Four lefty starters could be staple of White Sox’ future
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN August 16, 2013 11:12PM
Sun-Times sportswriter Daryl Van Schouwen. January 27, 2012 | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times
Updated: September 18, 2013 6:16AM
MINNEAPOLIS — Pitching coach Don Cooper doesn’t see the big deal in the White Sox having a lefty-heavy starting rotation.
With Chris Sale, John Danks, Hector Santiago and Jose Quintana — who held the Minnesota Twins to two runs in a 5-2 victory to snap a 10-game road losing streak Friday — the Sox have four lefties in their rotation. Barring a trade, they could move forward with those four and a right-hander to be determined next season.
‘‘Would it be an issue if you had four righties and a left-hander?’’ Cooper said. ‘‘I can’t make it a big deal. These are our tools. When the tools work, we’ve got a chance.’’
Four lefties in a rotation is a topic of conversation because it’s unusual. Since 1950, eight teams have had 110 or more games started by lefties, including the 1975 Sox with workhorse Wilbur Wood, Jim Kaat and Claude Osteen (124) and the ’79 and ’80 Sox with Ken Kravec, Rich Wortham, Ross Baumgarten and Steve Trout (116 and 111). Some outstanding teams are in that group also, including the ’65 World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers (112) and the 1980 New York Yankees (110), who won 109 games.
The Sox project to give about 112 starts, or 69 percent, to lefties this season. They could approach 80 percent next year barring injuries.
‘‘Nothing is set in stone with regards to next year’s rotation just yet,’’ general manager Rick Hahn said Friday. ‘‘However, given how they’ve each performed and how we project their futures, all four of our left-handed starters certainly seem well-suited to continue in those roles for the long haul. While a lefty-heavy rotation could conceivably create some matchup issues with right-handed-heavy lineups, these guys have the arsenals to help neutralize some of that. Ultimately, we’ll plan to give the most innings in 2014 to the five best guys regardless of handedness.’’
While most hitters bat right-handed and have a percentage-wise advantage against lefties, that hasn’t been an issue. Quintana was limiting right-handers to a .240 average going into Friday, the fourth-best mark among American League lefties. Santiago was third at .227 and Sale fifth at .243.
‘‘I think we’ve learned how to pitch to right-handers more because we see them more often,’’ said Sale, the staff ace. ‘‘Hector’s best pitch is the fastball in to a righty, and he comes back with two different changeups away that are plus pitches. Same with John — get that cutter in on the hands with that changeup so they have to cover the outside. Quintana throws that cutter in, and he backdoors one.’’
In the end, what matters most is not which arm but the pitcher’s skill. And Cooper said his young lefties, while effective, can all get better.
‘‘If we build up their arsenals, it doesn’t matter who is standing in there, lefty or righty,’’ Cooper said. ‘‘If we make our pitches there’s a good chance they’re out.’’
Quintana, who lowered his ERA to 3.66, allowed six hits — including a solo homer by Joe Mauer in the first inning — and two walks over 6 2/3 innings. He struck out seven and gave up a second run because Wilkin Ramirez’s catchable deep fly ball in left fell by Dayan Viciedo for a triple.
Viciedo singled in two runs against Kevin Correia (8-9) in the second. Jeff Keppinger hit his third homer and Adam Dunn his 28th in the third to give Quintana a 4-1 lead.
‘‘I just tried to attack early and throw strikes,’’ Quintana said. ‘‘This was big because we needed a victory.’’