Cleveland already swept a day-night doubleheader against Chicago Monday, but we still have two more days of intra-division action between the Indians and White Sox at Progressive Field. So we caught up with CSN Chicago‘s JJ Stankevitz, who gave us an expert’s perspective on Chris Sale‘s move to the bullpen, Paul Konerko‘s torrid start, and the rest of the Chicago’s probable starters.
WAHOO’S ON FIRST: The White Sox seemed to surprise a lot of people this weekend when they announced that they were moving Chris Sale back to the bullpen. Were you surprised by the news? Is it the right move?
JJ STANKEVITZ: It’s the right move if it means Sale avoids a catastrophic arm injury. We have no idea if moving him from the rotation to bullpen will prevent that, although the Sox have a pretty good record regarding keeping pitchers healthy outside of freak accidents, so I’m at least willing to give the medical staff the benefit of the doubt.
That being said, there’s now a gaping hole in the starting rotation that looks like it’ll be filled by Eric Stults, for the time being. With Philip Humber and John Danks struggling, the Sox rotation went from solid to a major question mark in one shocking announcement (and, yes, it was shocking — it came out of nowhere, seemingly).
WAHOO’S ON FIRST: Does Sale have the stuff to hold down a rotation spot in the future, or is he in the bullpen to stay?
JJ STANKEVITZ: He had the stuff to hold down a rotation spot this year. His 2.81 ERA was virtually identical to his FIP and he had more strikeouts (29) than hits allowed (24). Unfortunately, I get the impression he’s going to be in the bullpen long-term. No matter the reasoning, that’s disappointing.
WAHOO’S ON FIRST: Paul Konerko entered the series hitting .351/.432/.629, all of which would be career highs. How has he managed to defy age like this?
JJ STANKEVITZ: There are few things more enjoyable about watching the White Sox than watching Paul Konerko hit. As he’s matured, he’s become an incredibly smart hitter — it’s rare to see him look lost on an offering anymore. And Konerko’s also become one of baseball’s most adept fastball hitters — miss your spot by just a hair with your heater, and he’ll make you pay. Even as the White Sox 2012 season descends into the depths of mediocrity, Konerko’s newfound hitting approach is one of the things that should keep Sox fans coming back to the ballpark and their TV sets.
WAHOO’S ON FIRST: What’s up with Gordon Beckham? Is he a mechanical tweak away from greatness or is he just another bust prospect?
JJ STANKEVITZ: Depends on who you ask. Hitting coach Jeff Manto and Robin Ventura think he’s on the right track with a few tweaks, but nearly every outside analyst has written him off as a bust. The answer lies somewhere in between for me — Beckham has looked better recently, but that’s relative given he was atrocious to start off the season. We’ll have a definitive answer at the end of the year, though. If Beckham winds up turning in a solid year, then no, he’s not a bust. But a repeat of 2011, and the Sox will probably need to find themselves another second baseman.
WAHOO’S ON FIRST: Who’s pitching for the White Sox this week, and what should Tribe fans expect from them?
JJ STANKEVITZ: Well, since you guys already saw Philip Humber get torched and Eric Stults tip-toe his way through six innings, let’s look at John Danks. The good news is Danks only walked one against Cleveland last week. The bad news, though, is that Danks still is having major issues keeping the ball in the ballpark. His FIP is among the 10 worst in baseball, which doesn’t bode well. He’s a much better pitcher than he’s looked, but he hasn’t come close to earning his $65 million contract extension.
Wednesday brings along Jake Peavy, the reigning AL Pitcher of the Month and one of the really great stories on the White Sox this year. He owns a sparkling 1.99 ERA and 2.27 FIP, and while he’s the first to admit he won’t sustain that kind of success this year, he looks like he’s primed to post results similar to the San Diego version of himself. That is, if he can stay healthy.
WAHOO’S ON FIRST: What’s your prediction for the series?
JJ STANKEVITZ: I say the Indians take 3 of 4, now that they’ve swept Monday’s doubleheader. The Sox salvage the final game and head back home losers of 12 of their last 16.