The dugout is all smiles after Paul Konerko's solo home run Friday night in Kansas City.
Paul Konerko, 36, was activated from the seven-day disabled list (concussion) and Hector Santiago was promoted from Triple-A Charlotte. In the corresponding moves, the White Sox placed infielder Orlando Hudson (bruised toe) and left-handed reliever Leyson Septimo (inflamed left biceps) on the 15-day DL.
The importance of Konerko’s return cannot be overstated. His return Friday night was highlighted by a solo home run to left that tied the score against the Royals. More important than his offensive production, Konerko’s presence dramatically alters the flow and feel of the batting order.
While the regulars responded very well to manager Robin Ventura’s shuffled batting order and bench players like Dewayne Wise and Tyler Flowers practically came out of their shoes in Toronto, having Konerko batting fourth is how this team was structured from the beginning.
For as much as Konerko’s return shifts the balance in the lineup, the return of Santiago makes the bullpen substantially better.
Santiago, 24, responded well to being optioned to Charlotte. While the Sox were stretching him out a bit with three starts, he struck out 13 in 14.2 scoreless innings and worked on refining his screwball. The strikeout pitch appears to be back.
Santiago told the Chicago Tribune’s Mark Gonzales on Friday that he hoped his screwball was “as sharp as it was in spring training.” That’s good news because Santiago's screwball was the main reason why he made the big club out of spring training, as it is nearly impossible to hit when he stays on top of it.
According to Ventura, Santiago will be used in the bullpen exclusively . Ventura told Gonzales that while the Sox plan on sticking with a five-man rotation for the foreseeable future, Philip Humber, not Santiago, would get the call as a spot starter.
The futures of Septimo and Hudson remain in the balance.
Septimo is out of options and would have to clear waivers if he were sent down to the minors, but the Sox need strikes out of the bullpen. Septimo walked six in nine innings prior to the DL stint.
The meltdowns in Boston and Toronto typified his erratic pitching and four pitch walks do not sit well with Ventura and pitching coach Don Cooper. While nothing has been said publicly by the White Sox, do not be surprised to see Septimo optioned when he comes off of the DL.
Hudson's spot on the active roster may also be in jeopardy. The White Sox seem intent on keeping 13 pitchers on the roster and with Ray Olmedo’s ability to play three infield positions, Hudson may be expendable.