Levine: Protecting Young Pitchers Is A Focus For White Sox

Bruce Levine
January 11, 2018 - 2:51 pm

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By Bruce Levine–

(670 The Score) — Signing right-hander Miguel Gonzalez to a one-year, $4.75-million deal Thursday was another move that reflected the team’s desire to lessen the burden, stress and expectations on a youthful pitching staff.

Gonzalez, 33, spent the 2016 season with the White Sox and much of 2017 there before being traded to the Rangers last August, so he has familiarity with his teammates. Manager Rick Renteria likes the idea of veterans in James Shields and Gonzalez leading the way for a young rotation that will feature Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Carson Fulmer — and Carlos Rodon down the line when he’s recovered from shoulder surgery.

“I got a chance to spend time with most of the young guys last year,” Gonzalez said. “There is definitely a lot of talent. They have an opportunity to come to the older guys and being comfortable talking to us. I love to give them feedback and help them as much as we can. That is another reason why we are here. Every time you have a chance to help guys out, you do it.”

Gonzalez was 8-13 with a 4.62 ERA and 1.42 WHIP last season, when he pitched through some shoulder pain while in Chicago. After his 2017 experience with the rebuilding White Sox, he fully understands that he could again be wearing a new uniform at some point in 2018 as the organization keeps the big picture in mind.

Until then, he’s happy to be back in Chicago and looks forward to his mentorship role.

“He can give us quality starts and a chance to win a ball game,” Renteria said. “He is a well-prepared worker and great with his teammates. They all love him. This is a nice mix for us to have.”

Gonzalez’s presence in the rotation will help the White Sox skip starts or reduce innings for the younger starters as the season goes on. A quasi six-man rotation would also makes sense for the White Sox when Rodon comes back or if a minor leaguer like Dane Dunning or Michael Kopech gets called up as the season progresses.

Many teams don’t want starters pushing toward the 200-inning mark anymore, as bullpens are now carrying more of a load and managers think twice before letting a starter remain in the game a third time through the foe’s order. In 2017, only 15 pitchers reached the 200-inning threshold.

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.