White Sox manager Rick Renteria’s bullpen was ravaged last July by trades for prospects, and he probably should brace himself for another hit next month, especially if veteran closer Joakim Soria keeps pitching the way he has lately.
The likelihood of Soria being traded to a contending team increases with each scoreless appearance by the right-hander, who has 215 career saves, including 11 this season with the Sox.
“Right now, I don’t even want to think about it,” Renteria said. “Right now, I’ll take advantage of every opportunity we have to give him a chance to close games out.”
Soria wasn’t needed in the Sox’ 6-1 victory Wednesday against the Twins at Guaranteed Rate Field because right-hander James Shields pitched seven scoreless innings and the offense scored six runs or more runs for the fifth consecutive game. That’s something the Sox hadn’t done since 2012.
Shields (3-9), who allowed four hits, struck out five, walked two and was in complete control throughout, might follow Soria out the door if the Sox (28-51) can land a low-level prospect from a contending team that needs a reliable, experienced innings-eater down the stretch.
“The way he’s managing the strike zone, the way he’s commanding from the [lower arm] slots he’s throwing from now,” Renteria said. “He shows these guys how to grind through an inning, get through certain situations, remain calm, understand that no matter how much havoc occurs around you, the next-best thing is to try to execute pitches.”
“I’m feeling really good with my delivery right now, my mechanics,” said Shields, who lowered his ERA to 4.29. “It’s been a lot of fun making these adjustments.”
Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia homered, Garcia for the second time in two nights and Abreu for the 136th time in his career, tying him with Jose Valentin for 11th place on the Sox’ all-time list.
The Sox, who have won three consecutive games and four of their last five, built enough of a lead that Soria, who has converted seven consecutive save opportunities since June 5 and has made 12 consecutive scoreless appearances, wasn’t needed.
But bullpen arms are always in demand for contending teams, and Soria knows it.
“This is a business,” said Soria, who has been traded three times in his career, including to the Sox last winter. “At the end of the day, you’re part of a company, an organization. And if they know they can get something in return, they’re going to do it, regardless of whether I like it or not.”
If Soria had his choice, he said he’d like to stay.
“I really love this environment,” said Soria, who also has pitched for the Royals, Rangers, Tigers and Pirates during his 11-year career. “I love the chemistry in here. It’s a young team, but we click together and we fight together, and Ricky instills that in us. And he keeps it loose and keeps it fun.”
If Soria is dealt, Renteria will have to find another closer. Nate Jones would be a possibility if he comes off disabled list. Juan Minaya, who assumed the role after David Robertson was traded last season, was given the ninth inning Wednesday but walked two batters and had to be rescued by Luis Avilan.
“We’ll deal with that possibility [of losing Soria] when we cross that bridge,” Renteria said.
Twins third base coach Gene Glynn and manager Paul Molitor were ejected in the sixth. Glynn was arguing that Shields had balked in the fifth, and Molitor’s ejection came after a balk call on Shields in the sixth that would have scored a run was overturned.