Development at the forefront as Leasure sent down

June 15th, 2024

PHOENIX -- None of the high-leverage White Sox relievers were needed during Friday's 7-1 loss to the Diamondbacks in their Interleague contest at Chase Field.

But even if the visitors had grabbed a lead or stayed close, wasn't an option. The rookie right-hander, who leads the team with 30 appearances, was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte along with outfielder Zach DeLoach before the series opener.

It's all part of the development process for Leasure, who broke camp with the team and has pitched in a late-inning role for most of this campaign. After posting a 3.00 ERA over 13 games in March/April and a 2.31 ERA over 12 games in May, his ERA swelled to 10.80 in five June appearances.

So, Leasure returns to the Minors with a solid base and some homework on his agenda.

"Fastball command, he always needs to continue to improve on that," said White Sox manager Pedro Grifol. "Controlling the running game, all that kind of stuff in a more controlled environment where the game is not on the line every single day.

"He's been phenomenal. I'm extremely proud of him and he's helped us. We haven't won much, but he's helped us win a lot of the games that we've won. He's going to continue to be a big big part of this, this year and moving forward."

The White Sox (18-53) are as much focused on getting these young players as close to the top of their game as they are on giving them valuable Major League time. Hitting or pitching well on the Minor League side is important to earning promotions toward the top rung, but it's a different sort of ballgame once they arrive.

Take a look at outfielder Oscar Colás and infielder Lenyn Sosa, who have been recalled twice from Charlotte this season after disappointing starts to their respective careers and now look comfortable in their roles. Sosa finished 1-for-3 with two nice plays at third base Friday, as the White Sox fell to 1-4 on this road trip and 6-30 away from home.

"That's a credit to our player development people," Grifol said. "I mentioned this all the time and I think it's really important for these guys to be mentioned and the type of job they are doing. They are developing these guys.

"Colás, he came back up relaxed, controlling at-bats. That's why it takes a whole organization to get this thing moving in the right direction."

Grifol also mentioned Jonathan Cannon as a product of player development. The rookie right-hander had a 7.24 ERA over three April starts before going back to Charlotte with the instructions of being able to use his changeup more against left-handed-hitting-heavy lineups.

Cannon's return featured his first career save with four strikeouts over three scoreless innings against Boston on June 7 and seven strikeouts over seven innings in Seattle Wednesday while allowing one run. Cannon figures to get a decent run in the White Sox rotation, as does Drew Thorpe, the No. 3 White Sox prospect and No. 54 prospect overall, per MLB Pipeline, who is scheduled to make his second career start Sunday in Arizona.

These young pitchers will be monitored for innings and workload. The same holds true for Garrett Crochet, who leads the American League in strikeouts but has already exceeded his career innings total in his first year as a starter.

"I haven't heard anything," said Thorpe of the extent of his '24 stay with the White Sox. "So, I'll just put my head down and work and see what happens."

Leasure, 25, almost certainly will be back with the White Sox this season. And the hope is he'll be even better prepared than his first successful stint.

"It's a big part of it. It's a big part of the development process," Grifol said. "He is going to be great here for a long, long time, and a big part of the future here. It's just getting him in a more controlled environment for a little bit of time to where he's not taking on that workload that you have to take here in the big leagues.

"He actually understood. Not happy. I don't want anyone to sit there and say 'OK, thanks Skip. I'll see you in a little bit.' I don't want that at all. But I do want them to be relentless and committed to continuing to get better. Continue his improvement."