On Monday, the Chicago White Sox assigned reliever Maikel Cleto to Class AAA Charlotte. The right-handed reliever has impressed the team brass since he was claimed off waivers at the beginning of Spring Training.
When the White Sox picked him up in late February, the team knew they were getting a flamethrower who has been unable to tap into his full potential. As a St. Louis Cardinals farmhand, Cleto made jaws drop with his velocity, but made heads shake because of his lack of command. His inefficiency became so troublesome that the Cardinals, a team that knows a thing or two about grooming young talent, released him after only 13 appearances.
Cleto became one of Sox pitching coach Don Cooper‘s experiments for the 2014 season. Cooper has a track record of having pitchers achieve their full potential in a White Sox uniform. Due to a lack of bullpen options, and his impressive Spring Training, Cleto was placed on the 25-man roster on Opening Day.
The number that Cleto has accumulated over 13 games this season do not reflect his overall performance. His 5.14 ERA and 1.93 WHIP make Dylan Axelrod look like Cy Young. While his stats do not show it, Cleto has shown improvement after making the move to the American League.
Cleto has only allowed a run in only three of his appearances this year. With the exception of his last one on May 8, in which he allowed five runs, the 25-year-old has allowed more than one run only once. In fact, he started the season with six straight scoreless appearance. The problem was his inability to keep opponents off the base paths.
One could look at Cleto’s numbers and either have a glass half empty or a glass half full mindset. While his WHIP is incredibly high, his lack of runs given up indicate his ability to escape unscathed. Clearly though, the team believes that a trip to their minor leagues is the best route in order to have him continue to improve his control.
While a demotion to the minors usually has a negative connotation, that is not the case with Cleto. Sox fans should still be excited with the positives they have seen from the gunslinger. If former major leaguer and Charlotte Knights pitching coach Richard Dotson can continue to tinker Cleto’s mechanics, there is no telling what the budding hurler can do. Maybe he can even solidify that ninth inning role that the Sox desperately need to fill for the long term.