Robin Ventura knows what it’s like mixing and matching in the ninth inning without having a bona fide closer. Having David Robertson around this season took a lot of the guesswork, and managerial stress, out of the equation for the White Sox manager.
“Oh yeah. I love having him in there,” Ventura said Friday, when asked if Robertson would be a building block going forward. “I hope so.”
Signed as a free agent to a four-year, $46 million contract during the off-season, the notion of Robertson not being around next year was floated when it became public that Robertson had been put on waivers and claimed by his old team, the Yankees. The Sox then pulled him off waivers.
With 29 saves and a 2.44 ERA, Robertson has given the Sox what they expected, especially of late. He hasn’t walked a batter in his last eight appearances and has retired the last 26 batters he’s faced.
Robertson’s run reminds of when Sox closer Bobby Jenks tied Jim Barr’s (1972) record 41 consecutive batters retired in 2006. Sox left-hander Mark Buehrle wrapped some outs around his perfect game in 2009 and broke Jenks’ and Barr’s mark with 45. The Giants’ Yusmeiro Petit set a new record with 46 straight in 2014.
Location of his cutter and curveball have been key in Robertson’s recent run, Ventura said.
“He’s gone out there and been very strong,” Ventura said. “Any time he goes out there fresh and has got some zip on it… I mean, there’s been times where we’ve ran him out there quite a bit, but right now he’s getting in there where he’s pretty fresh getting in there. I think when his curveball is sharp, it just makes his fastball and his cutter that much better.”Robertson has converted 16 of his last 18 save opportunities. His ERA over his last 22 games is 1.90.“We like our chances when we’re winning in the ninth, definitely,” Ventura said. “We’ve thrown him out there even, whether we’re tied or we’re close he’s going to be coming in there to give us another chance at it.”The 26 straight batters is the most since John Danks retired 26 straight in 2013. Philip Humber, who pitched a perfect game in Seattle in 2012, retired 29 straight.
Johnson & Johnson
Right-hander Erik Johnson made his second start, and Micah Johnson his first at second base since his demotion to AAA Charlotte as Ventura and GM Rick Hahn take a look toward 2016. Outfielder Trayce Thompson, 20-for-49 for a .408 average, was back on the bench against Twins right-hander Ervin Santana after going 2-for-4 with a homer against the Indians Wednesday. Thompson will play Saturday against lefty Tommy Milone, Ventura “and probably the days after that.”
Micah Johnson’s bat and speed have shown well, but his defense didn’t after he won the Opening Day job. He went back to Charlotte to work on it.
“You’re trying to see what he’s done,” Ventura said.“You’re always juggling getting guys in there that you have up here that you want to see. You want to see where they’re at.” Lefthanded hitting catcher Rob Brantly, who hit a three-run homer Tuesday, was behind the plate while waiver pickup Mike Olt was at third base.Veteran Adam LaRoche returned after three days off with a sore knee.Here is how the Sox lined up against the Twins Friday:Eaton CF, Abreu DH, Cabrera LF, A. Garcia RF, LaRoche 1B, Ramirez SS, Brantly C, Olt 3B, Johnson 2B*Erik Johnson figures to keep on pitching through September.“I’d like to see more of him,” Ventura said. “I think we all would.”Johnson was the International League’s top pitcher this summer after making one good (late 2013) and one bad (early 2014) showing with the Sox.In his season debut at Kansas City Sunday, he allowed three runs on five hits over six innings to earn the victory. He allowed three solo homers.Ventura saw “just a more confident presence of being out there and throwing strikes and what he was trying to do and knowing he could do it.”“That’s important. For him going through last year and you get sent down and not making it this year, that you go through that year and you use it to benefit yourself. You don’t sit there and pout about it. I thought he’s come up here with a purpose and I think that’s important.”A break for Rodon
Danks, Jeff Samardzija, Erik Johnson and Jose Quintana will pitch against the Oakland A’s, in order, on Monday through Thursday at U.S. Cellular Field. With Johnson plugged into the rotation this month, Danks (nine days) got an extended rest between starts, and it will be Carlos Rodon’s turn to get one this time through.
Danks, a Texan, lost a bet to broadcaster Ed Farmer, a Notre Dame fan, on Saturday’s college football game and had to wear a leprechaun suit during pregame warmups.
*Zach Putnam (right groin) was reinstated from the disabled list.