It wasn’t all good news out of Cleveland Saturday afternoon despite the White Sox snapping their three-game losing streak with a 6-2 victory over the Tribe. After drawing a walk in the fourth inning, shortstop Alexei Ramirez exited the game with a lower back injury.
Alexei has played in all 95 of the White Sox’ games thus far and made it into 158 in each of the last three seasons, so you know something was really hurting if it took him out of the ball game. He actually said the injury occurred when sitting down in the clubhouse earlier in the day, describing it as a spasm. And apparently a swing in the fourth was what really brought about the pain.
So with Sunday’s rubber match against the Indians the only thing standing between Ramirez and the All-Star break, the team made the obvious decision to sit him down and let him rest.
While the club does have utility man Leury Garcia on the bench who can handle the duties at shortstop, there is no other infielder on the roster that won’t be starting, which is not a good thing even though it may only be an issue that lasts one game.
So the Sox decided to option pitcher Andre Rienzo, recently demoted out of the starting rotation, to AAA Charlotte to make room for a call-up, which to the surprise of some was learned to be Carlos Sanchez.
The White Sox are deepest organizationally when it comes to middle infielders, so there were a few options here. The ‘hottest prospect’ they could’ve called up was Micah Johnson, while Marcus Semien is another logical option.
Micah was likely ruled out of the discussion because he only plays second base, while Sanchez and Semien can be used comfortably all over the infield, much like Leury Garcia. And if you’re calling up an infielder to have ‘in case of emergency’, you may as well call one up with some versatility, whether it’s for one game or not.
Not to mention, Johnson is playing in the MLB’s Future’s Game later today.
Sanchez, who just turned 22 a couple weeks ago, has long been considered to be behind Johnson and Semien in the organization. We already explained that his versatility earned him the promotion over Johnson, but what was it that has him favored over Semien? Well, there’s actually a lot to point to.
First of all, Semien is struggling. Despite coming up with several clutch knocks earlier in the season for the Sox, he hit just .218/.287/.327 in 181 big league plate appearances. And though he’s been better of late, his .221/.323/.400 line with AAA Charlotte is also underwhelming. Not to mention, he is just 23 years old, so it’s not as if the club needs to force the issue there yet.
Sanchez, quite simply, has been a lot better than Semien. He tore up the Venezuelan Winter League this past offseason and is now impressing with the Knights, hitting .291/.352/.405. He’s also swiped 12 bases and has tallied 24 extra-base hits while playing solid defense.
Though he’s just 22, this is his second full season in AAA, as he’s been at the level since he was 20 after earning a late-season call-up in 2012. He didn’t impress much there last year, though that’s understandable considering he was one of the youngest players at the level. He’s now figured it out and obviously has White Sox management excited to get a glimpse of him at the big league level.
You don’t want to read too much into what may wind up being a one-game promotion, but considering the options the team had to choose from in AAA Charlotte, the move may mean the club would love for Sanchez to be the heir apparent to Alexei at shortstop.
Sanchez is starting Sunday’s rubber match in Cleveland at SS and hitting second.
Unfortunately, Alexei has been yanked from this week’s All-Star game. It would’ve been great to see him get into the action in Minnesota, but he’s obviously still an official 2014 American League All-Star regardless.