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Manny's Here, But As Harry Said, What About The Pitching?

The Sox got what they hope is a big bat in Manny Ramirez -- but what they really needed, George says, is some bullpen help.

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It's not a mixed metaphor to intertwine Manny Ramirez's arrival with a favorite Harry Caray-ism from his Cubs days. After all, Harry provided Sox fans with unforgettable guerilla theater of the air for 11 seasons before he moved 8 1/2 miles north.

"What about the pitching?" Harry intoned as another shaky Cubs staff took the field out of Mesa each year. No one bothered to answer his question adequately.

And as Kenny Williams extolled the virtues of Manny Ramirez Monday afternoon, he never really explained how he'd get out of the bigger mess that's become his bullpen.

"The real White Sox won’t be shown 'till the back of the bullpen guys are back," Williams said in explaining the state of his team with Ramirez added.

Hmm, when will that be? Matt Thornton was sidelined with a sore muscle in his left arm. J.J. Putz has a sore knee. Who knows how effective each reliever will be when he returns?

I posed the question to Williams: Was there consideration to acquiring Angels closer Brian Fuentes last week as the bullpen crumbled and Williams scrambled around for healthy bodies to replace Thornton and Putz amid Oney Guillen's latest Twitter grenades tossed as the GM?

The timing was terrible. Williams passed on claiming Fuentes, who then went into the clutches of the Twins, who already had landed another closer in Matt Capps.

"We still had Erick Threets at that time, and Thornton is coming back," Williams said. "We were not taking on dollars for him (Fuentes had $1.5 million left this season) putting him in the fifth. I'm not concerned about other teams. Fuentes didn’t really fit for us."

Fuentes was dealt to the Twins last Friday. That night, lefty Threets tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow, requiring Tommy John surgery. Williams had to call up Carlos Torres to fill the gap. And even if he thought Thornton could pitch now, the Sox still need depth in the bullpen.

Williams said last week decent relievers are just not available at this time via waivers -- at least relievers that are better than your own. Well, the Twins are bullpen experts, and they found a need for Fuentes. The timing was even worse when Fuentes, against whom lefties batted just .132 this season, struck out Russell Branyan for the final out to nail down a Twins' 1-0 victory on Saturday -- same day John Danks and the bullpen allowed an off-night by C.C. Sabathia to still sprout into a 12-9 Yankees victory.

Maybe the Sox are tapped out. Williams said he and owner Jerry Reinsdorf are carefully watching walk-up attendance for the extra cash flow needed. Maybe they could not take on more than $2.5 million in extra payroll between Fuentes and Ramirez.

But if the Sox bullpen continues to cave in while Fuentes makes a deep Twins 'pen even better, what will the mea culpa be then? A shaky bullpen is an absolute killer in today's baseball world.

Manny Ramirez can be a 2008 Dodgers-style spark for the Sox. And if the relievers give all his clutch hitting back, what has been gained?

Some franchises are experts on handling their personnel down the stretch. I wonder if others closer to home are just in a state of guesswork.