, there’s no way any of these other guys are going to beat out the team’s best hitter for playing time.

Posednik went 0-for-4 with no walks to see his OBP slide all the way to .348. No stolen bases.

On Deck:
The Sox don’t play Thursday, and will use the day to see if they can get their middle infielders healthy. Again, my guess is Uribe gets DLed, the other guys maybe need a few more days off. Could lead to some interesting lineups in this weekend’s series against Detroit.

Jose Contreras looks healthy enough to start Friday, while Hernandez will be Saturday’s starter.

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