CHICAGO – White Sox manager Robin Ventura would like to send out the same lineup every game and watch his team find a rhythm that leads to a string of victories.
Injuries haven’t afforded him that opportunity, leaving Ventura and the Sox without a clear direction of where this team is headed. It would be easy to call missed opportunities like Sunday’s 8-3 loss to the Rays a by-product of bench players logging too much playing time. Even so, Ventura is unsure how to judge the Sox.
“You have a few of the starters out so it becomes a different look, but again, I can’t look at it like that,” Ventura said. “We’re looking at what you have here and what’s available, and you go from there. You try to win games right now, not waiting and looking in the future.”
The Sox have played six of their 24 games with the opening day lineup because of various injuries. Two-fifths of their starting rotation, making a combined $25.25 million this season, is on the disabled list, along with two key contributors, outfielder Dayan Viciedo and second baseman Gordon Beckham, who were expected to play bigger roles this year.
The absence of John Danks (left shoulder) and Gavin Floyd (flexor muscle strain) have forced Dylan Axelrod and Hector Santiago into the rotation. Axelrod pitched admirably in Sunday’s loss with the Sox’s offense facing Rays ace David Price. Axelrod kept the Sox in the game, holding the Rays to three runs in six innings.
But it’s unreasonable to expect Axelrod and Santiago, career spot starters, can help lead the Sox to the playoffs. While Danks will make his first rehab start Thursday at Double-A Birmingham, his future is uncertain coming off major shoulder surgery. Floyd’s arm issue is concerning because he went on the DL twice last season, once for the exact injury that put him on the DL Sunday.
“You know, we’ve got a good group here and in Triple-A,” Axelrod said. “We don’t get a lot of credit in our Minor League system. We might not have the flashiest prospect type guys, but we have guys who can get it done.”
Six Sox players are currently on the DL, while infielder Jeff Keppinger was sidelined over the weekend with back spasms. Dewayne Wise missed two games this week with a stiff neck. At one point, Ventura was down to two men on his bench.
“I don’t sense anybody looking around saying we can’t win with what we have,” Sox captain Paul Konerko said. “I think the only time you think about those guys is when you see them. I think every team is going to have that little span during the season where it seems like every day somebody’s going down.”
With stop-gap options littering the Sox’s lineup it’s difficult to gauge how good this team really is and how good they can be. As a team that’s four games under .500 and sitting in fourth in the American League Central (10-14), it’s too early to declare the season a lost cause one month in, yet expecting this version of the Sox to make the playoffs is foolish.
The Sox better hope the team that has showed up through the first 24 games, one that is tied for the most errors in the AL (16) and owns the second-worst batting average (.229) in the majors, is the product of an unstable lineup. Otherwise they can start booking their offseason vacations in June.
“Guys are playing hard and this is one of those that is probably a work in progress of trying to figure that out and who’s playing and who’s doing what,” Ventura said. “But again, you try to make due, and make sure everybody is giving a constant effort. That’s all you can ask.”
• Meghan Montemurro covers the White Sox and Cubs for Shaw Media. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Sox Insider and Inside the Cubs blogs at NWHerald.com and on Twitter @Sox_Insider and @InsideTheCubs.