Kahnle, Swarzak rising up in White Sox 'pen

Relievers may hold trade value in club's rebuilding process

Kahnle, Swarzak rising up in White Sox 'pen

CHICAGO -- Tommy Kahnle and Anthony Swarzak quickly moved from the proverbial roster bubble near the end of Spring Training to integral pieces in one of Major League Baseball's top bullpens as the month of June begins.

And in the rebuilding world where the White Sox reside, that duo's rise to excellence also means trade potential. The scenario becomes part of the decision-making process for general manager Rick Hahn in keeping the big picture focus above the single season.

This topic requires more of a pragmatic approach for Swarzak, who limited hitters to a .056 average (3-for-54) over a 14-game stretch this season.

"Any time you are wanted on the mound, that means you are doing something right," Swarzak said. "That's something as a professional, everybody kind of works toward: the managers and the GMs want you on the mound at any given time. It's exciting. I've been working toward this for the last few years, and finally the results are there.

Swarzak K's Upton

"Every player in baseball is a trade candidate in some way. Either you are the first guy that gets named or you are a throw-in guy later. The possibility is out there. As far as me and this year, I don't know."

Swarzak, 31, is eligible for free agency after the 2017 season. He has a 2.59 ERA and a 158 ERA+ over 20 games, with four of his seven earned runs allowed and four of his 14 hits yielded over 24 1/3 innings coming in one inning against the Red Sox during a 4-1 loss on Wednesday. Swarzak's average fastball velocity has risen from 93.4 mph in 2016 to 94.4 in '17 per Fangraphs, while mixing in a couple versions of his slider.

The White Sox have three more years of control over Kahnle, 27, following this season. The hard-throwing right-hander ranks tied for fourth among relievers with 39 strikeouts to go with his .141 average against and 1.29 ERA over 21 innings and 22 games. Kahnle features a 0.71 WHIP with five walks allowed after giving up 79 walks over his first 121 1/3 innings.

This duo, along with David Robertson's continued success at closer (28 strikeouts in 19 2/3 innings, 0.864 WHIP), has helped the bullpen thrive during the injury absences of Nate Jones, Jake Petricka and Zach Putnam. These relievers also could help the White Sox add to the critical mass of young talent being assembled.

"I really do like it here. I love the fans. I love my teammates. I really like [pitching coach Don Cooper] a lot, Coop and [manager Rick Renteria]," Swarzak said. "What they've got going on here is right up my alley. The relationships, the communication is really professional, and it makes it easy to come to work every day and work in this atmosphere.

"You get excited to come here and play. I would be a little disappointed. But at the same time, if you are getting traded to a contender, you have the possibility of winning a World Series right now. I obviously would embrace it. I'm glad that I'm pitching myself into that conversation, but I want to continue to pitch well here with the White Sox for as long as I can."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.