Manager Ozzie Guillen brought his own giveaway bobblehead doll into his Sunday postgame briefing. It had a piece of tape over the mouth.
But even after the White Sox's bullpen had been pounded for six runs in 2 1/3 innings of an 11-5 loss to Tampa Bay, the real Guillen was able to hold his tongue—to some degree.
Maybe it was because bullpen trouble is nothing unusual of late. Maybe it was because he was busy deciding which minor-leaguer should replace the demoted Andrew Sisco. Maybe both.
"It's a shame to see those guys struggle," Guillen said. "When you're not attacking the strike zone and you're not throwing strikes, I don't care how good you are, you're going to get beat.
"If you have a winning team, your bullpen has got to do a better job. We're not going to win with a bullpen like that."
A bullpen like one:
•That has allowed 38 runs in 30 1/3 innings over the last 13 games for an 11.27 ERA.
•That has allowed first batters to hit .292.
•In which Sisco owns a 15.00 ERA in May, and Mike MacDougal has allowed 12 runs on 15 hits in his last 5 1/3 innings.
"MacDougal, we've got to talk to him about stuff," Guillen said. "Hopefully he doesn't lose confidence."
Said MacDougal: "It's not mental. I'm still confident every time I go out there. The last few outings have been a little rough. Ups and downs, that's baseball. Next time out maybe I'll turn things around."
He'd better or he might follow Sisco out of town. Sisco, who allowed three runs in the ninth inning Sunday, was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte. He will be replaced Monday in Minnesota by Bret Prinz, who has a 0.68 ERA and one save, or lefty Carlos Vazquez, whose ERA is 0.57. Vazquez was included in the trade with the Cubs for Neal Cotts last winter.
Sisco was working in a mop-up role Sunday. But the worst of the bullpen culprits were MacDougal and Matt Thornton, expected to be the main right- and left-handed setup men for Bobby Jenks.
Each gave up an RBI hit to the first batter he faced.
Thornton's came in the seventh inning of a 4-4 tie in relief of Javier Vazquez. Vazquez, signed to a three-year, $34 million contract extension in March, hasn't won since his second start, with four no-decisions and three losses since.
"We all just have to step it up," Thornton said. "We haven't done well the last few games. We've had some bad innings, including two against the Cubs." Sox ERAs, meanwhile, have become very bloated. Right now the only relievers under 4.00 are Thornton and Jenks.
"You notice it more when a couple of guys are struggling at the same time," Jenks said.
The trouble with a struggling bullpen is that it is so obvious and deflating, because winnable games are lost late.
And the remodeled bullpen was supposed to be one of the strengths of this team.
"We'll stick by them like they stuck by [the offense]," Paul Konerko said. "There were a lot of games in April [in which] we don't come close to winning without the bullpen. So you have to keep that in mind.
"It looks like it's a matter of strikes and getting ahead, not a 'stuff' problem. That's good. They can get it fixed and turned around immediately. We'll have one of the better bullpens by the time it's over."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times