GLENDALE, Ariz. –Closer David Robertson and right-hander Jake Petricka, both important pieces in the White Sox bullpen, are both dealing with minor discomfort in their pitching arms, manager Robin Ventura said before the team’s 9-6 Cactus League loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers Thursday.
Robertson, whom the Sox signed to a hefty four-year, $46 million deal during the offseason, downplayed the issue in his right forearm-elbow area. Ventura did too, saying he expects Robertson and Petricka to be ready by Opening Day in 11 days.
“I don’t think anything is wrong,” Robertson said. “I’m not going for MRIs or anything like that. I just got a little soreness. This late in the season, I don’t want to sit there and push something and end up being injured for the start of the season.”
That Ventura and Robertson didn’t express concern may come as some relief, but any arm issues of any sort always raise a red flag.
“I don’t think it’s anything that’s going to make them miss the start of the season,” Ventura said.
“Guys go through that in Spring Training.”
Robertson’s issue is in the forearm near the elbow. It didn’t prevent him from throwing about 20 pitches — fastballs and changeups — in the bullpen Thursday. He hasn’t pitched in a game since Saturday (he was a little sore after that one) and said he hopes to get back-to-back games in next week.
“Just getting the feel back,” he said. “I felt pretty good. I just don’t want to push anything. That’s the big thing. I have a little soreness. It’s not bad. I don’t foresee a problem. I just don’t want to injure myself worse when I’ve got a week or two to get it right.”
Ventura called it a “dead arm” which pitchers typically deal with during the spring.
“It’s not even dead arm,” Robertson said. “It’s just you tweak something. You have a little soreness. You just try to get it right. Spring training, these games don’t count. I want to be ready for the games that do count.”
Petricka pitched Monday.
“Yeah, I think we have a few guys that are doing that [dealing with soreness] right now,” Ventura said. “When they are ready to go, they are ready to go.”
Three-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw held the Sox (8-12-3) to three hits over five innings while 36-year-old Brad Penny – who started the 2006 All-Star Game in a Dodger uniform suffered a setback in his bid to be a useful major league pitcher again. Penny allowed six runs on eight hits, including a tape-measure homer by Yasiel Puig, over four innings. After giving up an RBI single to Adam LaRoche (10 RBI) in the first, Kershaw strung together five scoreless innings. Jose Abreu stretched his hitting streak to 12 with three singles against Kershaw (eight Ks), who struck out Avisail Garcia three times.
With three off days over the first 11, the Sox could get by with with four starters and an eight-man bullpen for two weeks. Barring injuries, this group could be right-handers Robertson, Jake Petricka, Zach Putnam, Maikel Cleto, Javy Guerra and Matt Albers and lefthanders Zach Duke and Dan Jennings. Putnam, who had a shaky start to his spring, has been better of late. His scoreless inning Wednesday included two strikeouts, a single and hard liner to center. Daniel Webb had another rough go of it, struggling with command and giving up a homer to Rollins on a 3-1 pitch.
About those nine K’s …
Ventura was impressed with Carlos Rodon’s nine strikeout, no walks performance against the Royals Wednesday but noted the 6 p.m. start in twilight was tough on hitters.
“Good, good,’’ he said when asked about Rodon’s comment that he thinks he’s close to being ready. “I mean, last night he looked good. But we also started a game at 6 o’clock. It was difficult for everybody up there. He looked great, but a lot can happen the rest of spring training.’’
Ventura called the outing, easily Rodon’s best, a “step in the right direction.” His 19 strikeouts lead the Sox. Jose Quintana is next with 11.
“Yeah, he threw well,’’ Ventura said. “That’s not a question.”
Rodon could help the Sox out of the gate, and his best chance of opening with the team seems to be in the bullpen. Starting at AAA to delay the start of his service time, coupled with the no-harm option of giving him more than his 24 1/3 innings of minor league work, might be the wisest choice, all things considered.
Abreu raised his average to .488 to take over the Cactus League lead. Carlos Rodon’s 19 strikeouts are tied with Taijuan Walker and Drew Pomeranz for the lead and Alexei Ramirez drove in a run Thursday to join the Cubs’ Kris Bryant as the league leaders in RBI with 15.
On deck: At Cubs, 3:05 CST (Ch. 9, 670-AM). Jeff Samardzija starts against the team that drafted, developed and traded him him after 5 ½ seasons in the majors. Samardzija has allowed nine earned runs in 11 1/3 spring innings. Jason Hammel starts for the Cubs.