TORONTO — Right-hander Mike Pelfrey said coming to the White Sox was a blessing in disguise.
Released by the Tigers with a year left on his contract at $8 million, Pelfrey, 33, could turn out to be a blessing for the Sox, who are letting the Tigers pay that salary while they use him to eat up innings in the back of their rotation. If he makes more starts like he did Saturday, outdueling Blue Jays ace Marcus Stroman in the Sox’ 5-2 victory, he might bless the Sox in the form of a prospect or two from a contending team looking for rotation depth.
If nothing else, Pelfrey is having a good time with the rebuilding Sox. In Cleveland last week, his teammates showered him with beer after he reached the coveted 10-year service-time milestone. In Toronto this weekend, he and Derek Holland talked a clubhouse boy into scrounging up an old microphone to use in mock interviews in the dugout during the game.
Pelfrey was asking the questions during the Sox’ 11-4 victory Friday night, and on his pitching day, he turned the duties over to fellow starter Holland, who was seen on TV cameras “interviewing” Pelfrey after his six innings of one-run ball.
After Jose Abreu hit the last of three homers against Stroman in the sixth — Todd Frazier and Matt Davidson hit back-to-back jacks in the second — Holland put the microphone to Abreu, who broke up his teammates by shouting, in English, “You can put it on the board!”
The dugout’s response was a collective “Yes!”
“It was hilarious,’’ Holland said.
Pelfrey, who crossed his eyes and pulled faces during his “interview” with Holland, was more subdued with real media after the game, even with Holland walking over and putting the mic on his lips.
“It was pretty good,’’ Pelfrey said. “Did a little dugout piece when we got done. It was pretty funny, keeping it loose, guys coming in the dugout after. It makes it fun.’’
Pelfrey said he has worked well with pitching coach Don Cooper, who has him featuring a slow curve. He said he also has benefitted from open and frequent discussions with Cooper about his craft.
“My time here has been great,’’ he said. “When you go to new places, you don’t necessarily know how it’s going to be. These guys in here are great. They’re fun and have fun. Coming here was probably a blessing in disguise. I’m very thankful for the opportunity and just trying to make the most of it.’’
Pelfrey improved to 3-5 and lowered his ERA to 3.56, almost a full run below his career mark, against a tough lineup in a hitters’ park. He allowed four hits and no walks and struck out five as the Sox won for the second time in two nights at Rogers Centre and for the fifth time in the last six games.
Pelfrey left with a 3-1 lead thanks to the homers, and the Sox added an unearned run in the eighth and one more in the ninth on Yolmer Sanchez’s suicide squeeze that scored Tim Anderson.
Tommy Kahnle got five outs to get the ball to David Robertson, who pitched a perfect ninth for the save as the Sox improved to 31-36 before a sellout crowd of 47,171 and dropped the Jays to 32-35.
Pelfrey got through six innings only one other time this season, in Seattle on May 20, when he also allowed one run.
He and Holland, as well as Kahnle and Robertson, to name a few, could be gone before the trade deadline as the Sox carry on with their rebuilding process. In the meantime, why not keep it fun?
“We’re just trying to keep it loose and enjoy ourselves out there,” Holland said.
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