While the White Sox are off to a 24-14 start, the rest of the American League Central is struggling to separate itself from the .500 mark. Some are struggling to even find it.
Hello, open door to the postseason.
General manager Rick Hahn knows it. He threw the ‘O’ word around again Tuesday and seems ready to pounce on whatever opportunities come his way to better equip his roster to make October baseball a reality for the first time in eight years on the South Side.
“We are prepared to make a big move today if it presents itself,” Hahn said before the Sox opened a 10-game homestand Tuesday night against the Houston Astros. “Unfortunately, our timing might not line up with the other 29 clubs just yet. It’s still early in the process. A lot of clubs don’t look to make those moves until June or July but we are having dialogue right now hoping something comes together more quickly than that.”
The Sox have the top two leaders in American League earned run average in Chris Sale and Jose Quintana but the recent starts from Carlos Rodon — who faced the Astros Tuesday — Mat Latos and current fifth starter Miguel Gonzalez are beginning to be areas of concern. Pitching, the Sox’ strength, is the top priority. If Hahn thought Tim Lincecum was more intriguing in substance than in name, he would have made a bigger push than the Angels for his services. There will be more, and likely better, options out there before too long.
The Sox showed something already by parting with John Danks and near $12 million left on his salary because they know the Central is there for the taking. The Cleveland Indians are a game over .500, the defending World Series champion Kansas City Royals are a game under and the Detroit Tigers were four games under. The Twins are buried in last place. It’s early for scoreboard watching but it’s not too soon to know Hahn must pounce if he can snag pitching depth, either in the rotation or in the bullpen.
Would he trade prized prospects from a farm system not rife with talent for the sake of winning now? For a significant return, yes. He will keep an open mind.
“We want to put ourselves in the best position to win in October,” he said. “First to get to October and then to win deep in October.”
Inside the clubhouse, the Sox are keeping their heads down and focusing on today’s game, they say.
“Just keep attacking our plan, worry about what we have to accomplish and what we have to do as a group and not really worry about what’s going on across the other side,’’ Brett Lawrie said.
“We just worry about Ws, and that’s all we worry about.’’
Maybe it was the presence of those Houston Astros, the final obstacle in that last memorable Sox October in 2005, that has Hahn charged up.
“When the chance to win comes along, you need to do everything in your power to maximize that opportunity and feed what the guys in this clubhouse, the coaches and players alike, have been able to build thus far in this season,” Hahn said.
While all in the organization were happy with 24-14, Hahn was far from satisfied with 2-4 on the recent road trip in Texas and New York.
“We should have done a little better on the last road trip and I think everybody feels that way in there right now,” he said.
The Sox are bracing for a stretch of 17 games in 16 days, so there’s no time to let up on the field as well as in the front office. Hahn likes that an edge, with no signs of complacency, exists in the clubhouse despite the good start.
“That is a good thing,’’ he said.