The White Sox designated outfielder Lastings Milledge for assignment on Thursday and brought up right-handed pitcher Jeff Gray from AAA Charlotte.
In need of a 12th pitcher to bolster a bullpen that has taken a few lumps in the first five games, the Sox announced the move before their home opener against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Sox manager Ozzie Guillen is hoping Milledge clears waivers and accepts a minor league assignment at Charlotte.
“Personally, it was very hard for me to do it,” Guillen said. “That’s the hardest thing you can do. When you send someone down that has nothing to do with the situation, that’s something.
Milledge had a good spring, batting .305 in a competition with Brent Lillibridge for the extra outfielder’s job. The Sox kept them both and started with 11 pitchers instead of 12 as they had first planned. Milledge was 1-for-4 with a run scored in the Sox’ first five games. He misplayed a ball in left field in Cleveland and another in Kansas City, both doubles that probably could have been caught if played right.
The Sox are placing an emphasis on defense, and that may have been a factor in Milledge getting sent down. However, Guillen spoke highly of Milledge, who came with a reputation as something of a problem child but was anything but that with the Sox. Guillen gave Milledge the bad news after the team’s flight from Kansas City to Chicago.
“I was on the plane thinking all flight how I was going to handle it,” Guillen said. “He handled it very well. I talked to Milledge about the problem we have. Unfortunately, that’s part of the game. It’s one of the hardest talks I had with any of the players.”
Gray, 29, was signed by the Sox as a free agent last November. The former Cub is 1-1 with a 4.91 ERA in 36 major-league relief appearances.
“He threw the ball well and he had good stuff in spring training,” Sox pitching coach Don Cooper said. “He can give us innings. He pitched well in Charlotte.”