In part one of the 2014 story lines articles, I discussed some of the story lines that hover over the offense this season. The pitch staff has some story lines of their own.
The first of these story lines is “What two other pitchers will man the starting rotation along with Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and John Danks?” Baseball Prospectus has listed Erik Johnson as their top prospect in the White Sox organization. He and the newly acquired Felipe Paulino have an edge in getting the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation. The Sox are looking for Andre Rienzo to show more consistency in his command before they’d give him a shot at the bottom of the rotation. If he doesn’t show signs of better command, he’ll probably end up starting the year in triple A.
The 24 year-old Johnson had three years of pitching experience between the minors and majors. In his two years of pitching in the minors, he pitched 234.1 innings and had a solid 2.21 ERA (Earned Run Average). He won 18 games and lost 8 of them. He briefly spent time in the rotation last September when he was called up. He pitched in 5 games and went 3-2 in those games. In the games he pitched in, Johnson gave up 16 runs, but only 10 of those were earned. The defense didn’t help the rookie out any. It will be interesting to see what Johnson could do with a better defense.
Felipe Paulino, who was signed from free agency in a 1 year deal, is expected to take one of the two places in the rotation. The former Houston Astros and Kansas City Royals player has a career 4.93 ERA and a 13-32 record. In a year, the Sox are trying to compete and retool; his signing was for him to fill in the last spot of the rotation. On the other hand, it could also give pitching coach Don Cooper a chance to show his stuff, and turn around a player’s fortune.
Another story line that’ll hang about in 2014, “Who’s going to be the next closer?” It is hard to believe the Sox didn’t have a plan for Nate Jones to become the next closer since they traded Addison Reed. They had control of Reed till 2018, so they had to have thoughts that Jones was a solid enough pitcher in his first two seasons to make Reed expendable. He holds a 12-5 record with a 3.31 ERA, which was somewhat inflated last season as mentioned in my previous article on his current injury.
There is some competition for the role with the Sox signing former closer Mitchell Boggs, veteran Matt Lindstrom and others on the roster who could also step into the role when needed. “Will Jones get the role?”, and “Can he hold on to the role the whole season?” could be a couple of questions that will be answered as the season moved on.
There is also some question as to whether John Danks will ever be able to get back to a 200+ inning pitcher, with a sub four ERA. He hasn’t lived up to taking over the ace position for Mark Buehrle. With Chris Sale in firm control of that, he can focus on getting back to pitching as a number two or three. Between ’08 and ’10, Danks carried a sub four ERA with double-digit wins. The Sox are hoping that with another year recovered from the injury he’ll bounce back from his 4-14 season last year, especially since they’re paying him $14.25 million each of the next three years.
In this day and age, where people are so caught up the story lines that run reality television and such. Each new baseball season can also bring with it story lines that can keep people drawn to it. Now we wait for baseball’s season premiere to see how the stories will unfold!