12/03/10 6:53 PM EST
White Sox ship Linebrink to Braves
Club receives Minor League right-hander Cofield in return
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
Every little bit counts in the White Sox pursuit of Paul Konerko, after they officially added Adam Dunn and A.J. Pierzynski to the 2011 mix and beyond. Chicago sent along cash considerations of $3.5 million to Atlanta, meaning it saved the $2 million needed for Pierzynski's 2011 salary.
In the process, the White Sox gave a quality individual in Linebrink a fresh start after he struggled out of the bullpen in Chicago for the past two years.
Getting to Know Kyle Cofield
|Selected in the eighth round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft by the Braves out of high school, Cofield has the prototypical pitcher's body -- a 6-foot-5, 230-pound workhorse-type frame. He's moved one station at a time during his Minor League career, staying at one level per year. He's gone 25-26 with a 4.12 ERA and a 1.49 WHIP in 485 total innings. He's appeared in 118 games (82 starts). In 2010, he spent most of the year with Double-A Mississippi, going 1-3 with a 4.39 ERA in 18 games in the Southern League. Ten of those games were starts, and he was responding well to a move to the bullpen, posting a 1.84 ERA over eight games in relief. Batters hit just .211 against him when he was coming out of the 'pen.|
|That appears to be his future role, and he was set to continue working on the transition in the Arizona Fall League until a knee issue forced him to be shut down. He's expected to be at full strength by Spring Training. Cofield's biggest problem has been control and command, which is why a shortened bullpen role might make more sense.|
|Cofield, 23, throws a fastball in the 91-94-mph range with an above-average curveball. He does have a developing changeup, but it may not be as vital that he continue to perfect that pitch if he's pitching in relief. Even out of the 'pen, he'll have to improve his command that has led to a career 4.9 BB/9 ratio. Not on the 40-man roster, Cofield will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft -- to be held Thursday.|
"I'm thrilled and very excited to be a part of the Braves' organization," Linebrink said. "I was real interested in going to Atlanta after the 2007 season. But that makes the culmination of all of this that much sweeter, because we just had to wait a little longer.
"A change of scenery is always good. I'm looking forward to getting back to the heat in the South. I certainly won't miss that snow in April or the cold rain in May."
Linebrink came to the White Sox as a prime free-agent target prior to the 2008 campaign, agreeing to a four-year, $19 million deal. Although he had an All-star caliber first half in 2008, Linebrink never really recreated that sort of success.
He finished the 2010 campaign at 3-2 with a 4.40 ERA over 52 appearances. In fairness to Linebrink, he was used in an unfamiliar middle-relief role that called for two innings pitched in six separate contests.
White Sox general manager Ken Williams studied Linebrink at the end of a dismal 2007 season in Chicago when Linebrink was with Milwaukee and then went strong after him in the offseason. Williams believes Linebrink will thrive in Atlanta because his raw stuff hasn't tailed off.
"I wouldn't be surprised if Linebrink put up a heck of a year down there," Williams said. "It's a little bit of a mystery as to how he went in and out of effectiveness, but his stuff never left."
"My arm feels great," Linebrink said. "Everything feels great. This just gives me even more motivation while I get ready for the season."
Right-hander Kyle Cofield came over to the White Sox in exchange for Linebrink. He appears ticketed for a relief role, with a fastball in the 91-94-mph range and an above-average curve.
Matt Thornton, Tony Pena and Sergio Santos are the only experienced pitchers currently returning in the White Sox bullpen. Williams has targeted another veteran reliever as one of his main goals to achieve at next week's Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.