KANSAS CITY -- Before any criticism can be heaped upon Don Cooper's White Sox pitching staff, he quickly points out how only four games have been played in the 162-game season. He adds that the Red Sox, last year's World Series champions, had the same 2-2 record as the White Sox.
But like a stern but proud father, Cooper immediately demanded more of his staff that issued 19 walks over the last three games entering Saturday.
"It's four games," Cooper said Saturday. "But I will tell you, yesterday we need to pick that up. That [isn't] what we are looking for."
Cooper took umbrage at the depiction of the White Sox bullpen imploding in the first week. He praised Daniel Webb and Maikel Cleto, adding that Ronald Belisario made one bad pitch over three games and closer Matt Lindstrom had one good game and one bad game.
Three of the first four starts gave the White Sox a chance to win. Erik Johnson, who allowed seven runs on 10 hits over 4 2/3 innings in Friday's setback, did not follow that pattern. Cooper didn't see enough strikes from Johnson's fastball, slider or changeup.
"Erik was not nearly as good as we need him to be," Cooper said. "Everybody is capable. You give other teams help and they are going to … You gotta make them swing the bat to beat us. We can't shoot ourselves in the foot.
"[Walks] can't happen. They all [stink]. It sets yourself up. You are in tougher situations, higher-anxiety innings. Higher-stress innings we'll call them. But Erik is a rookie. There are going to be ups and downs and we are going to try on the next outing to turn a down into more of a positive."
This stretch of cold weather clearly favors the pitchers, according to Cooper. Even though it's early, he wants to see that edge work in his team's favor.
"Listen, hits and walks make up runs," Cooper said. "We've got to take care of the walk column for everybody. The other team has to hit us to beat us."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.