Sox’ pen looking mighty after rough start
By DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN firstname.lastname@example.org May 18, 2011 10:20PM
Sox center fielder Brent Lillibridge makes a great running catch on an eighth-inning fly ball. | Charles Cherney~AP
Updated: June 22, 2011 7:01PM
The White Sox’ bullpen was a problem in the past, but now it’s a strength. Sox relievers hadn’t allowed an earned run in 272/3 innings over the last 10 games before Wednesday, and in the last 13 games, the pen had surrendered one earned run over 311/3 innings (0.29 ERA).
‘‘Our bullpen can compete against anyone in the league right now,’’ manager Ozzie Guillen said.
The bullpen got a night off courtesy of Jake Peavy’s complete-game win Wednesday against the visiting Cleveland Indians.
Sergio Santos is 6-for-6 in save opportunities and hasn’t allowed a run, Jesse Crain has seven straight scoreless outings, and Matt Thornton has three.
Sox relievers led the American League with 8.7 strikeouts per nine innings and posted a 0.74 ERA with five saves in five chances in May, down from 5.55 and six blown saves in April.
Rookie Chris Sale is still searching for consistency but has made baby steps in recent outings.
‘‘He has good enough stuff to be up there [in the late innings],’’ Guillen said. ‘‘If Chris throws strikes, he can be one of the nastiest lefties in the game.’’
Mixing it up
The Sox have used 30 different lineups in 44 games, but Wednesday’s order featured more changes than usual with right-handed hitters Alex Rios, Brent Morel and Alexei Ramirez sitting against Indians right-hander Justin Masterson. Omar Vizquel played shortstop, Dallas McPherson played third base, and Brent Lillibridge (.297), who bats right-handed, replaced Rios (.201) in center. Juan Pierre started in left after a day off.
After carrying the team offensively in April with Paul Konerko, Carlos Quentin is fighting through a rough stretch. He has two hits in his last eight games.
‘‘When he swings at pitcher’s pitches, bad pitches, not strikes, his results go down big-time,’’ hitting coach Greg Walker said. “He is so dynamic, talent-wise, that when he’s swinging good, you get unbelievable results.’’
Quentin is hitting a lot of fly balls and infield pop-ups.
‘‘Some of it is timing, where he’s not ready to swing on time, so he’s late and everything speeds up,’’ Walker said. ‘‘He needs to slow things down and make better decisions on pitches he’s swinging at.’’
Down on the farm
General manager Ken Williams said Dayan Viciedo’s conversion to right field has been too good to consider putting him back in the mix at third base. Viciedo has been taking ground balls at first base at Class AAA Charlotte, though, to give the Sox protection there in case of an injury to Konerko or Adam Dunn.
Williams said top outfield prospect Jordan Danks and Tyler Flowers, who were off to slow starts offensively, are coming around.
‘‘Jordan has shortened his swing a little bit, and Tyler Flowers, too is coming on,’’ Williams said. ‘‘Defensively [Flowers] has been outstanding. Offensively, Tyler is going to hit better here than down there, but he’s got to get here. He’s got a lot of anxiety to get here, and it’s going to take a little more time. Nothing wrong with a little more experience.’’