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updated: 9/1/2013 9:09 PM

Prized prospect Johnson expected to join White Sox

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  • Charlie Leesman, who bailed out White Sox starter Andre Rienzo on Sunday, could be a strong candidate to fill the role of long reliever next season.

      Charlie Leesman, who bailed out White Sox starter Andre Rienzo on Sunday, could be a strong candidate to fill the role of long reliever next season.
    Associated Press

 
 

There's less than month left in the regular season, which can't end soon enough for the White Sox.

It has been time to look toward 2014 since late May, when the Sox went on an eight-game losing streak after scratching and clawing back to the .500 mark.

Looking ahead to next year, the starting rotation looks promising with Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, John Danks, Hector Santiago and Andre Rienzo -- although the latter three were ineffective during 3 straight losses to the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park over the weekend.

The calendar turned to September on Sunday, meaning 25-man rosters were eligible to expand. The White Sox brought up two players from Class AAA Charlotte: left-handed pitcher Charlie Leesman and catcher Bryan Anderson.

Look for the Sox to bring up their prized minor-league prospect -- right-handed pitcher Erik Johnson -- later this week.

With a glut of left-handers (Sale, Quintana, Danks, Santiago) in the current rotation, Johnson already is positioned to squeeze in for the '14 season. And if he's as good as his eye-popping numbers with Charlotte (4-1, 1.57 ERA) and AA Birmingham (8-2, 2.23 ERA) indicate, don't be surprised if Johnson opens next year as the White Sox' No. 2 starter behind Sale.

Leesman was in Charlotte's rotation this season, and he came up and made a spot start for the Sox on Aug. 9, pitching 5 innings against the Minnesota Twins in the first game of a doubleheader. He allowed 1 run on 4 hits and 5 walks in 5 innings.

This time around Leesman is pitching out of the bullpen, which makes sense since he's also left-handed.

The 26-year-old prospect had to bail out Rienzo on Sunday, and Leesman pitched relatively well in 413 innings, allowing 1 earned run on 3 hits and 4 walks against a Boston team that ranks second in the major leagues in runs scored.

If he's able to settle down and throw more strikes, Leesman could emerge as the Sox' long reliever next season.

"Whatever the position is, I'm more than happy to go after it that way," Leesman told reporters. "In terms of relieving, I think the last time I did it was in Puerto Rico in 2011 (winter ball), I had like 12 innings. And the year before it was in the (Arizona) Fall League.

"I'm going back to the Fall League to try to do that again. I wasn't really expecting that when they told me, but if it can help me make the team next year out of camp, then it's awesome."

Right-hander Daniel Webb is another minor-league reliever who could be joining the Sox in September. In 13 appearances with Charlotte, Webb has a 1.77 ERA. He opened the season at Birmingham and was promoted after pitching 15 scoreless innings.

sgregor@dailyherald.com

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