The White Sox defense seems to think it’s still spring training. At least on balls in the air.
It’s a wonder why Jake Peavy hadn’t been able to stay healthy since being traded to the White Sox in 2009. He finally gave Chicago 200-plus innings last year, rebounding from a barrage of career-threatening injuries and subsequent surgeries on his shoulder and back. But 107 pitches is not worth the ware of a mere six innings, as was the case Wednesday in his 2013 debut.
Granted, the White Sox lineup bashed their resurgent ace to a 5-2 win over Kansas City by virtue of four home runs. Adam Dunn, Tyler Flowers, Dayan Viciedo, and Alexi Ramirez each went deep to account for all of Chicago’s runs. But if the Sox keep taking the beer-league softball approach, especially on the other side of the ball, their starting pitchers will be hard pressed to reach the sixth-inning benchmark as Peavy did Wednesday.
In the case of Peavy – the 2009 NL Cy Young Award winner – watching his defense play him into stress innings could prove costly, as the White Sox are relying on the injury-plagued veteran to lead their very young and very untested rotation.
The White Sox committed three errors in the game, but that was just the half of it. The Royals tabbed their first hit in the second when center fielder Alejandro De Aza backed off a sinking liner off the bat of Salvador Perez in which De Aza looked to have enough momentum to make a catch. At the time, it seemed like a nitpick. However, later in the inning, Lorenzo Cain lifted a foul pop-up that third baseman Jeff Keppinger gave up on to avoid running into the WGN TV camera, but the ball dropped on the warning track several feet short of the camera well. A few innings later, Viciedo allowed a foul fly to drop that he looked to have a beat on.
Meanwhile, Peavy was playing with unparalleled enthusiasm. In the fifth, he tackled first base with all the zeal of a kid on a little league diamond, diving for a throw from first baseman Paul Konerko in an attempt to convert a 3-1 putout. The ball was ultimately called foul, but Peavy got dirty tumbling across the bag, and for his effort even earned a bright raspberry on his non-throwing elbow.
To be fair, Viciedo later put an impressive dive on a liner by Alex Gordon into the left-field corner. The ball glanced off his outstretched glove and bounded into the seats for a ground-rule double. But in the seventh, Viciedo made way for defensive replacement DeWayne Wise, who promptly booted a fairly routine shallow fly to left.
Chicago’s bullpen was an impressive parade of five pitchers combining for three innings of shutout ball. And, if this is a formula that can endure over a 162-game schedule, then I will revisit the beer-league softball strategy, and apologize to the Sox if their starting rotation proves as solid as a 2005 White Sox World Championship rotation that saw four pitchers hurl 200-plus innings.
But this year’s rotation – with three starters totaling 62 big-league starts between them – is not nearly as adept. And such a rotation can’t endure such dispassionate play in the field over the course of an entire season.