CHICAGO -- There’s an unsung hero from the 2005 White Sox World Series championship roster, according to Don Cooper.
And if the answer to this assertion is not right-handed pitcher Luis Vizcaino, then you aren’t on the same page as the White Sox pitching coach.
“This guy had a role that he picked up all of the loose innings, and he picked it up well,” Cooper told MLB.com of Vizcaino in a recent interview. “He pitched if we were up by a lot, down by a lot or had to finish out a game.
“He did not [complain] or moan at all. He kept everything, in my mind, in order to where we would have our better guys always available.”
It was right fielder Jermaine Dye, who was the World Series Most Valuable Player, as the White Sox position player in Cooper’s mind who didn’t quite receive the rightful big credit or hoopla. Freddy Garcia might have been slighted at times if Cooper had to pick a rotation member, although he felt all the starting pitchers, who combined for 152 starts, received the attention they deserved,
So, Vizcaino falls in the unsung bullpen arm category for Cooper as much as for the team overall. The ’05 White Sox went from Shingo Takatsu to Dustin Hermanson to Bobby Jenks as closers, with Hermanson saving a team-high 34 and posting a 2.04 ERA and Jenks beginning his career as an elite ninth-inning presence at the end of August.
Cliff Politte and Neal Cotts became dynamic setup men, with 2.00 and 1.94 ERAs, respectively. Damaso Marte effectively worked all over the late innings, and Brandon McCarthy provided the only 10 starts not made by the stellar White Sox rotation. That roll call leaves Vizcaino, who came over from the Brewers as part of the Scott Podsednik/Carlos Lee deal and pitched in middle relief as Cooper explained for his one year on the South Side.
Vizcaino worked 70 innings over 65 games, finishing with a 6-5 record and 3.73 ERA. That total was a bit skewed by an appearance on April 7 where Vizcaino allowed six runs in 2 1/3 innings during an 11-5 loss to the Indians. Vizcaino took one for the team by throwing 60 pitches, illustrating his regular-season importance early for a 99-win squad.
“We had nobody else left to use one day, he had that inning where he gave up four or five and everybody thought he [was bad],” Cooper said. “They weren’t going with 13 pitchers at that time. It was different. It has changed now because starters aren’t necessarily asked in some cases to carry the bulk of the work.
“Now you have the opener, or after four or five innings, they will get a guy up because of the numbers out there with second or third time around [a batting order] comes into play so much more than it was then. That means starters aren’t going that deep, so you need to carry more pitching.”
Cooper fondly remembers the entire ’05 staff, a group which tied for the American League lead with a 3.61 ERA, nine complete games and 54 saves. But 15 years later, Vizcaino still holds a special place.
“I really remember the pitchers. From Day One to the final, they were studs. All of them were,” Cooper said. “But Vizcaino did an unheralded role that in some ways can be not recognizable, but valuable nevertheless.”