High walk totals signal issues aplenty

CHICAGO -- Getting Chicago White Sox pitchers to throw the ball over the plate won’t be as easy pointing them toward the catcher’s glove.

Manager Robin Ventura admitted there are multiple issues plaguing his hurlers, who have opened the season with an aversion to the strike zone.

The staff entered play Saturday with 114 walks; no other pitching staff in baseball had reached the 100 mark. Nobody is free from blame. The Chicago starters had issued 59 walks, which led all rotations in baseball, while the bullpen was far and away the most generous with free passes, handing out 55.

"There’s a combination of command issues and just maybe pitch selection in certain counts, guys trying to get guys to swing and miss instead of just letting them put it in play," Ventura said. "You know, last year, I would have understood because of the way we played defense, but this year we’ve been playing with a better defense, and I think you can pitch into the zone to have him hit it."

Closer Matt Lindstrom said more than a week ago it was time to let teams put the ball in play and give the defense a chance to do its part. He even planned to make it the topic of discussion the next time the relievers gathered in the bullpen.

He either never went ahead with his planned chat or nobody was listening. Right-handers Maikel Cleto and Jake Petricka each had eight walks, tied for fourth among all MLB relievers, while left-handers Scott Downs and the long-departed Donnie Veal were tied for 14th with seven.

On the starting side, Erik Johnson's 15 walks were tied for sixth in the American League, while fellow righty Felipe Paulino's 12 were tied for 15th -- though Paulino hadn’t pitched in more than a week after going on the disabled list.

Though good feelings reigned Friday after the White Sox rallied in the ninth inning and won on Jose Abreu's grand slam, the earlier innings were marred by the 11 walks issued by White Sox pitchers.

"It’s never good, but there are teams doing the same thing," Ventura said. "[During Friday's comeback], we wouldn’t have had the opportunity unless we worked some walks ourselves. We know we want to cut down on them, and they know they want to cut down on them, so that just has to get better."