Victory gives White Sox small taste of the future

CHICAGO -- While another roster retooling looms this winter for the Chicago White Sox, at least one piece of the puzzle is beginning to emerge.

Right-hander Erik Johnson had another solid start, giving up three runs on six hits over six innings in a 9-4 victory Wednesday over the Oakland Athletics and is an early candidate for the 2016 starting rotation.

Johnson isn't the only one trying to make a case for a 2016 job, but he has definitely started to take hold of his chance.

He hasn't necessarily been overpowering in three big league starts this year, but he has still managed to post a solid 3.71 ERA over his three starts (17 innings). That has come after posting a 2.37 ERA at Triple-A Charlotte over 132 2/3 innings while earning International League pitcher of the year honors.

"You know, it was a good transition," Johnson said. "But you know, it's almost like you have to take a step back. You don't have to do more, you just have to throw those quality strikes and get people out."

A resurgent White Sox offense has allowed him to sit back and throw strikes, although he did throw 110 pitches in six innings of work Wednesday. He not only got plenty of run support Wednesday, but also had it in his first start of the season Sept. 6 at Kansas City. Johnson earned the victory in both starts.

"We got the lead there and I think at that point, you're just managing the game, throwing strikes," manager Robin Ventura said. "He had a high pitch count, but again, you're looking at being able to get through it. You've got a nice lead. You might as well take advantage of it, throw strikes so your defense can work for you."

Johnson did throw 70 of his 110 pitches for strikes, while walking three batters, and wasn't about to be critical of a performance where the game dictated how he needed to throw.

"I thought the command was pretty good," he said. "I thought those first two walks came on 3-2 pitches. They were battling. I went deep on a few counts and they kept fouling balls off. But you know, I was aggressive in the zone with multiple pitches and especially with a lead like that you just have to fill it up."

Also getting an opportunity to showcase his talent is Mike Olt. The power-hitting third baseman delivered his first home run in a White Sox uniform when he crushed one deep into the seats to the right side of dead-center field 448 feet away.

He became the first player ever to hit a home run for both the Cubs and White Sox in the same season. His April 11 long ball with the Cubs came on the same day he suffered a hairline fracture in his right wrist when he was hit by a pitch later in that game.

Kris Bryant was destined for the Cubs' third-base job anyway, but Olt's injury appeared to speed up that process. Bryant eventually made the third-base job his own on the North Side and Olt was later designated for assignment, leading to the waiver claim earlier this month by the White Sox.

Without a guy like Bryant in the picture ahead of him, the path is clear for Olt if he can get results to match his potential.

"It's going to be some motivation for the offseason and I'm going to try to get myself in a great position to come into spring and hopefully win a job," Olt said.

Yet another player making waves in the second half has been Trayce Thompson, but the outfielder was a late scratch as he continues to deal with the effects of a hyperextended left elbow that he suffered in Monday's game.

Thompson figures to be back no later than the weekend, when the White Sox open a road series at Cleveland, and could even return as early as Thursday afternoon in the homestand finale against the A's.

"I wanted him to make sure he was feeling as close to 100 percent, and just wasn't comfortable having him go out there," Ventura said about removing Thompson from the lineup. "I know he didn't feel that comfortable about going back out there. I know he said it feels OK, but if he's going to go back out there, I want him to feel like he has a fighting chance of being able to do something."

At 69-75, the White Sox are left looking beyond playoff chances and toward the makeup of next year's club. Johnson, Olt and Thompson aren't the only options the White Sox will have, but their play could dictate what route the front office will take when making offseason moves.

"Definitely I just want to get out there and just get relaxed and have fun," Olt said. "It took me a couple of games to get back in the swing of things. I'm definitely looking forward to finishing strong."