09/02/2003 10:12 PM ET
Notes: Koch ready to help
Reliever willing to contribute where necessary
CHICAGO -- There was a time not too long ago -- last season, to be exact -- when Billy Koch was mentioned with the hardest throwers in all of baseball. He also was saving 44 games for Oakland, winning 11 and claming the Rolaids Relief Man of the Year award.
But after being reinstated from the 15-day disabled list prior to Tuesday's game, the White Sox right-hander was focused more on perfect location than the overpowering 100-mph heater that has disappeared from his repertoire this season. Koch even compared his new approach to that of Seattle starter Jamie Moyer, whose fastballs have been known to barely break the speed limit.
"Look at Jamie Moyer," Koch said. "He doesn't throw hard by any meaning of the word. But he's extremely effective because he locates really well. If I'm throwing 95 or 96 and locate, I can get away with that.
"The last two times out [during injury rehabilitation] I felt real good out there. I threw the ball where I wanted to, which is the biggest thing. My mechanics were good and my arm didn't hurt."
Koch, on the disabled list due to soreness and inflammation in his right elbow, made four relief appearances at Triple-A Charlotte. He allowed five hits and three walks in 3 2/3 innings, striking out two, but he didn't give up a run during back-to-back outings Saturday and Sunday in Durham.
"There were no recurring affects from the inflammation, so it went well," said Koch of his back-to-back efforts.
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
With Tom Gordon and Damaso Marte holding down Koch's old closer's role with great success, Koch figures to move into a setup role during the final month. But with Scott Sullivan also pitching well since being acquired from Cincinnati, Koch could end up in middle relief.
It's a big dropoff from where the White Sox expected him to be when they acquired Koch from the A's for Keith Foulke in the offseason.
"I think our bullpen right now is set up with Sullivan, [Kelly] Wunsch, Marte and Gordon," said White Sox manager Jerry Manuel. "That's pretty much the positive side of it."
But Koch is ready to contribute in any way possible to a division title.
"With the way Flash [Gordon] and Marte have been throwing the ball, I'm not going to sit there and argue with [Manuel]," added Koch, who has a 5-5 record, 5.55 ERA and 11 saves in 51 games for the White Sox. Koch has struck out 36 and walked 24 in 48 2/3 innings. "Those guys have been outstanding for us not just recently, but the whole year.
"If I can step in and fill any role they want me to fill, I'll be happy to do it. Of course, I still want to be the closer, but you can't just say, 'OK, Billy's back. His arm feels good. We're going to put him in that role.'
"We're at the point now that if I were to get it back, it would be something I would have to earn," Koch added. "Go out and throw the ball really well, or maybe those guys are on three or four days in a row and I can step in and help the back end of the bullpen."
Break in the action: After playing 17 straight games from Aug. 8-24, the White Sox pick up a rare two off-days in the same week. Having a day away from baseball Monday and then again Thursday, following the two-game series against Boston, gives players such as Roberto Alomar (sore back) a chance to stay in the everyday lineup but rest nagging injuries.
"We've got a few guys that are banged up," Manuel said. "Every time they can get a little breather, I think it gives us more energy coming down the stretch.
"But with two days off at this time of year for us, it gives us a chance to set the rotation how we would like it. That's a positive for us."
While the White Sox were enjoying Labor Day barbeques, the Twins and Royals both lost on Monday. The South Siders started Tuesday's action with a two-game lead in the American League Central.
"I liked yesterday, for sure, because we gained ground," said Manuel with a smile.
Weekend rotation: Danny Wright is scheduled to fill the fifth starter's void Sunday in the series finale against Cleveland. The right-hander is 0-5 with a 6.18 ERA in 12 starts and 1-0 with a 3.24 ERA in five relief appearances.
Wright pitched five innings in relief against the Yankees Thursday, allowing one earned run.
"It doesn't really matter how they want to use me," Wright said. "I feel I can help the team out of the bullpen or as a starter."
The .400 club: With a 1-for-3 finish Monday night, Jeremy Reed ended his 66-game stay at Double-A Birmingham with a .409 average. Reed had 99 hits in 242 at-bats, with seven home runs, 43 RBIs and 18 stolen bases.
Reed also was named the Southern League Player of the Month for August when he batted a league-leading .434 and drove in a league-high 23 runs.
Tee to green: The "Field of Greens" golf outing, presented by SBC, will take place this Thursday at the Links at Carillon in Plainfield, Ill. Proceeds benefit White Sox Charities and pediatric oncology.
To publicize Thursday's event, Carlos Lee and Aaron Rowand each teamed with a local member of the media for a closest-to-the pin contest prior to Tuesday's game at U.S. Cellular Field. The team of Rowand and Dan Roan, the WGN-TV sports anchor, beat Lee and Jill Carlson, a local FOX sportscaster, with Roan's shot from 100 yards away coming within a few feet of the makeshift hole in center field.
Down on the farm: Despite winning more games than Durham, Charlotte fell one game short of making the International League playoffs. The Knights finished 74-70, including a 10-4 victory at Durham Monday night to finish the season. Due to the large number of rainouts and a costly ninth-inning loss to Durham Sunday, the Bulls concluded the regular season with a 73-67 mark -- one game ahead of the Knights.
Aaron Miles had three hits in Monday's victory, and Brian Cooper struck out six over eight innings, improving to 15-9. Joe Borchard had three hits and two RBIs, as the highly-touted outfielder finished with a .253 average, 13 home runs and 53 RBIs. Ross Gload led the league with 64 extra-base hits and finished second in hits (160) and slugging percentage (.524). Gload also hit 18 home runs and drove in 70, but as a six-year minor leaguer, the White Sox could lose him in the offseason to free agency.
Neal Cotts allowed five runs in two innings during Birmingham's 5-0 loss to Greenville. Cotts will start the third game of the Southern League playoffs for the Barons. Scott Bikowski finished second in the league with his .312 average.
Despite a 2-0 loss at Frederick, Class A Winston-Salem advanced to the Carolina League playoffs. The Warthogs won the Southern Division first-half title.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.