GLENDALE, Ariz. — Zach Putnam is struggling, and while he might have a longer leash than others who are fighting for spots in the White Sox bullpen, he knows he still has to perform. Manager Robin Ventura said as much after Putnam gave up two home runs against the Cubs Friday.
“He’s getting the ball up,” Ventura said. “Any time you get the ball up with the splitter, it’s going to get you, especially in Arizona. He has to be better. We’re counting on what he did last year (1.96 ERA) but you have to back it up in the spring, too.”
In four appearances, Putnam has pitched in all of 3 2/3 innings this spring. He has allowed eight hits — four of them home runs — and eight runs, all earned, which computes to a 19.64 ERA. He does have six strikeouts, so it’s not like he’s not missing bats with his pitches.
Putnam said his split-fingered pitch has been good.
“Yesterday I laid some fastballs in there early in the at-bat and guys are taking good swings,” he said Saturday. “Especially late in the game, guys are coming in there and just kind of swinging out of their shoes, and I was kind of a victim of that yesterday.”
Putnam has last year’s record on his side. That he has minor league options left doesn’t work in his favor, though.
“There’s no guarantees as far as doing OK last year that you can count anything in,” Ventura said. “These guys have to continue to grind all the way in.”
Putnam said he doesn’t think in terms of making or not making the team.
“I don’t think like that. Whether I’m in a position where I am in this year or a position like I have been in previous spring trainings, the objective is the same: Go out there and get guys out and prove to these guys that I’m the man for the job, whatever job that may be. So I’m not focused much on that. Whatever happens will happen.”
NOTES: Brad Penny got the start in the White Sox game against the Royals Saturday. He allowed two runs over his first four innings, one on a homer by Brett Eibner. Here’s the lineup: Eaton CF, Shuck LF, Abreu DH, LaRoche 1B, Soto C, Gillaspie 3B, Beckham SS, Beltre RF, Bonifacio 2B.
*Abreu (.483), Micah Johnson (.467), Avisail Garcia (.406), Melky Cabrera (.385) and Alexei Ramirez (.367, 11 RBI) are hitting at steady clips. Abreu was 3-for-3 against the Cubs Friday, Garcia 2-for-4 with two RBI, Cabrera 2-for-3, Johnson 2-for-3 with a stolen base. Garcia has been on base in all 11 games, and Cabrera is 7-for-10 in his last four. On the flip side, Tyler Flowers (.091) went 0-for-3 with a strikeout.
*The Sox traded minor league catcher Michael Blanke to the Arizona Diamondbacks for cash. After hitting .226 at AA Birmingham in 2013, Blanke went back to Rookie ball and tried pitching for Great Falls of the Pioneer League. He posted a 4.72 ERA over 13 innings and is back to being a catcher.