CHICAGO | Casper Wells is the first bearing his name to ever play for the White Sox.
And for a right fielder, he was the most effective Sox pitcher in Game 1 of an old-fashioned twi-night doubleheader Friday night.
His pitching staff shredded by 19 runs in the first eight innings by the Cleveland Indians, Sox manager Robin Ventura called on position-player Wells to work the ninth inning.
Right-hander Wells was timed as high as 93 mph. He struck out Asdrubal Cabrera swinging on a neat, sharp-breaking 84 mph slider or splitter. And Alejandro De Aza teamed with Wells to prevent the 20th run with a nice running catch in the left-field corner to end the inning.
“He’s probably got another chance (pitching) somewhere down the road,” said Ventura in only the most microscopic hint of humor after the whipping.
Longtime Sox killer Ryan Raburn had four RBIs and the only homer in the Indians’ 21-hit spree. Ventura no doubt internalized his anger at Dayan Viciedo for a "Three Stooges" baserunning blunder, overrunning third and then getting caught in no-man’s land after a Jeff Keppinger single in the eighth. Viciedo, surely heading up the Sox doghouse, sat in Game 2, while Wells started in right.
The latest in an embarrassing set of losses plunging the Sox into the American League netherworld was hardly the way to win fans on an otherwise joyous, championship-celebrating day. The team actually tried to piggyback on the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup triumph by offering outfield seats for $15 to patrons wearing Hawks apparel.
Unfortunately, there was as much green – empty seats – as red-garbed fans in the discounted seats. The Sox have plunged into one of their periodic crises that have bedeviled the franchise since the Black Sox scandal. The collapse of the lineup and fielding is bad enough. With 696,910 announced attendance over 32 dates going into Friday, the Sox gate is third-worst in the majors.
No doubt the disgruntled crowds feel as bad or worse than Ventura, who after Wednesday’s dullard 3-0 loss to the Mets branded the invisible offensive output “unacceptable stuff.”
Asked Friday to clarify whether “unacceptable” applied to execution or effort, Ventura replied: “I just think just the way it looks. Guys have effort and all that stuff. But it’s a team game and everybody’s got to have their at-bat that shows it’s a team game and you got to do your job and things like that. Just the way it looks.
“Effort-wise, there’s guys definitely giving effort. Nobody’s done that (not given effort while he’s manager). Just because somebody doesn’t do well doesn’t mean they’re not trying. We haven’t had anybody here that has gone out there and you thought he wasn’t trying his best. When you see that, to me that’s the ultimate in not respecting the game, and he wouldn’t be playing.”
Ventura also suspects some Sox caught in trade-rumor crossfire might subconsciously be affected. While they still play for him, consider the players on notice.
This column solely represents the writer’s opinion. Reach him at DGemsNet@aol.com.