CHICAGO -- Chris Beck entered last Thursday's game in Cleveland during the seventh inning, with the White Sox protecting a one-run lead against the American League Central leaders.
Beck was making career appearance No. 9 out of the bullpen, leaving venerable White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper to view the moment in a slightly different manner.
"I said, 'Opportunity is knocking on his door right here,'" Cooper said. "Whoever we are bringing in is getting an opportunity to show us what they can do.
"I'd like to win as many games as we possibly can and put all the work in on a daily basis with all the guys with whatever work that they need, which is no different than any other day during any other season. Give everyone the opportunities they are looking for and find out who can help us win. That's it. Who can help us win?"
It seems hard to imagine a little more than three months ago the White Sox had a six-game division lead and postseason visions following a 23-10 start. Now, they sit two games away from a Top 10 protected first-round pick in the 2017 Draft, playing home games on Tuesday and Wednesday against the Phillies, who are currently 10th.
They have reached the "land of opportunity" stage at 59-64, although as Cooper pointed out, the White Sox certainly want to win. Young pitchers such as Beck, Michael Ynoa, Tommy Kahnle and Jacob Turner, who certainly could have played some part on a contender, are getting extended looks in the bullpen leading up to setup man Nate Jones and closer David Robertson.
These chances partially come out of necessity with the trade of Zach Duke to the Cardinals and injuries sustained by Jake Petricka and Zach Putnam. But it's also a function of the season's turn.
Carson Fulmer, the organization's top prospect per MLBPipeline.com, who has pitched out of the White Sox bullpen this season, is being stretched out at Triple-A Charlotte to get big league starts in September. This situation might not have played out so soon if Chicago stood as a prime postseason contender.
White Sox veterans fall in the same sort of opportunity stage, with general manager Rick Hahn and his staff assessing who fits into the plans moving forward, or who has value if the team moves toward a rebuild. It's not the scenario entertained back in May when the team was cruising, but it's the one it is handling.
"The last few years can wear on you," Cooper said. "The only reason we come to the freaking park every day is for us to win, and when we don't, I don't think anybody is happy about it.
"When you win, there's no feeling like it. When you lose, that's a whole other end of that spectrum. Right now, we are not where we want to be, but everybody from the top down is determined to get it right. I've seen the best of times, I've seen some difficult times. And right now, we've been in a tough time. But you gotta move on to the next day as best you can."