White Sox looking for Johnny Cueto’s help ‘sooner rather than later’

The veteran right-hander’s impressive start at Charlotte last week — four scoreless innings with one hit, no walks and six strikeouts — has raised manager Tony La Russa’s anticipation that he can make an impact with the Sox.

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The White Sox expect pitcher Johnny Cueto to soon contribute to the major league club.

“Based on how he’s pitched, we’re looking for his help sooner rather than later,” White Sox manager Tony La Russa said of pitcher Johnny Cueto. “It’s been impressive so far. He can help us.”

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After watching video of Johnny Cueto’s start Thursday at Triple-A Charlotte — four scoreless innings (45 pitches) with one hit, no walks and six strikeouts — manager Tony La Russa is anticipating the 36-year-old veteran helping the White Sox. 

“Based on how he’s pitched, we’re looking for his help sooner rather than later,” La Russa said. “It’s been impressive so far. He can help us.” 

Cueto is expected to pitch for Charlotte on Tuesday or Wednesday. 

Mendick, Severino to Charlotte

Infielder Danny Mendick and left-hander Anderson Severino were optioned to Charlotte to get the Sox down to the 26-player roster limit, which took effect Monday. 

Mendick was hitting .250 (5-for-20) with one home run and three RBI in 20 games. He figures to be back at some point.

“He knows his value to our club,” La Russa said. “If you look at the options, there’s nobody else that made sense. He’ll be ready when we ask him to come back.” 

Severino, who made his major-league debut April 14 against the Mariners, had a 6.14 ERA in six appearances (7 1/3 innings) with four walks and nine strikeouts. He had three scoreless appearances but allowed three runs in two-thirds of an inning against the Rays on April 17 that blew up his ERA.

“Severino knows that except for the one appearance, he’s really pitched effectively, become a weapon for us,” La Russia said. “He’s … trending up. So he felt good about it.”

Injury report

La Russa said outfielder Andrew Vaughn is “improved but not major-league-ready,” as he recovers after getting hit by a pitch from the Angels’ Mike Mayers on Friday. X-rays were negative, but La Russa, as he has with every injured player, is being cautious.

“He’s still got discomfort when he swings; it’s still sore,” La Russa said. “The wrong thing to do would [be] to trot him out there. We’ve got good alternatives, so [he’s] improving, which is good. [But] not ready.” 

Right-hander Joe Kelly, rehabbing a right biceps injury at Charlotte, could be back by next Monday, La Russa said, knocking on wood. Kelly threw a 17-pitch scoreless inning at Charlotte on Sunday. 

Hendriks crisp and clean

It’s probably not a coincidence. After Dylan Cease had his best start of the season, Liam Hendriks had his best finish. 

The Sox’ closer needed only 12 pitches to strike out the side in a 1-2-3 ninth inning that clinched a 3-0 victory against the Angels on Monday at Guaranteed Rate Field. He caught Mike Trout looking for the last out. 

It was Hendriks’ fifth save in six opportunities, but he’s still searching for the groove that has made him one of the most dependable closers in the game. His ERA dropped to 4.82.

“A good outing for me,” Hendriks said. “Not only being able to throw strikes [but] able to get some swings and misses and also keeping my pitch-count low. I still believe I’m averaging over 20 pitches per inning [21.7] — anything under 15 is usually a good one. It means [being] a little more fresh for tomorrow after throwing two days ago and warming up yesterday and going today.” 

Abreu does the hustle

Jose Abreu was the designated hitter because “he was kind of ouchy,” La Russa said. But that didn’t stop him from scoring from first base on Adam Engel’s double in the sixth inning to give the Sox a 3-0 lead. Abreu did a mini-somersault to get up off the ground after sliding home.

Joe McEwing made a heck of a call there,” La Russa said. “He was chugging, man. It was like he was running downhill. He had the biggest smile on his face when he came into the dugout. It was worth the price of admission to see that.”

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