Injuries have limited White Sox in year since beginning to reshape roster
BY TONI GINNETTI For Sun-Times Media July 6, 2014 8:28PM
Chicago White Sox' Jose Abreu (79) and first base coach Daryl Boston (32) smile after Abreu hit a single against the Seattle Mariners during the first inning of a baseball game in Chicago, Sunday, July 6, 2014. The White Sox won 1-0. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh) ORG XMIT: CXS113
Updated: July 6, 2014 9:59PM
The White Sox held the high card as sellers at the non-waiver trade deadline last season, using right-hander Jake Peavy as the bait to acquire young outfielder Avisail Garcia from the Detroit Tigers in a three-team deal that also included the Boston Red Sox.
The trade capped a month in which general manager Rick Hahn looked to the future, moving two other pitchers — relievers Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain — before trading outfielder Alex Rios to the Texas Rangers for infielder Leury Garcia in August.
The Sox thought hitting was the primary need for a team that ranked at the bottom of the American League in runs scored. They had a stable of young arms (Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Hector Santiago, Andre Rienzo) and a sound bullpen (Addison Reed, Nate Jones, Matt Lindstrom).
They continued to address their offensive needs during the offseason, signing Cuban star Jose Abreu to a six-year, $68 million contract.
But the eternal lesson of trades still holds true: Their impact is unpredictable.
Peavy proved to be a good fit and helped the Red Sox win the World Series last season. Garcia, meanwhile, still figures prominently in the Sox’ future, even though a shoulder injury suffered in mid-April will cost him at least the majority of the season. He hopes to return by the end of the season, but the benefit would be more psychological than anything.
‘‘Everyone is happy with his improvement and where he’s going, but it doesn’t mean he’s going to play this year,’’ manager Robin Ventura said. ‘‘We know the prognosis is good as far as continuing to improve [physically].’’
Garcia’s injury was a jolt, but injuries have been even harder on the pitching staff, which was a perceived strength.
The Sox thought enough of their rotation to trade Santiago to the Arizona Diamondbacks for center fielder Adam Eaton, the leadoff man they needed. They signed free-agent right-hander Felipe Paulino to bolster the rotation, but he appeared in only four games before suffering a rotator-cuff injury. Sale was sidelined for a month with a strained flexor muscle in his left arm.
The injuries to the relievers have been just as bad. The Sox thought their bullpen was strong enough to absorb the loss of Reed, whom they traded to the Diamondbacks for third-base prospect Matt Davidson, but Jones was hurt in spring training and Lindstrom early in the season.
‘‘Jones has been big for us the last couple of years, getting big outs in the eighth inning,’’ Ventura said. ‘‘That’s why you knew something wasn’t right [from spring training].’’
The rotation got a lift Sunday from Hector Noesi (3-5), who pitched 62/3 scoreless innings in the Sox’ 1-0 victory against the Seattle Mariners. It was his best outing for the Sox, who picked him up off waivers from the Texas Rangers in late April. Relievers Eric Surkamp and Jake Petricka (third save) made the lead stand up the rest of the way.
But the biggest lift has come from Abreu, who has been better than advertised. His selection Sunday to the American League All-Star team in his rookie season was more validation of the Sox’ all-out pursuit of him last offseason.
‘‘He’s one who’s going to continue to improve,’’ Ventura said of Abreu, the first Sox rookie to be named an All-Star since Ron Kittle in 1983.