Chicago White Sox: Why Santos Rodriguez and Jake Petricka Must Be Next in Line

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Chicago White Sox: Why Santos Rodriguez and Jake Petricka Must Be Next in Line
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Santos Rodriguez has pitched quite well this season at Double and Triple-A.

The Chicago White Sox bullpen is going to look drastically different after the almost-inevitable departures of Jesse Crain and Matt Thornton. Who White Sox general manager Rick Hahn calls up to replace them, though, is the important thing here.

If Hahn is truly forward-thinking, he will call up Santos Rodriguez and Jake Petricka when the time comes.

Rodriguez is very intriguing. In 15 appearances for the Double-A Birmingham Barons, the left-hander finished with a 2.35 ERA and struck out 25 while holding opponents to a .167 BAA. Since his promotion to the Triple-A Charlotte Knights, he has had one bad outing—2.1 IP, 2 BB, 2 ER—sandwiched by four innings of one-run ball.

The main criticism Rodriguez draws is that he tends to miss the plate too often, and that is true. He has already walked 17 batters this season, but as Mayo noted, “he’s shown improvement over the past two years.”

Mayo went on to add that “because of his lanky frame, the ball gets on hitters in a hurry.” Couple Rodriguez's delivery with a solid changeup and a tailing fastball that can hit 95 mph, and the White Sox have something to work with.

Petricka, who opened the season as the 20th-ranked White Sox prospect by MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo, has a legitimate chance to find extended success at the major league level.

Before earning a promotion to Triple-A on July 4, the right-hander dominated at Double-A. He collected 41 Ks in 39.1 innings while compiling a 2.06 ERA and 1.137 WHIP over 21 appearances

Overall, his secondary stuff can be inconsistent at times, but it was the improvement of his 85 mph changeup that made his mid to high-90s fastball much more effective. It seems as though Petricka has learned to pitch rather than throw.

A perfect example of Petricka's changeup. Courtesy of Natantiel Stoltz

To be sure, Rodriguez and Petricka aren’t can’t-miss prospects by any means. They are, however, unknown variables that must be defined.

This is not a call to demote anyone currently on the 25-man roster. Ramon Troncoso, David Purcey and Simon Castro need to be given more time to prove that their first impressions with the White Sox are accurate ones.

Purcey is a perfect example.

His first outing for the Sox on Friday night against the Tampa Bay Rays (1 IP, 1 ER, 3 BB) was unimpressive. If he can produce for the rest of the season, though, they may have an arm they can rely on for at least one more season.

Purcey has found success in the past, posting a 3.71 ERA in 33 appearances for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2010. While there are no guarantees he will return to a level anywhere close to that, sending him down now would be a mistake.

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None of this takes into consideration the possibility that Hahn also parts with Matt Lindstrom. If that happens, Daniel Webb would be a nice choice to take his spot.

Regardless, there can be no going backward.

The Sox are simply not in a position to call up anyone who has already been sent back to the minors. For now, at least, Duente Heath, Brian Omogrosso, Donnie Veal and Leyson Septimo need to stay on the farm.

The larger point here is that Rodriguez and Petricka have earned a chance at warming up in a big-league bullpen, and this is no time for more of the same.

It is not a matter of winning this season anymore. That ship has sailed, and the 2013 season has turned into an extended audition.

With the recent promotions of Josh Phegley, Blake Tekotte and Simon Castro from Triple-A—as well as the demotion of Jordan Danks—the White Sox are trending toward a roster upheaval.

Hahn needs to know exactly what Rodriguez and Petricka can do before the offseason begins. After all, they may be asked to be an integral part of the White Sox bullpen moving forward.

 

Follow @MatthewSmithBR

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