Daily Herald
Painful to watch Sox hitters keep swinging for the fences
By Scot Gregor | Daily Herald Staff
Published: 4/20/2010 12:01 AM

Scouting report

White Sox vs. Tampa Bay Rays at U.S. Cellular Field

TV: Comcast SportsNet Plus Tuesday; Channel 26 Wednesday; Comcast SportsNet Plus Thursday

Radio: WSCR 670-AM

Pitching matchups: The White Sox' John Danks (1-0) vs. David Price (2-0) Tuesday; Mark Buehrle (2-1) vs. Wade Davis (0-1) Wednesday; Jake Peavy (0-0) vs. James Shields (1-0) Thursday. All games 7:10 p.m.

At a glance: The White Sox come home after going 2-5 on their first road trip of the season (Toronto, Cleveland). They won two of the first three but have dropped four in a row. The Rays are rolling with 7 straight wins, including a four-game sweep over the Red Sox in Boston. The White Sox are fortunate they don't have to face Tampa Bay starter Matt Garza, who looks like this year's Zack Greinke at 3-0 (0.75 ERA). The Sox were 6-2 vs. the Rays last season, 3-1 at the Cell.

Next: Seattle Mariners at U.S. Cellular Field, Friday-Sunday

We're two weeks into the season, and the White Sox are playing like there are only two weeks left and they're about 50 games behind the Minnesota Twins.

As feared months ago, the Sox' offense has been inefficient and often painful to watch.

When he comes to the plate with runners on base, can Carlos Quentin swing any harder at the first pitch before either popping out or dribbling a weak grounder?

Can A.J. Pierzynski's face get any longer after another failed attempt at hitting the ball out of the infield?

Should Alexei Ramirez even be playing in April?

The season is in its infancy stage, so you have to keep things in perspective. Pierzynski could go 6-for-12 in the the upcoming three-game series against Tampa Bay, which opens tonight at U.S. Cellular Field.

Should that happen, the struggling catcher's batting average would go from .171 to .245.

If Mark Kotsay, another in a long line of slumping White Sox hitters, goes 6-for-12, his average jumps from .120 to .243.

That could very well be wishful thinking for Pierzynski, Kotsay, Quentin (.200), Juan Pierre (.208), Paul Konerko (.214) and Ramirez (.233).

Regardless, Sox hitters need to stop swinging for the fences and embrace manager Ozzie Guillen's plan to make contact, get on base and manufacture runs before the season really becomes hopeless.

There are still 149 games to play, so let's not get too carried away just yet. On the flip side, general manager Kenny Williams is as impatient as they come and he wasn't exactly giving the White Sox' revamped offense a thumbs-up during the off-season.

While he somewhat reluctantly embraced Guillen's plan to pass on bringing Jim Thome back and use rotating designated hitters, Williams was walking around SoxFest in late January with a wish list of available hitters in his pocket.

Two weeks later, he tried signing free-agent Johnny Damon, but the division rival Tigers were willing to pay more ($8 million for the season). Damon's not exactly tearing it up for Detroit so far (.256, 0 HR, 5 RBI), but he does have 8 walks in 39 at-bats along with a .396 on-base percentage.

Williams didn't respond to an interview request with the Daily Herald on Monday. That doesn't really mean much, but you can be sure the GM is agitated and has picked up his pacing as the Sox (4-9) are off to their worst start since 1997.

The White Sox went on to finish 80-81, and that marked the end of manager Terry Bevington's implausible reign.

Are these Sox going to be that bad?

Guillen has already snapped a few times during the opening two weeks, but he is still counting on the pitching staff to cover for an offense that has been inept nine times in 13 games.

"I would worry if the pitching staff was very bad," Guillen said. "That's a very, very tough situation. I went through it. I went through a point in the past where I'd come to the game and know I was going to lose. I would think about who was going to be my pitcher in the third inning, in the fourth inning.

"That's tough. When I come to the park I know I have a chance to win and that's the difference. We don't, but we have a chance. That's a better feeling. It's not a good feeling when you're not winning games, but at least you know you have a chance to win."

With an ERA of 1.30, the Sox' bullpen has been the best in baseball in the early going.

But the White Sox' vaunted rotation has a 5.16 ERA after Gavin Floyd lasted just 1-plus innings against the Indians Sunday and allowed 7 runs.

Jake Peavy was solid the day before, so let's take him off the worry list. But Floyd (0-2, 9.00 ERA) and Garcia (0-2, 8.10) need to get better in a hurry.

sgregor@dailyherald.com