It became strikingly apparent last night that if the White Sox are going to hang in and win the A.L. Central, they'll need to avoid major injuries. I'm not breaking any news here, others have made the same observation. But it really hit home during the 5-2 loss to the Royals as the Sox had their Nos. 1 & 2 hitters out of the lineup--Alejandro De Aza with back stiffness as a result of a jarring play at second base against the Angels on Saturday and Kevin Youkilis with a sore knee.
We should have very few complaints about the Sox's starting lineup, both offensively and defensively. But injuries happen and it's questionable whether a bench group consisting of Tyler Flowers, Jordan Danks, Orlando Hudson and newcomer Ray Olmedo can hold down the fort in a tight pennant race if a starting player goes down for any length of time.
Last night it was Danks filling in for De Aza and Olmedo for Youkilis. While Danks has been decent, hitting .286 in 42 at bats, he has been used primarily as a late-inning defensive replacement for Dayan Viciedo and as a pinch-runner. Olmedo did get a base hit in what was his first start with the Sox and although he was hitting a respectable .273 at AAA Charlotte, he hadn't seen action in the major leagues since 2007 with Toronto.
Flowers, who is the heir apparent to A.J. Pierzynski if the latter leaves via free agency after the season, has gotten praise from his coaches and teammates about his work behind the plate. But Flowers, the main piece dealt to the Sox from the Braves in the 2008 deal for Javier Vazquez, has struggled offensively. He is hitting .194 with two homers and three RBIs in limited play and most of the time looks overmatched at the plate. The veteran Hudson, while a positive presence on a ballclub, has seen very little action since the Youkilis deal and sports a less-than-thrilling .173 BA.
In his quest to continuously try to make the Sox a stronger team, I don't think there is any doubt that Kenny Williams is doing his due diligence as we speak to see if he can upgrade the bench for any or all of these positions. It boils down to two things: We have to avoid major injuries and if it appears that the current bench group can't get the job done, the hope is that KW comes through like he has so many times before in getting his man--or maybe in this case, men.