Sox Starting Five Could Surprise
Last season the White Sox had high expectations to start. But Jake Peavy was still ailing, Mark Buehrle while an icon was aging and Matt Thornton and John Danks’ rough starts seem indicate buckling under the pressure.
Now the Sox are looked over as underdogs. Jake Peavy is fully healed. Philip Humber who looked like an all-star last season has more confidence and…well…more muscle and Danks and Thornton are coming off strong finishes.
This is not to suggest the Sox will be better without Buehrle. But they might be better than people think. Because while the experts have little confidence in them they have plenty in themselves.
“We have the pieces in here to win it’s just the bottom line of us showing up and doing it,” said Peavy who says he’s as healthy as he’s ever been in his career.
“It’s a different feel. We’re excited about Robin and what him and his staff bring to us. It’s just got to be a group effort. We’re going to have join forces and play good team baseball, care about each other and make things happen.”
GM Kenny Williams says he expects Peavy to return to his 2007 form when he went 19-6 with a 2.54 ERA with San Diego. That might be a stretch but if Peavy can pull off 30 starts like he says he will the Sox will have another ace in the hole to go with Danks.
“Everyone’s talking about Detroit as they should be,” added Peavy. “Detroit won this division and played well in the playoffs and did nothing but get better. I understand they should be the favorites and that’s fine but there’s nobody in this clubhouse that’s conceding a thing. We’re gonna get after it.”
Danks’ had a slow start last year but his finish earned him his 5-year, $65 million dollar extension. The confidence the staff has shown in him has resonated.
“It was incredible,” beamed Danks. “For them to do that for me coming off my worst year and my toughest year. I noticed that.”
He added: “I’m doing my best to forget last year.”
With extra money could come extra pressure but Danks said, “I feel like I’ve been overpaid since day one. This won’t change anything. I don’t think about the money when I’m on the mound. Just getting the batter out.”
Backup catcher Tyler Flowers also had a rosy outlook on the suspected starting five.
“It’s a great staff,” said Flowers. “We got a lot of guys bouncing back healthy. I know there’s a lot expectations on certain guys but I feel like if everyone comes in healthy and just performs they way they’re capable of it’s going to be one of the stronger staffs in the league. It’s up to A.J. [Pierzynski] and myself and [pitching coach Don Cooper] to formulate the game plans and help these guys succeed.”
Flowers will challenge Pierzynski for playing time behind the dish. Flowers bloomed in spot duty last season and says the consistent playing time should help him get into a rhythm.
“It was a great opportunity. But playing once a week is kind of like ‘crap I gotta get a hit today,’” said Flowers who became a media darling in his first spring training interview. “It’s a different feeling. It’s a good feeling. My wife brought it up to me today. But nothing’s guaranteed. If I don’t perform I probably won’t make the team.”
If the staff seems thin anywhere it might be in the bullpen. The Sergio Santos “trade” means there will be a fight for the closer role. Thornton and Jesse Crain are motivated again to earn that job and Robin Ventura figures to have a tough decision if Addison Reed plays up to his potential this spring. Although it could result in a dreaded “closer-by-committee” if none shines right away.
It would be surprising if the Sox press Detroit for the Division. But even with the loss of Beuhrle the Sox pitching staff appears to be one of its strengths and might be the reason they do.