Sox pitching rotation finally coming together

By Etheria Modacure

The Chicago White Sox’s four-year odyssey to find a deep starting rotation looks to have come to fruition. After trading for pitchers John Danks and Gavin Floyd in 2006 and acquiring pitchers Jake Peavy and Edwin Jackson in trading deadline deals, the team put together a rotation that could compete against some of the best hitters in the American League Central in 2011.

With subpar performances on the mound from Mark Buehrle and Floyd last season, the Sox will need both pitchers to provide depth to a rotation on paper not lacking any. Other than the Minnesota Twins, no other teams in the division have more than three starters with postseason experience on their staff.

While the team enjoys warm weather and light workloads in games at spring training in Glendale, Ariz., the players know getting enough work in now will be beneficial throughout the season.

“I sure as heck don’t want to have a bad April or May,” Floyd said when asked about his lackadaisical performances at the start of the season. “I’m going out there, trying to do my best and continue to do the same thing. You just continue to do the same thing and hope that things change and have a good six months rather than have a couple of low months.”

Floyd had his best season with the Sox in 2008 when he posted 17 wins and 8 losses with a 3.84 earned run average, which was a career low for him. He was unable to escape the months of April and May with a winning record in the past two seasons.

Last season, Floyd went 2-5 in the opening months of the season with a 6.45 ERA. He was able to find his groove in late June, finishing the season 8-3 and lowering his ERA to 4.08.

“I’m just trying my best to refine everything and every year, you get better and better,” Floyd said.

The pitcher who had the best season in the rotation in 2010 was Danks, who posted career-highs in wins, 15; strikeouts, 162; and innings pitched, 213. Danks said he has been working on his mechanics in spring training and would like to limit free passes he’s given the opposition so far.

Through 5.1 innings pitched during the spring Danks walked five batters. He said after his outing against the Colorado Rockies on March 8, pitching coach Don Cooper told him base on balls won’t be tolerated.

“Maybe a little overthrowing, [but] it’s early still,” Danks said. “It’s definitely something we’re going to work on before [my] next start. I’m not worried about getting where I need to be before long.”

Danks said his recent slump with walks is part of the progression period for spring training to help him get ready for

the season.

Jackson, who pitched for the Detroit Tigers in 2009, worked on throwing more strikes during spring training. The former Diamondback had no problem with strikeouts last season, surpassing 180 punchouts but yielding 78 walks.

“The main thing is to get out there and throw strikes,” Jackson said. “Get out there and get back into the groove of things, and if I get strikeouts, so be it. I’m just trying to get outs and make it through

spring healthy.”

The 29-year-old pitcher said high-pitch counts have always been a concern for him, and he is working on limiting his workload.

“Obviously, in today’s game, there are a lot of pitchers on a pitch count, [there’s] a lot of money invested in players,” Jackson said. “It’s for [the best] of the player’s health to go out and try to punch strikes as early as possible.”

Before spring began, one pitcher looked to be left off the opening day roster but has made improvements to get ready in April—Jake Peavy. The former San Diego Padre made his first spring training start on March 4 against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Peavy pitched two innings of shutout baseball with two strikeouts, six retired batters and no walks in his first spring start. He said he did what he expected to do and was able to get major league hitters out, which he wanted to accomplish.

“We’ve been very fortunate and blessed not to have any setbacks,” Peavy said, referring to his rehabilitation from a torn latissimus dorsi muscle. “That’s something we hope continues. But at the same time, if there’s anything abnormal, we’re likely to back off than push anything simply because of what has happened.”

The 2007 Cy Young Award winner said he was told he was going to miss a year of game action, but he was able to have the right mindset for a speedy recovery. Peavy said the team set a conservative schedule in the event of any setbacks.

“There certainly can be some doubts in your mind as to what the future holds,” Peavy said. “At the same time being an athlete, being a competitor and someone who prides himself on being mentally tough and strong, you’ve just get it in your mind that ‘I’m going to come back from this, and I don’t care what’s has to happen or what I have to do.’”