Coaches finding fixes for Paulino, Johnson, who aren’t only walk culprits
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN Staff Reporter April 8, 2014 11:04PM
Updated: April 8, 2014 11:05PM
DENVER — Walks will kill you, the old saying goes.
If you watch and listen to White Sox television broadcasts, you suspect they are, at the very least, hazardous to Ken Harrelson’s health.
However you measure the damage done to the Sox pitching staff, the end result is not good. Through the first seven games, Sox pitchers issued an American League-high 31 walks. They pock-marked five games with five or more free passes, and pitching coach Don Cooper and manager Robin Ventura know it has to stop.
‘‘We’ve always been good with walks,’’ Cooper said. ‘‘Listen, if you’re not going to throw it over, we will have to get somebody else. If you constantly don’t throw it over . . . Major-league pitchers throw it over.’’
Thirteen of the 31 walks Sox pitchers issued before their game against the Colorado Rockies on Tuesday night at Coors Field came around to score. Hits are inevitable, so mixing multiple walks into a pitcher’s line will, well, kill you.
‘‘They know that — we’re always on them about being aggressive and trying to hit the glove and stay down in the zone,’’ Ventura said. ‘‘They know they’re not supposed to walk guys. It’s not about effort — it’s being able to do it.’’
Felipe Paulino’s second start Monday, in which he walked four over 4 1/3 innings, brought the walk problem to a head.
‘‘The slider is the missing link,’’ Cooper said. ‘‘He’s making too many mistakes with his breaking balls in the zone. . . . That’s a mistake that has been coming up too much for him.’’
Cooper said he’s making a slight ‘‘alteration’’ in Paulino’s delivery and also addressed a minor mechanical issue with rookie Erik Johnson, who gets the start that will close out a six-game road trip. Johnson walked three in 42/3 innings against the Royals on Friday in Kansas City.
The frustrating thing in Paulino’s case is he’s physically fit two seasons removed from elbow surgery.
‘‘We’ll see if we can shape Paulino’s starts up a little better,’’ Cooper said. ‘‘He’s certainly strong enough, he certainly has enough stuff. Same thing with Erik.’’
It didn’t help that Paulino was not in lockstep with catcher Tyler Flowers’ pitch selections, which seemed to slow him and prevent him from getting into a good rhythm.
‘‘He throws enough strikes early [in counts] and then he . . . starts picking around and getting yourself back into a hitter’s count,’’ Ventura said. ‘‘These are good hitters. Anytime you flip that over where you give the advantage to the hitter, you’re picking around the zone and end up walking a guy, you find yourself in trouble. Trust your stuff and be aggressive.’’
Paulino and Johnson aren’t the only pitchers looking to throw more strikes. John Danks walked four in seven innings against the Royals on Saturday, Jose Quintana, who started Tuesday against the Rockies, issued three in six innings against the Minnesota Twins on Thursday. Reliever Scott Downs has walked three (one intentional) in 1 1/3 innings and reliever Donnie Veal has walked two in 1 1/3.
The good news for the Sox is that it’s early and all of this is magnified because we are in the second week of the season.
Quintana walked two more in the first three innings Tuesday but wasn’t affected, and the Sox staked him to a 4-0 lead on home runs by Avisail Garcia and Flowers in the second and a sacrifice fly by Dayan Viciedo in the third. Michael Cuddyer’s homer in the fourth cut the Sox lead to 4-1, and Troy Tulowitzki’s RBI double in the sixth made it 4-2.
Jose Abreu hit his first career homer in the seventh, a three-run shot on the 12th pitch of an at-bat against Chad Bettis.