DETROIT -- The following statement is meant as no offense to Charlie Leesman, the White Sox spot-starter who lasted just 2 2/3 innings during Detroit's 8-6 victory Tuesday at a chilly Comerica Park.
But replacing Chris Sale qualifies as an almost impossible task, and it's a task that Tigers hitters certainly were glad the White Sox had to execute for the second of this four-game series.
"I'm sure on the other side when they saw that, no offense to Charlie, but when they saw Chris was scratched, I imagine they were pretty excited about it, and they didn't care who was pitching," said White Sox designated hitter Adam Dunn of the rotation change brought about by Sale's first trip to the disabled list. "Charlie had one bad inning."
"Everybody expects the Sale/[Justin] Verlander matchup and then they see this: 'Who's Leesman?'" said Leesman with a resigned smile. "But I go into it as serious as anything else."
Leesman (0-1) came to the Majors with a 1.59 ERA over three starts for Triple-A Charlotte. Very few pitchers even at the Major League level can match Sale, who is one of the best starters in the game.
Until at least the first weekend of May, when Sale is eligible to come off the disabled list, where he landed Tuesday with a flexor muscle strain in his left arm, the White Sox will have to try their best to capably fill that sizeable void. Substitute No. 1 didn't go particularly well.
"It was short," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura of Leesman's outing. "You'd like him to go a little further, but they were hitting him around pretty good. He was just up in the zone, and they were swinging it."
"I felt good going out," Leesman said. "Usually, my problem is walking people. But I was throwing a good amount of strikes. I need to get the ball down. They are a great hitting team. Rough third inning took me out."
Five straight Detroit batters opened that five-run third by hitting safely, producing four runs. Ian Kinsler's double off of third baseman Marcus Semien's glove and Miguel Cabrera's home run to right each accounted for two runs. When Alex Avila singled to left after Nick Castellanos' sacrifice fly, Leesman's day was done. Zach Putnam, who resides in nearby Ann Arbor, Mich., replaced Leesman and set a career high with four strikeouts over his two innings of relief.
In his second Major League start, Leesman allowed six runs on nine hits, while walking one and not striking out anyone. General manager Rick Hahn would not commit to anything past Tuesday's start for Leesman, and Ventura basically said the same postgame, so Sunday's White Sox starter against the Rays remains uncertain.
Jose Abreu's first-inning homer off Verlander (3-1) gave the White Sox (10-11) an early lead. Verlander didn't retire the side in order during any of his seven innings, yielding eight hits, but also knew he was working with a fairly comfortable advantage.
"Once he gets a lead like that, he really goes into power-save mode," said Ventura. "He wasn't really cranking it up and letting it fly. He was just kind of controlling with offspeed stuff and getting guys out in front. He wasn't reaching back trying to blow anybody away. He was just trying to conserve, and it's just smart. He's a smart pitcher."
Al Alburquerque, Phil Coke and a late charge by the White Sox offense actually turned an 8-1 deficit through five into an 8-6 Tigers lead in the ninth. Alexei Ramirez represented the tying run at the plate against Joba Chamberlain (first save), after Dayan Viciedo drew a two-out walk to go with his career-high four hits.
Ramirez's liner to left-center was caught by J.D. Martinez, ending a three-run rally that included Adam Dunn's prodigious two-run clout to right and Paul Konerko's run-scoring single. Konerko stands one short of 2,300 career hits and broke an 0-for-17 slump with his single to center.
"They keep going up there and grinding away," said Ventura of his offense. "That's a good sign for us."
"It was like I threw an incidental two-seamer," said Coke of the pitch Dunn crushed. "No, it was an incident, because he hit that a long way. Somebody almost died. That was an incident in the outfield seats. Seriously. I'm being totally honest, because he tattooed that ball. He really did."
Luckily for the White Sox, their two-time All-Star and rotation stalwart shouldn't be out of action for too long. At least that's the hope as of April 22.
For the short term, though, the White Sox will have to roll with the latest injury punch.
"That's part of the plan," Ventura said. "You have to have guys be able to fill in, and tonight wasn't the night."