Chris Sale moves back to the pen, takes over as White Sox closer

6 Comments

Now this one is a real shocker: Chris Sale, who has been very impressive in opening the season 3-1 with a 2.81 ERA in his rotation debut for the White Sox, will move back to the pen and take over as the team’s closer, it was announced Friday.

Health concerns are the obvious reasoning behind the switch, though the White Sox indicated he’d be ready to pitch out of the pen right away. It’s a bizarre move if it’s completely preemptive. If it’s not and he is hurting now, then it’s still bizarre, since it’d make sense to give him at least a week or two off.

From a performance standpoint, Sale’s move to the rotation couldn’t have possibly gone any better. Not only was his record sterling, but he had cut down on the walks and become more efficient with his pitches. On April 25, he needed just 101 pitches — 71 strikes — to get through eight innings against the A’s. In his win Tuesday, he threw 88 pitches in six innings against the Indians.

This also certainly isn’t a case of the White Sox needing Sale more in the bullpen than in the rotation. Hector Santiago had struggled in the closer’s role, but he never figured to be more than the team’s fourth or fifth best reliever anyway. Addison Reed, who has all the makings of a long-term closer, still hasn’t given up a run in 8 2/3 innings this year. Matt Thornton has a 2.38 ERA.  Jesse Crain, though hurt at the moment, is another quality arm.

Meanwhile, the White Sox are likely taking a big downgrade in the rotation by promoting Dylan Axelrod into Crain’s spot. Axelrod was a great find for the team after being let go by the Padres, but he’s not going to open eyes with his stuff. He’s probably going to be a long-term middle reliever, as opposed to a decent fourth or fifth starter.

All in all, it seems like a very odd choice from the outside looking in. Still, if the White Sox think this is the best way to keep Sale healthy, we’ll just have to trust them on that for now. It is a real shame, though. Sale was looking like a legitimate No. 2 starter, and he’s never going to produce that kind of value out of the pen.

Hanley Ramirez and Eduardo Rodriguez underwent surgery

Elsa/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Red Sox DH Hanley Ramirez announced via Twitter on Tuesday that he underwent surgery — left shoulder arthroscopy and debridement, per Tim Britton of the Providence Journal. Evan Drellich of NBC Sports Boston reports that the operation is considered relatively minor.

Ramirez, 33, has been dealing with shoulder issues for a while, which explains his lackluster regular season numbers. He hit .242/.320/.429 with 23 home runs, 62 RBI, and 58 runs scored in 553 plate appearances. He turned things on in the postseason, though, racking up eight hits in 15 trips to the plate in the ALDS against the Astros.

Ramirez should be good to go heading into spring training. He has one more guaranteed year left on his contract at $22 million and has a vesting option for the 2019 season worth another $22 million.

Pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez also had surgery, Britton reports. The procedure was right knee patellofemoral ligament reconstruction and it was performed by Dr. James Andrews. Rodriguez has a six-month timetable, which Britton estimates will allow him to make his 2018 regular season debut around the All-Star break.

Rodriguez, 24, posted a 4.19 ERA with a 150/50 K/BB ratio in 137 1/3 innings this past season. He’ll be entering his first of four years of arbitration eligibility this offseason.