White Sox still battling despite key injuries
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN Staff Reporter May 6, 2014 10:18PM
Updated: June 8, 2014 6:45AM
These White Sox were rebuilt with an eye toward being good enough in a year or two to be a real, live postseason contender, and if —big if — the chips fell the right way, maybe even good enough to contend in 2014.
One-fifth of the way into the season, the chips are spilling on the floor and rolling every which way.
Staff ace Chris Sale, on the disabled list with a flexor muscle strain, will miss his fourth start Wednesday, and when he’s coming back is anybody’s guess. Right fielder Avisail Garcia is out for the year, and leadoff man Adam Eaton is on the DL with sore legs.
The pitching staff — cited by general manager Rick Hahn as a reason to not write off 2014 as a rebuilding year only — is in such disarray that relief pitcher Hector Noesi, who was shelled by the Sox while wearing a Texas Rangers uniform in early April, was claimed off waivers by the Sox and shoved into the starting rotation.
Noesi, who was 0-6 with a 7.04 ERA in career starts on the road, made his second start against the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Tuesday night and is one of nine Sox to start a game over their first 34.
Injuries to Sale, Felipe Paulino and a demotion to Class AAA of Erik Johnson has rendered three-fifths of the Opening Day starting rotation helpless. One of the remaining starters, John Danks — who faces the Cubs on Wednesday at U.S. Cellular Field — has been woefully ineffective in his last two starts.
Thank goodness, and Cuba, for American League Player of the Month Jose Abreu, Dayan Viciedo and Alexei Ramirez.
Somehow, someway, the Sox were in a position to reach .500 with a win against the Cubs. They can see what the plan is for the future, but players, by nature, won’t settle for losing.
“We had enough of that last year,’’ closer Matt Lindstrom, 34, said before the game Tuesday. “Nobody likes to lose. Everyone is looking forward, but we can compete this year. We’re here to compete.’’
For Lindstrom, Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko, who in all probability or certainty won’t be here when the Sox’ young core is expected to hit its stride, to heck with looking ahead.
“Every year is a year of your career, and you want to win,’’ Lindstrom said. “It’s so much more fun to win. It’s not cliché.’’
Winning without Sale just isn’t going to happen. But in the Sox’ current state, there’s no reason to rush back a franchise pitcher not suited for cold weather, so all the time that is necessary will be taken.
His absence, though, is being felt in the clubhouse.
“It does take a little wind out of our sail because every time he takes the mound, we have a better than average chance to win the game,’’ Lindstrom said. “For one thing, he leaves it all on the field. That’s the type you want for your No. 1. He sets the tone for everyone else in the rotation; the starters have a kind of competition between each other. One goes seven innings, the next guy want to do better.’’
Lindstrom said the worst thing for a pitcher is to throw with any level of fear that your next pitch might put you on the shelf. That explains why Sale needs to be all the way back before he comes back.
“We know this is precautionary,’’ Lindstrom said. “It’s not how you start; it’s how you finish. And we’re going to need him to finish.’’