White Sox counting on experience to get through twin bill with Guardians

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There will be no shortage of experience on the mound for the Chicago White Sox on Saturday when they take on the visiting Cleveland Guardians in a doubleheader.

The White Sox are set to send 36-year-old right-hander Johnny Cueto to the mound in the first game, while 35-year-old Lance Lynn will pitch in the nightcap. That is 26 seasons of combined major league experience for Chicago, which is trying to turn things around after a disappointing start to the season.

On Friday, each team started its post-break schedule in the opener of a three-game series, with the Guardians earning an 8-2 victory. Cleveland received three RBIs from Josh Naylor and a two-run home run from Andres Gimenez.

While Lynn (1-3, 7.50 ERA) will have the responsibility of either finishing off a doubleheader sweep or trying to stave off one, Cueto will be tasked with getting things going in the right direction. The White Sox will need innings out of Cueto to keep the bullpen as fresh as possible to cover whatever Lynn can’t finish in the second game.

Cueto (4-4, 2.80) made an electric White Sox debut in May with six scoreless innings against the Kansas City Royals. He also has given up more than three earned runs in a start just once and has allowed three combined runs over his last three outings. More importantly, Cueto has averaged just shy of 6 2/3 innings per start over his last four outings.

In his last start, a 12-2 White Sox win at Minnesota, Cueto surrendered just one run on seven hits in six innings. He walked two and struck out five.

The veteran right-hander finished at 118 pitches, and would have been out after five innings and 103 pitches, but he persuaded manager Tony La Russa to give him one more inning.

“Sometimes you don’t feel very good,” Cueto said, via a translator, saying he felt “OK.”

“I didn’t have the energy or the strength, but the offense supported me and I was able to complete six innings,” he added.

In seven career starts against the Cleveland franchise, Cueto has found plenty of success, going 4-0 with a 2.28 ERA and two complete games.

Lynn has been having a rough time, giving up 19 combined runs over his last three starts, including eight runs in just four innings against the Guardians on July 11 at Cleveland. In nine career starts against the Cleveland organization, he is 4-4 with a 4.33 ERA.

While the White Sox are going with experience Saturday, the Guardians will take the opposite approach.

Cleveland is set to send 24-year-old right-hander Triston McKenzie (7-6, 3.20) to the mound in the opener. In the second game, 24-year-old rookie Konnor Pilkington (1-2, 4.24) is expected to be called up for the start.

Pilkington has made just 11 career appearances and eight starts. His most recent major league start came July 12 against the White Sox, when he gave up four runs (three earned) on six hits over five innings.

Pilkington has a 5.40 ERA over his last five major league starts while bouncing up and down between the Guardians and Triple-A Columbus.

McKenzie has been dominating of late with three consecutive scoreless outings covering 21 innings. He went eight scoreless innings against the Detroit Tigers on July 14 with a career-high 12 strikeouts. He gave up just one hit over seven scoreless innings July 3 to the offensively proficient New York Yankees.

“That’s what I expect of him every time,” Naylor said. “He’s a phenomenal pitcher. … He’s having fun out there, but the last three outings have just been incredible. That Yankees outing really brought some great stuff out of him. I’m excited for the future for him.”

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today

ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.