The Mets welcome the Chicago White Sox to Citi Field for a rare two-game interleague series that begins this evening. The White Sox, who've never visited the Mets during interleague play, are off to a 13-17 start and currently sit in last place in the American League Central division. Jim Margalus writes about the White Sox at South Side Sox and he was kind enough to give us a little insight into the team.
Amazin' Avenue: What are your expectations for the White Sox this year and what has to happen for them reach those expectations?
South Side Sox: I had them around .500, give or take a few games. They're going to need to get healthy, as their second baseman, left fielder and third starter are on the DL, and John Danks isn't ready for MLB hitters yet.
AA: The White Sox have gotten off to a brutal start offensively and they have the second lowest wOBA in baseball ahead of the Marlins. Are there any signs of some of these guys waking up soon? Any legitimate worry about Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko considering Dunn's lost season in 2011 and Konerko's age?
SSS: The Sox were a limited-upside offense before Dayan Viciedo and Gordon Beckham went down, so they're trying to patch it together with bench players and other team's cast-offs until they come back, and it looks like it. I think Dunn's first half of 2012 was a dead-cat bounce. Since then, I think it's going to be a struggle to be even a tenable hitter for the last two years of his contract. Konerko still looks OK, and better than his numbers, but I don't think he has the heights from 2010-2011 in him.
AA: After years of having A.J. Pierzynski behind the plate, the veteran catcher signed with Texas in the offseason and the White Sox handed the starting catching job to Tyler Flowers. How has he looked so far as the starter and do you think he could be the guy back there long term?
SSS: Flowers has looked unsure of himself. He's supposed to be a lower-average, decent-OBP, good-power guy, but he's jumpy early in the count (might be nervous about striking out), and he hasn't given the Sox a lot of good at-bats. He'll get a long leash this season, but this is basically his make-or-break year as a starter, and it would probably serve him better to let his freak flag fly and go for 180 strikeouts, if it'll allow him to make better contact.
AA: It looks like the Mets will face lefty Hector Santiago on Tuesday. Give us a little scouting report on Santiago and what we should expect to see from him.
SSS: He's a hard-throwing lefty who can run a fastball up to 95. He throws a couple different kinds of fastballs, two tilts on his breaking ball, a changeup and a screwball, which is neat. This will be his second turn in the rotation after starting the season as the jack-of-all-trades in the bullpen, which means he isn't fully adjusted to conserving pitches, nor is he fully stretched out. It could be a 4-5 inning start if the Mets make him work. He's from Newark and proud of it, so he'll have a lot of family and friends in the stands.
AA: Robin Ventura is in his second season as the team's manager. How do you feel about the job he's done so far and what would you consider to be his strengths and weaknesses as a manger?
SSS: It's been a struggle for him the last two baseball months. The Sox offense hasn't given him many easy nights, and it looks like he's taken it upon himself to try to win some games for them (lots of pitching changes, pinch runners, runners in motion). That hasn't gone well, and that kinda flies in the face of his demeanor, which is on the unflappable side.
If any of you guys go to Tuesday's game when the gates open, there's a good chance you'll see the Sox taking infield. Ventura has his players do it before the first game of every road series, and the Sox might be the only team that does. Not that it's helped their defense much this year (which is really where Beckham's absence is felt).
Thanks again to Jim Margalus for giving us a preview of the White Sox! Here are the pitching matchups for this series: