The Chicago White Sox have had quite a bit of turnover on their bench since the start of the 2012 season. Is the current incarnation going to be up to the task of a playoff race?
With the exception of backup catcher Tyler Flowers, the White Sox bench that started the year has been flushed from the dugout. Kosuke Fukudome was released in June. Brent Lillibridge was sent to Boston in the Kevin Youkilis trade. Eduardo Escobar was dealt to the Twins when Francisco Liriano was acquired.
With Alejandro De Aza out with back stiffness and Kevin Youkilis resting a sore knee, the top of the Chicago lineup was unavailable Tuesday. Though Gordon Beckham led off the game with a home run, the Royals were able to even the series.
Jordan Danks was in center for the second time, with Ray Olmedo filling in for Youkilis at third base. Olmedo, who has spent most of the last ten seasons in Triple-A, managed an infield hit in his first start in a major league game since September of 2007.
Danks, who is hitting .286 for the White Sox in 27 games, helped kill a potentially big inning in the Chicago fifth. After A.J. Pierzynski and Dayan Viciedo led off the inning with base hits, Danks sent his bunt attempt skyward, leading to a napping Pierzynski being doubled off second.
De Aza could play in the series finale with the Royals, though with an off-day on Thursday it makes sense to rest him Wednesday. Youkilis is hopeful but not a sure thing, making the performance of Chicago's reserves an immediate issue.
Flowers hit .286 while filling in for Pierzynski, who nursed a strained right oblique last week. Danks has been an effective defensive replacement in left. He also filled in for De Aza when he missed time in Texas after a collision with Alexei Ramirez.
Olmedo and Orlando Hudson will be holding down the infield. Hudson has two starts at second base since Youkilis joined the team June 28 and is hitting just .173 with the White Sox. The 31-year-old Olmedo is a lifetime .229 hitter with little power to speak of.
Of course, Fukudome, Lillibridge and Escobar were hitting .173 between them with Chicago. Lillibridge, the only one of the three who has played in a major league game since leaving the White Sox, is hitting .176 in 18 games with Boston and Cleveland.
When faced with that kind of non-production, the current bench could be an upgrade as is. The MLB season is a marathon. Players are going to get dinged up on occasion. The AL Central could very well hinge on how the reserves respond in the final 50 games or so.