Notes: Relievers remain confident
Cotts, Jenks prepared to step up down the stretch
KANSAS CITY -- With a combined 263 2/3 innings thrown by the White Sox bullpen, ranking as the lowest total in the American League, manager Ozzie Guillen believes his relievers will be more than sharp over the final 58 games of the 2006 season.
That expected freshness hasn't exactly turned into first-rate results over the last two games. The bullpen has allowed seven earned runs in seven innings, walking five and striking out just one. Opposing hitters have a .441 average during these pair of contests, and the bullpen owned a 6.17 ERA over its last nine games, entering Monday's opener in KC.
The group's current 4.34 ERA is the highest it has been since checking in at 4.36 on June 23. Part of the problem stems from the struggling starting rotation, with both Jon Garland and Javier Vazquez not making it out of the sixth in the last two games against Baltimore. But the White Sox relievers don't feel overworked or seem concerned about bouncing back down the home stretch.
"The way we've been used now, yeah, we've been throwing a lot," said left-hander Neal Cotts. "But it seems like how we ended the season last year, where we throw in certain situations, a couple of outs here, a couple of outs there. It's pretty easy to come back. We haven't been stretched out that far."
"I think we all feel we are still pretty fresh, as far as the last series goes," added closer Bobby Jenks.
Cotts was charged with only one unearned run during his two-thirds of an inning in Sunday's loss at Camden Yards, but he allowed two of Vazquez's inherited runners. Cotts has allowed 14 of 47 inherited runners to score this season, checking in at just below 30 percent.
Jenks blew just his second save in 30 chances on Sunday, marking his first blown save on the road. The burly right-hander tipped his cap to the Orioles for their strong at-bats, saying that it's less frustrating to get beat in that particular manner than if he were to go out to the mound with nothing at all.
"When you go out there and don't have anything, don't know where the ball is going at all, it becomes one of those days where you want to duck your head in the sand and forget you are there," said Jenks, who was working in his fourth straight game, as was Cotts.
Sunday's loss stuck with Jenks for one night, and then he put it out of his mind. It's the same philosophy followed by the bullpen, in general, with the relievers ready to go after two rough days.
"Whatever happens, we are ready for it," Jenks said. "If they want to use us more, I guarantee everyone down there wants the ball whenever they get a chance. Coming into this month, it's the best thing that could happen to us, being fresh compared to the other bullpens."
More trade musings: Guillen gave high marks to Detroit, the American League Central leaders, for picking up first baseman Sean Casey from Pittsburgh before Monday afternoon's non-waiver trade deadline.
"The Tigers made a heck of a move, bring another left-handed hitter to the lineup," said Guillen. "Casey will put the ball in play and doesn't strike out much.
"I think they improved themselves very much. They need to do that. People ask about [John] Smoltz, [Alfonso] Soriano, but they made the right move, because they brought a guy they really need. They think they can do a lot of stuff with them. I don't think you bring impact players just to show the fans. Just get what you need to improve the club."
Guillen also was happy for Bobby Abreu, his close friend, who he said finally "can play to compete" and might have a chance to fulfill his World Series dream with the Yankees. General manager Ken Williams, meanwhile, focused more on the White Sox than the moves made by other teams.
"Whether it be [Casey] or anyone else, really, the view that I had was if we just take care of our own house and play the way we're capable of playing, whatever they do doesn't necessarily matter," Williams said.
Return to sender: One week after Mike MacDougal was traded from the Royals to the White Sox, the hard-throwing right-hander returned to Kauffman Stadium. MacDougal stopped by the home clubhouse before Monday's game and crossed paths with Jeremy Affeldt, his friend and fellow bullpen mate, as he was on his way to Colorado.
"That was kind of weird," said MacDougal, who spent part of five seasons with the Royals. "It definitely has changed over there."
MacDougal was the first of nine players to be traded by the Royals, signaling a move in a new direction by general manager Dayton Moore. But the reliever avoided analyzing his old team's new plans.
"I don't know. I just go and pitch. I just play," MacDougal said. "You hear the rumors every year about being traded so, for it to actually happen, I didn't have any idea [I would be in] Chicago."
Third to first: According to the Elias Sports Bureau, A.J. Pierzynski joined Detroit's Ivan Rodriguez as the only catchers to have at least four RBIs and five hits in the same game this season. Pierzynski, who went 5-for-5 with four RBIs during Saturday's 13-11 victory, entered Monday's contest with eight hits in his last nine at-bats. ... The White Sox have a 22-18 record against the American League Central, compared to their 52-22 record within the division during the 2005 campaign.
Down on the farm: Dustin Hermanson threw his fifth straight scoreless inning during Triple-A Charlotte's 5-4 loss at Syracuse Sunday. Hermanson struck out two and has struck out seven while allowing just two hits over this span. Ryan Sweeney had two hits and two RBIs in the loss, while Agustin Montero walked just one over three scoreless innings. ... Wes Whisler lost his first start after being promoted to Double-A Birmingham, allowing one earned run on three hits over seven innings as part of the Barons' 3-0 loss to Montgomery. ... Kyle McCulloch suffered his first professional loss to Potomac, as Class A Winston-Salem fell by a 10-6 margin. The White Sox 2006 first-round draft pick yielded two earned runs on three hits in two innings, while walking four and striking out two.
Up next: With a five-game losing streak in tow, Mark Buehrle (9-9, 4.81) makes his 22nd start of the season and third against the Royals. Buehrle is 0-5 with an 11.48 ERA over his last five starts, but he is 13-6 with a 3.24 ERA lifetime when facing Kansas City.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.