“You know, just simply not good enough,” said Bummer, who allowed three runs (one earned) over 1 2/3 innings. “In the first two, three weeks of the season I’ve put my team in some pretty [bad] situations.
“Whether or not it’s guys having to come in behind me or just not making pitches when I need to, so simply [put] I need to get better. The way I’ve been throwing the ball isn’t the way I want to throw the ball. It’s not the way that I know that I can.”
Bummer entered this season as an important part of what looked to be a lockdown White Sox bullpen, with closer Liam Hendriks and Kendall Graveman from the right side and Garrett Crochet joining Bummer from the left. Crochet underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery during Spring Training, while both Bummer and Hendriks have struggled through a 7-11 White Sox start to the campaign.
There have been signs of excellence for Bummer, who has fanned 13 in 7 2/3 innings pitched and used his sinker Thursday to get three ground balls, with two of them producing three outs in the ninth. But much like the White Sox in the early part of 2022, he has just missed total success.
Kansas City loaded the bases against Bummer in the 10th, following walks to Andrew Benintendi and Carlos Santana, giving the southpaw eight walks on the year. He struck out Bobby Witt Jr. looking for the second out, but a passed ball charged to catcher Reese McGuire and an opposite-field single from lefty hitting Kyle Isbel gave the Royals three runs before the final out was recorded.
“At the end of the day, I’m not making those pitches,” Bummer said. “You can take it for what it is, but it’s a game of wins and losses. It’s a game of doing your job or not doing your job.
“It’s just one of those things where whether or not being one pitch away, I didn’t do my job. The balls that were put in play were ground balls, so that’s a positive. The walks and things, all those things have got to go away.”
Manager Tony La Russa believes Bummer’s issues fall into the category of trying too hard or pressing, which has plagued this entire roster. La Russa suggested a non-baseball related solution to help solve this overall problem.
“Breathe. Just breathe. You are at 100 percent? Don’t try harder,” La Russa explained. “I mean, it’s a very human response if you feel the responsibility, but that’s part of pitching for a contending club. He dealt with it last year. You gotta breathe.
“Understand that a lot went on in that game besides the 10th inning. It is cruel. You have bases loaded, two outs, lefty against lefty and you think, ‘Wow, we get this out and we can score a run and win.’ All of a sudden, there’s three on the board. This game will drive you nuts.”
Graveman threw two scoreless innings in Wednesday’s victory, ending an eight-game losing streak. Hendriks has been battling back issues and hasn’t pitched since Byron Buxton’s walk-off home run at Target Field on Sunday, but was potentially available in a save situation Thursday, per La Russa.
Work is being done by Bummer with pitching coach Ethan Katz and assistant pitching coach Curt Hasler, with a focus on strong mechanics, the ball coming out of his hand the way it should and being able to command the strike zone.
“Those are all things we haven’t been able to do so far that just got to get better,” Bummer said. “ We all go through stuff and you have highs and lows and you just kind of ride the wave. I’m putting in the work with Ethan and Has, trying to figure out the best way to move forward and to get back to what I know I can be.”
The White Sox, who have a 1-8 record in their last nine against the AL Central, will need Bummer at the top of his game to help achieve lofty expectations this season.
“We expected everyone to be coming for us,” Bummer said. “We’re now the hunted in this division and everybody in this division made some moves to take a step forward and we did, too. It’s a long season. It’s been 20 games or so. We’ve just got to keep going.”