Showing posts with label Adam Engel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Adam Engel. Show all posts

Friday, April 20, 2018

White Sox bring back Trayce Thompson, trade Tyler Saladino to Milwaukee

Tyler Saladino
In separate deals Thursday, the White Sox acquired outfielder Trayce Thompson from the Oakland Athletics and traded infielder Tyler Saladino to the Milwaukee Brewers.

No other players were involved, as the Sox received cash from the Brewers and sent cash to the Athletics in the transactions.

Chicago fans already are familiar with Thompson, 27, who was drafted by the Sox in the second round of the 2009 draft and made his debut with the team in 2015.

Thompson hit .295 in 44 games with the 2015 Sox before being shipped to the Los Angeles Dodgers the following offseason as part of a three-team trade that brought third baseman Todd Frazier to the South Side.

The move initially was working out well for the Dodgers, as Thompson hit .290 over his first 110 at-bats as a fourth outfielder in Los Angeles, but then back trouble sidelined him and caused him to slump to a .225 average by year's end. Thompson hit only .122 in 27 games with the Dodgers in 2017. Los Angeles designated him for assignment at the end of March.

Thompson appeared in only three games with the A's, going 1 for 7 at the plate. He was designated for assignment earlier this week.

Saladino's story is not much different than Thompson's. The 28-year-old was a seventh-round draft pick of the Sox in 2010, made his major league debut in 2015 and had a respectable season in 2016, when he slashed .282/.315/.409 with eight home runs and 38 RBIs in 93 games.

But, back trouble ruined Saladino's 2017 season. He slumped to a .178/.254/.229 slash line in 78 games, failed to hit a home run and totaled only 10 RBIs.

He managed to make the Sox's roster coming out of camp this season and was 2 for 8 in six games so far.

Why would the Sox make these moves?

We've touched on it in past blogs. The Sox only had two true outfielders on the 25-man roster -- Avisail Garcia and Adam Engel. They've been plugging left field with a platoon of converted infielders in Nick Delmonico and Leury Garcia, and it's been ugly defensively.

Thompson probably will not hit much, but he can play all three outfield spots, and he serves as an insurance policy for center field if Engel (.179/.283/.205) continues to struggle at the plate. Also, Triple-A outfielder Ryan Cordell recently broke his clavicle and is expected to miss at least eight weeks. He was the outfielder in the system considered closest to big-league ready, and his injury left the Sox perilously thin in the outfield both at the major league level and in the high minors.

Enter Thompson to fill that void.

Saladino's best asset is his defensive versatility. He can competently play any position on the infield, but the Sox had a glut of utility guys, with Yolmer Sanchez and Leury Garcia also on the 25-man roster. Saladino was redundant and expendable.

How will Saladino help the Brewers? For now, he won't, because Milwaukee has optioned him to Triple-A Colorado Springs. 

And, in keeping with tradition, since Thompson has returned for a second tour of duty on the South Side, we would be remiss if we did not welcome him back:

Friday, March 30, 2018

White Sox tie MLB record with six home runs on Opening Day

Matt Davidson
Let's take a moment to rejoice: It's March 30, and the White Sox are alone in first place in the American League Central Division.

OK, that isn't worth much, but the traditional day off after Opening Day is much more enjoyable when your favorite team's record is 1-0.

I wasn't expecting the Sox to win Thursday, especially with James Shields on the mound, but an offensive onslaught allowed the South Siders to blow out the Kansas City Royals, 14-7.

The Sox hit six home runs on Opening Day, which ties a major league record -- the 1988 New York Mets were the other team to do it. And Matt Davidson became only the fourth player in MLB history to hit three home runs in an opener -- George Bell (1988), Tuffy Rhodes (1994) and Dmitri Young (2005) were the others.

Davidson's performance overshadowed a two-homer game for Tim Anderson. Jose Abreu also homered for the Sox.

Indeed, Sox fans are feeling good today, but they weren't feeling so good at 3:28 p.m. Thursday afternoon, about 13 minutes after the season began. The Sox went three-up, three-down in the top of the first inning against Kansas City starter Danny Duffy, and Shields put the Sox in a 4-0 hole only four batters into the bottom of the first inning.

Lucas Duda's three-run homer put the Royals ahead 4-0, as the first four Kansas City batters recorded hits. Same old Shields, right.

Well, it's no secret I'm not a fan of the 36-year-old veteran, but after that horrible start, the right-hander settled down and gave up nothing over the next five innings. He got through six innings, allowing only the four runs that came across in the first.

If you would have told me Thursday morning that Shields would get through six innings and give up four runs, I would have taken it. So, I'll take it.

Not to mention, Shields was better than Duffy, who fell apart the second time through the batting order. The Kansas City left-hander battled shoulder problems during spring training, so perhaps he just wasn't ready to go more than a few innings. He limited the Sox to one hit through the first three innings, but the roof caved in on him in the fourth.

Avisail Garcia doubled. Abreu homered. Davidson homered. Anderson homered. Yolmer Sanchez walked. Adam Engel singled. Yoan Moncada doubled. All of a sudden, it was 5-4 Sox, and the rout was on from there.

The Sox added three runs in the fifth, three in the seventh and three in the eighth.

The only concern I have from this game is the struggles of relief pitcher Juan Minaya, who gave up two runs and could not finish the ninth inning. Minaya walked a batter and threw two wild pitches in his two-thirds of an inning, and that wildness has been a pattern going back to his last couple of spring training outings.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, he was 9 for 10 in save opportunities down the stretch in 2017, but I don't think he should be the closer now, with Nate Jones healthy and Joakim Soria also on the roster.

It will be interesting to see how manager Rick Renteria uses the bullpen the first time the Sox are in a late-inning, high-leverage situation.

The Sox have two more games with the Royals this weekend, weather permitting. Right-hander Lucas Giolito will pitch for the Sox at 6:15 p.m. Saturday. He'll be opposed by Kansas City right-hander Ian Kennedy. Reynaldo Lopez gets the start for the Sox at 1:15 p.m. Sunday. The Royals will counter with right-hander Jason Hammel.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Following up: Carson Fulmer stays in race for fifth-starter spot

The White Sox offense produced 20 hits and five walks in a 15-2 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday, but Carson Fulmer's performance still is the story coming out of this game.

Fulmer entered Monday's outing with an unsightly 18.90 Cactus League ERA, but this latest performance will help. The right-hander worked four scoreless, hitless innings. He struck out four and walked three.

Pretty good, right?

Yeah, in comparison to other outings this spring, Fulmer was spectacular. However, I still have reservations about putting him in the starting rotation when the regular season starts.

Fulmer threw 72 pitches Monday, and only 38 of them were for strikes -- a 52.8 percent strike percentage. Velocity was good -- 91 to 94 mph on the fastball -- movement was good -- there's a reason he gave up no hits -- but his command still leaves a lot to be desired.

At one point, spanning the second and third innings, Fulmer missed the strike zone on 15 out of 16 pitches.

After getting the first two outs of the second inning, Fulmer issued a four-pitch walk and fell behind 2-0 to Daniel Descalso before getting a fly out to end the inning.

He started the third inning with a pair of four-pitch walks. After Jarrod Dyson's deep flyout, Fulmer fell behind in the count 3-0 to A.J. Pollock before rallying to record a strikeout. Pollock was caught looking at a 3-2 fastball that might have been low, and given his wildness, Fulmer was fortunate to get a call for the second out. He then got Paul Goldschmidt to fly out to end the Arizona scoring opportunity.

Fulmer navigated a successful fourth inning. He might have come back out for the fifth had the Sox not scored seven runs in the top of that inning. That's too long for a pitcher to sit in a spring training game, so the Sox wisely went to the bullpen.

Fulmer's competition for the rotation spot, Hector Santiago, pitched two scoreless innings of relief in this game, which also featured three-hit performances from Adam Engel and Matt Davidson.

Both Engel and Davidson have hit over .300 this spring, so it appears both will hold their roster spots.

Michael Kopech, however, has been assigned to minor-league camp, as expected, in a roster move made Tuesday.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Charlie Tilson among first round of White Sox roster cuts

Adam Engel
Charlie Tilson will not be the Opening Day center fielder for the White Sox.

The Sox made eight roster moves Tuesday, and Tilson was among the players optioned to Triple-A Charlotte.

It's somewhat surprising to see Tilson sent out the second week of March, as he was believed to be a contender for a starting job in center field, along with Adam Engel, Leury Garcia and Ryan Cordell.

But after a 3-for-18 performance in eight spring games, the club obviously has decided Tilson needs more at-bats in the minor leagues. General manager Rick Hahn foreshadowed this possibility at SoxFest, when he noted that both Tilson and Cordell have missed significant time because of injuries.

Cordell has shown well this spring -- he's 4 for 13 in six games with four walks and no strikeouts -- but he soon might join Tilson in Triple-A just because he didn't play at all the second half of last season.

That leaves Engel and Garcia in the mix, and we know the Sox like Engel's defense. It's also no secret the 26-year-old needed a swing overhaul after hitting .166 in 301 plate appearances at the big-league level last season. So far, so good for Engel this spring -- he's 5 for 16 with two home runs and four RBIs in eight games.

Garcia is the most accomplished player in contention for the center field job, but most of his playing time this spring has been in the infield. Garcia is an infielder by trade, but he was given time in the outfield last year to take advantage of his athleticism. When healthy, he was decent in 2017, posting a .270/.316/.423 slash line with nine home runs and 33 RBIs in 87 games.

Right now, Engel might have the inside track to be the center fielder based upon his defense, his health and some signs of offensive progress.

In other moves, pitcher Thyago Vieira was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte. Right-hander Jose Ruiz was optioned to Single-A Winston-Salem.

Injured third baseman Jake Burger, catcher Alfredo Gonzalez and pitchers Michael Ynoa, Jordan Guerrero and Dylan Covey all were assigned to minor-league camp.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Random thoughts from the goings-on at SoxFest

Few people spend a whole weekend at SoxFest and come away with zero autographs.

Me, I've been attending the event for the past few years and have never gotten a single signature.

I don't care for standing in line for autographs at all, but I'm not adverse to standing in line to take a picture with a former White Sox player:


Jon Garland was apologetic about forgetting to bring his 2005 World Series ring to SoxFest. I told him my "2005 happened" shirt would make up for it.



SoxFest was as crowded as I've ever seen it Saturday afternoon, so I was stunned to walk past the photo stage and see no line whatsoever to chat with a Hall of Fame player, Tim Raines. That's an opportunity I couldn't pass up as a baseball geek.


Everything they say about Jose Contreras is right: He's one of the nicest people you will ever encounter. He's gracious to fans, much like another former Cuban Sox player, Minnie Minoso. Contreras was hired as a team ambassador for good reason.

Aside from these three pictures, I spent most of my time hanging out in the seminar room, listening, learning and asking questions. A few things I found out:
  1. General manager Rick Hahn said if there's one move left to make this offseason, it would be to add one more relief pitcher to stabilize the bullpen. Hahn said he's looking for the next Anthony Swarzak, who made the Sox's roster last year as a nonroster invitee and ended up being traded for a useful prospect (Ryan Cordell) at midseason. Since Hahn made that comment, the Sox have signed right-hander Bruce Rondon to a minor-league contract. I doubt he's going to pitch like Swarzak did last season, but hey, at this time last year, did any of us think Swarzak would amount to anything?
  2. I asked Hahn how the outfield situation might sort itself out to start the season. Avisail Garcia, of course, is the right fielder. The other two starting spots and the backup outfield spot seem open, with Leury Garcia, Nick Delmonico, Adam Engel, Willy Garcia, Charlie Tilson and Cordell competing. Hahn did not rule out a veteran acquisition when I asked, but the Sox seem content to go with what they have. He noted that Tilson and Cordell missed significant time with injury last year. Both likely need more time at Triple-A, which is good news for the other four men on that list. Interestingly, Hahn said Cordell has been asked about by three different teams during offseason trade talks.
  3. Hahn and Renteria shared some thoughts on relief pitching and bullpen use in response to one of my questions Saturday. Renteria said he tells his relievers not to worry about what inning they are going to be used in. Rather, he wants them to be thinking about getting outs. He doesn't want to place guys in set roles -- a sixth-inning guy, a seventh-inning guy, etc. He did note that he considers himself to be old school in the sense that he wants starting pitchers to go as deep into games as possible. He isn't necessarily going to adhere to the theory that a starter's job is to get through the batting order two times and hand it over to the bullpen. He's aware that batting averages go up the third time through the order, but he's not going make decisions solely upon that. I asked Hahn if the organization in their scouting process is looking for "super relievers," guys who come in and work two or three innings in the middle of game -- the way Cleveland uses Andrew Miller, for example -- or do the Sox just try to stockpile starters, and whoever isn't one of the five best ends up in a bullpen role? Hahn's answer: yes and yes. If they find a guy who they think can be a dominant reliever in the middle of a game, they might draft him and try to develop him as such. But it's also likely that a sixth or seventh starter could end being that guy who works in middle relief.
  4. I asked director of player development Chris Getz about outfield prospect Luis Robert, who will be playing in the U.S. for the first time in his life. I'm wondering what minor-league level he'll start at, and Getz said that decision has yet to be determined. It depends on what Robert shows in spring training, of course, but it remains to be seen how the 20-year-old Cuban adjusts to life in a new country and a new culture. Getz said the organization will err on the side of caution with Robert, meaning if there is a debate over whether to start him in Low-A or High-A, they are going to put him in Low-A. The thinking being, if he destroys Low-A pitching, it's an easy adjustment to move him up to High-A. Better that than having him struggle at High-A and face a possible demotion to Low-A. Also, Getz said the organization sees Robert as a center fielder. 
  5. The optimism was overflowing all weekend long. There was one fan who wondered how the Sox could trade Fernando Tatis Jr. in the James Shields deal, but there wasn't a cross word uttered otherwise. Coaches, players and fans alike seem excited for the second year of the rebuild, and there was a lot of talk about how well the current players and prospects in the system enjoy being around each other. Players have an overwhelmingly positive view of Renteria and his leadership capabilities.  I'm not a big believer in chemistry -- I think you win with talent and execution -- but it doesn't hurt that the players in the Sox organization actually want to be with this team and want to win here. Time will tell whether they have enough talent and the ability to execute in pressure situations.

Monday, October 2, 2017

It could have been worse: White Sox finish 2017 with 67-95 record

Jose Abreu
Here's a sentence that I might not type again for the rest of my life: The 2017 White Sox exceeded expectations by finishing 67-95.

Through 118 games, the Sox were 45-73 and appeared to be on their way to 100 losses. And nobody would have been shocked or unhappy if they had lost 100. Established veterans such as Jose Quintana, David Robertson, Todd Frazier and Melky Cabrera were traded in July. Competent bullpen arms such as Tommy Kahnle, Dan Jennings and Anthony Swarzak also were shown the door.

After all that, I never would have guessed the Sox would have a winning September -- they went 15-14 -- nor would I have believed they would go 22-22 in their last 44 games. But that's exactly what they did, and you have to give manager Rick Renteria and his staff some credit. He had guys playing hard and playing the right way all the way up to the very end, and the Sox were able to crawl out of last place while the Detroit Tigers (64-98) tanked and finished with the worst record in the league.

The Sox will draft No. 4 overall in the 2018 entry draft, instead of first, as many had hoped. I can live with that, because their late-season competency wasn't led by a group of mediocre veterans. The younger players who are supposed to be a part of the future -- Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Carson Fulmer -- all had some positive moments that contributed to winning. You want to see that progress and that development. It's the most important thing for a team that is in the Sox's position.

However, in recent weeks, I have heard some Sox fans getting a little too exuberant about the team's hopes for 2018. It has been pointed out that the Minnesota Twins, who were 59-103 at this time a year ago, rebounded to 85-77 and won the second wild card in the American League. That's led some to ask the question, "Why can't the Sox author a similar turnaround next year?"

That's a noble thought, but it's just not likely. Despite some of the positives we've seen as of late, the Sox have very little talent in their bullpen. In order to contend next season, they would have to buy at least three and maybe four relief arms in free agency, and I don't see that being a prudent course of action at this stage. They've committed to the rebuild, so stay the course.

Looking ahead to 2018, here's my best guess at how things might break down at each position:

Catcher: There's a pretty good chance both Kevan Smith and Omar Narvaez are back next year. Smith hit .283, Narvaez hit .277. We haven't seen that sort of offensive competency from Sox catchers since A.J. Pierzynski left, and neither Smith nor Narvaez embarrassed themselves defensively. Both are probably better options at the position than dumpster diving in free agency.

First base: Jose Abreu enjoyed one of his finest seasons in 2017. He hit .304 with 33 home runs and 102 RBIs. He had 343 total bases and posted a .906 OPS. I've often heard people say the Sox should keep Abreu around to be "a mentor and leader" for young Latino players. It is true that Abreu can be that guy, but keeping him on the club just for that reason sells him short. This guy has had 100 or more RBIs for four straight seasons with not a lot of help. Perhaps the Sox should keep him because he's one of the best in the game at his position.

Second base: Moncada's .231 average reflects the struggles he had when he was first called up to the majors. I said we needed to see a hot streak from this guy before the year ended, and sure enough, we saw one. He hit .276 with an .818 OPS and five home runs after Sept. 1. Something to build on for a player who needs to be a core piece in order for the Sox's rebuild to work.

Shortstop: Anderson's second-half OPS (.732) was a full 100 points higher than his first-half OPS (.632), and he hit .327 in September to raise his season batting average to .257. Eight of his 17 home runs and nine of his 15 stolen bases came after Aug. 1. Signs of progress. Next year is a big year for Anderson. He had a good rookie season. He struggled much of his second year before finishing strong. Consider 2018 the tiebreaker season to give us a read on what type of player Anderson truly is.

Third base: As it stands right now, I think Yolmer Sanchez is the guy. He's the best defensive infielder the Sox have, and he hit .267/.319/.413 with 12 home runs and 59 RBIs. That was more production that I ever expected from Sanchez, and he outplayed both Matt Davidson and Tyler Saladino by a wide margin. Sure, Davidson hit 26 home runs, but that's all he does. The .220 batting average and .260 on-base percentage are not impressive, and Davidson doesn't give you much with the glove. Back problems seem to be ruining Saladino's career, as he hit .178 with no home runs in 79 games this year. After a promising 2016, Saladino is perhaps on his way out the door. That's a cautionary tale not to get too excited about Sanchez, I suppose. Long-term, though, I see Sanchez as a valuable bench player on a contender. I think he still can start on next year's Sox team.

Outfield: I'll go on the record: Keep Avisail Garcia. I know some Sox fans want to "sell high," but they are assuming that clubs out there will want to "buy high." I don't know if there will be any takers at a high price. As Sox fans, we don't necessarily believe Garcia can hit .330 again next year. If we don't believe it, why would rival GMs? I'm in favor of putting Garcia in right field for 2018. He won't hit .330, but I'll settle for .280 with 20 home runs and 80 RBIs. I think he can do that, and while the Sox have outfield prospects in the system, none will be ready for the start of next season. Adam Engel and Leury Garcia will probably vie for playing time in center field. Engel is good with the glove, but can't hit at all, and Leury Garcia keeps getting hurt. They are stopgap solutions, but that's good enough for now. I wouldn't mind seeing the Sox add a stopgap corner outfield veteran to play left field in case Nick Delmonico's surprising late-season performance with the bat is a mirage. Not to mention, Delmonico is subpar with the glove, so I don't know that I want to give him 140 games in left field.

Designated hitter: Would a platoon of Davidson and Delmonico be reasonable to start 2018?

Starting pitching: I think I know three of the five coming into next season: Giolito, Lopez and James Shields. Giolito was better than expected in seven late-season starts, going 3-3 with a 2.38 ERA. The Sox hope he is part of their present and future, so let him pitch. Ditto with Lopez, whose performance (3-3, 4.72 ERA in eight starts) was more uneven than Giolito's, but promising at times. Shields is a veteran with a bad contract, and veterans with bad contracts tend to stay right where they are. Fulmer had a rough season at Triple-A Charlotte, then surprised by going 3-1 with a 3.86 ERA in seven late-season appearances (five starts). I think Fulmer competes for a rotation spot in the spring, but he didn't show enough over the course of the year for me to be confident that he's one of the five for 2018. Carlos Rodon was limited to 12 starts this season because of shoulder problems. Now, he's out six to eight months after shoulder surgery. I never felt the Sox were being truthful about the extent of Rodon's injury. Maybe we'll see him in May or June of next year, or maybe not. You can't count on him, and I think the Sox need to sign two stopgap veterans on short-term deals to fill out the rotation. I've heard Sox fans call for the team to sign a "Derek Holland type." Frankly, I'd prefer a "Miguel Gonzalez type," since Gonzalez did that job for the Sox in 2017, while Holland failed miserably after a respectable first two months.

Relief pitching: Who do you keep from this morass? You can't sign a whole new bullpen, so you gotta keep somebody. I'll keep Juan Minaya, Aaron Bummer and Greg Infante. I'm not overly impressed with any of them, but they are the best of a bad lot. Nate Jones has a contract for next season, and he's coming off a second elbow surgery. Fingers crossed that he can provide some veteran stability, but you can't count on that. Jake Petricka and Zach Putnam are always injured. It's time to move on from them. Beyond that, who knows? Is stinks that Zack Burdi is going to miss 2018 after elbow surgery. He would have been in the major league bullpen, and that would have been one more young guy to watch.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

White Sox damage Kansas City's wild card hopes

The 2012 White Sox lost the AL Central by three games. And from Aug. 7 until the end of that season, the Sox lost nine out of 11 games to the Kansas City Royals.

The 2012 Royals were a 90-loss team, but the Sox couldn't do anything against them coming down the stretch, and I've long felt the inability to beat Kansas City was the reason the South Siders missed the playoffs that year.

The Sox haven't played meaningful September games in the five years since, while the Royals have won two American League pennants and the 2015 World Series. Kansas City has tortured the Sox for most of this decade, and frankly, I will probably carry the scars from this 2016 loss for the rest of my life. It is the worst loss I've ever endured as a Sox fan.

So, given all that history, it is with great joy that I report that the last-place Sox (58-87) damaged Kansas City's 2017 playoff hopes this week by taking two out of three at Kauffman Stadium.

This was a series the Royals (72-73) needed to win. They didn't win it, and now they are four games out of the second wild card with three teams to pass as they embark on an 11-game road trip that starts in Cleveland against an Indians club that has won 21 games in a row.

Good luck, Royals. There isn't a Sox fan alive that has any sympathy for you.

Here's a look back at this week's series:

Monday, Sept. 11
White Sox 11, Royals 3: Jose Abreu almost hit for the cycle for the second time in three days. He came to the plate in the top of the ninth inning needing a home run, but he ended up drawing a walk from Kansas City reliever Trevor Cahill.

The Sox's first baseman went 4 for 5 to lead a 17-hit attack. Adam Engel and Yoan Moncada added three hits each, with Engel capping off a six-run sixth inning with a three-run home run.

The offensive outburst allowed right-hander Reynaldo Lopez (1-3) to pick up his first victory with the Sox. Lopez allowed three runs in the fifth inning, but he got through six, allowing eight hits. The Sox are hopeful it will be the first of many wins for the hard-throwing 23-year-old.

Tuesday, Sept. 12
Royals 4, White Sox 3: Dylan Covey had a miserable first inning. He walked the bases loaded and gave up a grand slam to Brandon Moss to put the Sox in an early 4-0 hole.

But Covey (0-5) settled down and retired 14 out of 15 hitters at one point, and the Sox had their chances to come back and win the game. They outhit the Royals, 13-4, but left 10 runners stranded.

The Sox had runners at first and third with nobody out in the top of the ninth inning, but could not get the tying run home against Kansas City reliever Scott Alexander.

Moncada struck out, Abreu popped out and Matt Davidson grounded out, ending an unsatisfying offensive day for the Sox.

Wednesday, Sept. 13
White Sox 5, Royals 3: The Sox solved Alexander in the rubber match of the series with two runs in the top of the ninth inning that broke a 3-3 tie.

Tim Anderson singled, advanced to second on a wild pitch and stole third as Moncada walked. That put runners on first and third with one out for Abreu, who delivered a sacrifice fly for his 93rd RBI of the season and 4-3 lead. Avisail Garcia's two-out RBI single plated Moncada and capped the scoring.

Juan Minaya (3-2) sealed the win with a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth. It's too bad Lucas Giolito didn't get the win after he pitched 6.1 innings of one-run ball. Alas, Danny Farquhar allowed two runs in the eighth to give up the lead, and the Sox starter got a no-decision.

But Giolito can take the positives out of the start. He allowed only four hits despite not having his best stuff. His ERA is down to 2.56 in five starts, and he's positioning himself for a job in the 2018 Sox rotation.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Reynaldo Lopez was good; the rest of the White Sox were bad

Carlos Carrasco
The White Sox are 54-84 with 24 games remaining. That's a lot of losses, and it's hard to say any one single game is the worst I've seen this team play this season.

However, Wednesday's 5-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians has to be on the short list.

Yes, the Indians are good. They've won 14 in a row for a reason. And Carlos Carrasco is a good pitcher. He's 14-6 this season for a reason.

But there were some pretty pathetic at-bats turned in by Sox hitters Wednesday, as Carrasco needed only 97 pitches to sail through a complete-game, three-hitter. The Cleveland right-hander was one out away from a shutout, and he faced the minimum 26 batters through 8.2 innings. Adam Engel hit a meaningless solo home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to save the Sox from complete disgrace.

As bad as the Sox offense was, their defense was even worse. Rookie right-hander Reynaldo Lopez (0-3) has three quality starts in his four outings with the Sox, and this performance was probably the best of the bunch. He deserves a handshake for making it through six innings and allowing only one run to the red-hot Indians, especially given the horrible play behind him.

In the first inning, first baseman Matt Davidson booted a grounder that should have been an inning-ending 3-6-3 double play. Lopez bailed him out by getting Edwin Encarnacion to pop out and Carlos Santana to fly out. No runs allowed.

Shortstop Tyler Saladino kicked a ball that should have been a double play in the second inning. The official scorer inexplicably ruled it a "double." Lopez faced a second-and-third, one-out situation for the second inning in a row, and he again escaped with a strikeout and a popout.

In the fourth inning, the Indians loaded the bases with nobody out on a walk and two "singles." One glanced off the glove of Nick Delmonico after the rookie left fielder took a bad route to the ball. The other "single" should have been turned into an out by second baseman Alen Hanson but was not. Lopez was forced to get five outs in the inning. He allowed a sacrifice fly and nothing more, and that was a good job of pitching.

When Lopez left the game, the Sox trailed 1-0 in a game that could have easily been 5-0 or 6-0. The Indians broke it open late against the Chicago bullpen, and the Sox received a well-deserved loss, even though Lopez deserved a better fate.

The Sox are outmanned against the Indians, so to some extent you can live with losses to this Cleveland team. But there was a sloppiness to Wednesday's game that cannot sit well.

Carlos Rodon will get his shot at ending the Cleveland winning streak Thursday night, and with his stuff, he always has a puncher's chance against any lineup. But he's going to need his teammates to catch the ball for him. The Indians have their ace, Corey Kluber (14-4), scheduled to pitch, so Cleveland has good reason to like its chances of extending this win streak to 15. If the Indians are successful, it will be a new franchise record.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Most doubleheaders are split, including the one Monday night

Carlos Rodon
It was just last week that we suggested the White Sox try Juan Minaya as closer. He's got the highest strikeout rate of any pitcher in the Sox bullpen, and hey, what else is there to lose?

Apparently, manager Rick Renteria thought the same thing. Minaya has closed out three Sox victories since Friday -- two over the weekend against the Texas Rangers, and one against the Minnesota Twins on Monday night.

The Sox took the opener of Monday's doubleheader with the Twins, 7-6, before Minnesota cruised to a 10-2 victory in Game 2.

It was nice to see Minaya come through with a 1-2-3 ninth inning to preserve a win for starter Carlos Rodon (2-4), who has racked up five strong starts in a row.

This time, Rodon went 6.1 innings, allowing two runs on four hits. He struck out nine and walked three. At one point in time, he retired 10 out of 11 hitters. Most importantly, he minimized the damage in a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the sixth inning. He allowed only a sacrifice fly, and he walked off the mound with one out in the seventh with his team leading 7-2.

Alas, the bullpen follies continued for the Sox. The Twins nicked Danny Farquhar for a run in that seventh inning, and then Derek Holland surrendered a three-run homer to the great Jorge Polanco in the top of the eighth.

I don't know what the Sox are going to do with Holland, who got shelled in his most recent start in Texas. In this relief appearance, he faced four batters and retired only one. If there were more options available, I'd call for the Sox to designate Holland for assignment. Alas, there aren't many pitchers left in the high minors whom the Sox could call up.

Fortunately, Minaya shut it down in the ninth. He didn't allow the ball to leave the infield in recording his third save.

The Sox's No. 3 through No. 6 hitters combined to go 6 for 13 with six runs scored and all seven RBIs. Jose Abreu hit his team-best 25th home run of the season. Avisail Garcia had three hits, and Yolmer Sanchez tied a career high with four RBIs, those coming on a three-run homer and a sacrifice fly.

Game 2 saw Carson Fulmer make his 2017 Sox debut, and as feared, it was a clunker. He had a 5.61 ERA in 24 starts at Triple-A Charlotte this year, so I was expecting much. But this start was painful to watch even with low expectations.

Fulmer worked a 1-2-3 first inning on seven pitches, but his fortunes turned quickly in the second inning. He threw 41 pitches and recorded only one out. Worse, he gave up a pair of three-run homers, one to the aforementioned Polanco and one to Brian Dozier. He exited with the Sox trailing 6-0.

His final line: 1.1 IP, 4 H, 6 ER, 3 BB, 0 Ks

Fulmer's command was terrible. Not only was he wild with walks, he was wild in the zone. He missed locations by feet, not inches, with his fastball. His breaking ball was elevated and hanging. The Twins tagged him, and such a poor outing is only going to increase questions about whether Fulmer should make the move to the bullpen.

I always say a young pitcher is a starter until he shows me he is not, and I'm getting pretty close to saying Fulmer is not a starting pitcher.

The Sox had no prayer in this second game. They managed only three hits, although two of them were solo home runs. Nick Delmonico connected for his sixth of the season, and Adam Engel hit his fourth.

After the game, Fulmer was mercifully sent back to Charlotte. Brad Goldberg also was optioned back to Charlotte, clearing a roster spot for Lucas Giolito, who will make his Sox debut in Wednesday's game against the Twins.

Monday, August 14, 2017

White Sox lose two of three to Kansas City Royals

Reynaldo Lopez
Hey, that winning streak was fun while it lasted, wasn't it? It reached four when the White Sox beat the Kansas City Royals on Friday night, but reality set in over the weekend as Kansas City prevailed in the final two games of the three-game series.

The Sox (45-70) finished their six-game homestand with a 4-2 record, which was a pleasant surprise despite some weekend ugliness. Here's a look back at this latest series.

Friday, Aug. 11
White Sox 6, Royals 3 -- Reynaldo Lopez finally got his opportunity, and he started his Sox career in electrifying fashion. He struck out five of the first eight hitters he faced, and turned in six quality innings.

The rookie right-hander allowed two solo home runs to Kansas City third baseman Mike Moustakas, but he kept the Royals off the board otherwise. He struck out six and walked three in receiving a no-decision.

The game was tied at 2 heading into the bottom of the seventh, when the Sox broke it open with a four-spot. Tim Anderson's two-run homer capped the rally, which also featured a go-ahead RBI triple by Adam Engel. The center fielder became the first Sox player to collect two triples in a game since Alejandro De Aza in 2011.

Aaron Bummer worked two scoreless innings of relief to pick up his first major league win.

Saturday, Aug. 12
Royals 5, White Sox 4 -- Hey, a quality start by James Shields!

Sure, Shields put the Sox in a 3-0 hole after two innings, but he didn't give up anything else over a six-inning outing. And the Sox got him off the hook, eventually rallying to take a 4-3 lead on Leury Garcia's two-run single in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Alas, the lead did not stick.

Reliever Chris Beck did what he does best -- walk people. Bummer relieved after Beck walked Lorenzo Cain to start the the eighth inning, and the rookie left-hander took the loss this time -- serving up a two-run homer to former Sox outfielder Melky Cabrera.

It stunk to see the four-game winning streak come to an end, but this game was an entertaining, back-and-forth contest. You can live with losses such as this one during a rebuilding season.

Sunday, Aug. 13
Royals 14, White Sox 6 -- In contrast, Sunday's loss was not one you could live with. It was a parade of terrible pitching that started with Derek Holland and continued with Mike Pelfrey, Beck, Greg Infante and Brad Goldberg.

Holland (6-12) allowed seven earned runs and didn't make it out of the third inning. Those who followed him weren't much better. Sox pitchers combined to give up 16 hits and walk nine batters in a boring game that took 3 hours, 38 minutes to play.

A fan seated behind me at Sunday's game pointed out that Holland is only here to "eat innings," which is true enough. I would be fine with that if Holland would, you know, actually eat some innings. It's ridiculous for him to get bombed like that and overexpose an inexperienced Sox bullpen. That's been a season-long complaint of mine: veteran innings-eaters failing to eat innings.

There were some positives offensively. Anderson continued his improved hitting with his 13th home run of the season. And rookie Nick Delmonico extended his hitting streak to 10 games, going 1 for 3 with a double and an RBI. Delmonico stung the ball into the right-center field gap three times. He was robbed of a double by Cain in the fifth inning, and robbed of a home run by Alex Gordon in the ninth inning.

Still too early to say whether Delmonico is going to stick in the majors, but he's been having consistent at-bats since he was called up from Triple-A Charlotte.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Surprisingly, Miguel Gonzalez baffles Cubs in crosstown opener

I apologize for previously including Miguel Gonzalez on my list of washed-up White Sox veterans.

Unlike starting rotation mates James Shields, Mike Pelfrey and Derek Holland, Gonzalez occasionally comes up with a well-pitched ballgame against a good team.

The right-hander came off the disabled list July 18 and fired six innings of one-run ball in a 1-0 loss to Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers, and he backed that up with another strong outing Monday -- pitching 7.1 innings of one-run ball in a 3-1 victory over the Cubs in the first game of the 2017 Crosstown Classic at Wrigley Field.

With the win, the Sox (39-57) broke a nine-game losing streak and collected their first victory since the All-Star break. Gonzalez (5-9) also became the first Sox pitcher in 30 games to have an outing of seven innings or more.

It wasn't easy.

The key moment came in the bottom of the seventh inning with the Sox leading 2-1. The Cubs loaded the bases with two outs for Anthony Rizzo, and with the Sox bullpen depleted because of trades, manager Rick Renteria had little choice but to stick with Gonzalez.

With the wind blowing in at Wrigley, Rizzo flew out to the warning track in center field to end the threat.

The conditions did not stop the Sox from hitting a pair of home runs. Rookie center fielder Adam Engel's drive in the top of the sixth inning off Cubs reliever Justin Grimm (1-1) got into the left-center field bleachers to give the Sox the lead for good at 2-1.

Matt Davidson added a 476-foot solo shot off Koji Uehara in the top of the eighth inning to complete the scoring. That one was going to be a home run on any day, at any park, in any conditions.

Sox reliever Anthony Swarzak picked up his first save in 226 career relief appearances. He retired the first two hitters in the bottom of the ninth before Kris Bryant reached on an infield single and Rizzo walked. Willson Contreras came to the plate representing the winning run, but Swarzak overmatched him with two blazing fastballs right on the black of the outside corner, the second of which was strike three called.

Contreras didn't think they were strikes, arguing with home plate umpire Angel Hernandez and breaking his bat in frustration after the out was recorded. Alas, they were strikes. Those pitches looked good to me, and good to K zone on the Comcast SportsNet Chicago broadcast, too.

Hey Willson, now it's your turn to cry.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

White Sox outfielder Charlie Tilson will start the season on the DL

Peter Bourjos
I've been saying it all spring: I get the feeling that Peter Bourjos is going to be the Opening Day center fielder for the White Sox. And I get the feeling that position is going to be the biggest problem for the Sox in 2017.

The player Sox brass wanted to win the job, Charlie Tilson, has been sidelined since Feb. 19 with a stress reaction in his right foot. The injury wasn't initially thought to be serious, but a follow-up MRI on Monday revealed swelling. Tilson will miss at least the next three weeks, and that means he will be on the 15-day disabled list when the season starts April 3.

That makes the veteran Bourjos the top candidate for center field, even though he is in camp as a nonroster invitee. The Sox have two spots open on their 40-man roster, and it appears that one of them is his to lose at this point.

Bourjos, 29, hit .251/.292/.389 in 383 plate appearances with the Philadelphia Phillies last year. He can handle center field defensively, but there's a reason he's on a minor-league deal: He's not a good hitter; his career on-base percentage is .300, and his OBP has hovered in the .290s for each of the past three seasons.

To his credit, Bourjos has had a good spring; he's 10-for 27, which pencils out to a .370 batting average. It should come as no surprise, however, that he has yet to draw a walk. But right now, he looks as if he's the best option for the position as a veteran stopgap.

Other options in camp include a pair of 25-year-olds -- Jacob May and Adam Engel. Both are good enough defensively to play center field, but both have uneven offensive track records.

May has had the better spring, posting a .333/.375/.433 slash line in 32 plate appearances. Engel has struggled to .130/.310/.130 in 30 plate appearances.

Engel hit .242/.298/.369 in 161 plate appearances at Triple-A Charlotte last year, while May hit .266/.309/.352 in 321 trips to the plate.

Based upon last season and what we've seen so far in camp, May seems the better bet to win a roster spot than Engel. But, there still are three weeks until Opening Day, and things can change.

Monday, February 20, 2017

White Sox outfielder Charlie Tilson is injured -- again

White Sox outfielder Charlie Tilson will miss the next 10 days because of a stress reaction in his right foot, according to reports.

Tilson is the leading candidate to be the team's starting center fielder, but his hold on that job is tenuous at best. A torn left hamstring on Aug. 2 ended Tilson's 2016 season prematurely, and probably the most important thing for him this spring is proving that he's 100 percent healthy.

Although this injury is being termed "minor," no injury is really minor for a young player who is trying to hold down a roster spot and establish himself at the big-league level.

“It started very minimal, and I tried to work through it a little bit, and by the time I addressed [trainer] Herm [Schneider], thankfully I caught it before it was anything that would keep me out for too long,” Tilson said. “It’s a minor thing, and it will give my other leg a chance to get stronger in the meantime, and hopefully we’ll turn this negative into a positive.”

Center field is not a position where the Sox are blessed with great depth. Well, they do have options, but none of them seem as though they are good options.

If Tilson continues to be plagued by injuries, veteran minor-league free agent Peter Bourjos likely becomes the front-runner to be the Opening Day center fielder. Bourjos is the kind of player who would only start on a bad, rebuilding team, which, of course, is what the Sox are expected to be.

Other internal options would include prospects Adam Engel and Jacob May, neither of whom has played in the major leagues.

Ideally, Tilson gets it together health-wise, and the Sox are able to take an extended look at what he can do this spring.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Frank Thomas, Tom Paciorek, Mike Squires, Carlos May, Adam Eaton added to SoxFest 2016 lineup

Frank Thomas
There has been some grumbling about the lack of star power on the list of former White Sox players who will be in attendance at SoxFest 2016.

That complaint should be silenced now that the franchise's greatest player, Hall-of-Famer Frank Thomas, is scheduled to appear Jan. 30 at the event, which runs from Jan. 29-31 at the Chicago Hilton.

According to a news release issued Wednesday by the team, former White Sox players Carlos May, Tom Paciorek and Mike Squires also are scheduled to appear. I chuckled to myself when I read the release, which referred to these three players as "greats."

Paciorek had a good career, and had two nice seasons for the Sox in the early 1980s. May was a two-time All-Star for the Sox (1969, 1972) and had a 96-RBI season on the South Side in 1973. So, I could at least make a case for calling those two guys "greats."

But Squires? That dude had a .318 career slugging percentage. That's slugging percentage, not batting average. He was a slick fielder, but he might have been the weakest hitting first baseman the Sox have ever had. For me, Squires' main claim to fame is the fact that he played some games at third base in 1984, despite being a left-handed thrower. He's still the only left-handed player I've ever seen play an infield position other than first base at the major-league level.

But was Squires a "great"? Uh, no, Frank Thomas was great.

In any case, as expected, current center fielder Adam Eaton has been added to the SoxFest lineup. Other recent additions include prospects Eddy Alvarez, Adam Engel, Jacob May and Trey Michalczewski.

A complete list of scheduled attendees can be found at whitesox.com/SoxFest.
 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Tim Anderson leads Baseball America's list of top White Sox prospects

Baseball America updated its list of top 10 White Sox prospects Monday, and it comes as no surprise that shortstop Tim Anderson occupies the No. 1 spot.

Anderson, the Sox's 2013 first-round draft pick, made major strides both offensively and defensively while playing with the Double-A Birmingham Barons in 2015. He posted a .312/.350/.429 slash line with five home runs, 46 RBIs and 49 stolen bases in 125 games.

Anderson is expected to start the season in Triple-A Charlotte, and could be in line to make his major-league debut sometime in the 2016 season.

Second on the list is last year's first-round draft pick, right-hander Carson Fulmer. The Vanderbilt product threw 26 minor-league innings in 2015 and struck out 26 while compiling a 2.08 ERA. The Sox have a history of fast-tracking first-round college pitchers (Chris Sale, Carlos Rodon) to the big leagues, but fans should not expect to see Fulmer on the South Side in 2016. He's a fine prospect, but not quite as advanced at this stage of his career as Sale and Rodon were.

Right-handed pitcher Spencer Adams ranks third. One thing I like about the 6-foot-3 Adams is he throws strikes. He split 2015 between Single-A Kannapolis and Winston-Salem. In 24 combined starts and 129.1 innings, Adams went 12-5 with a 2.99 ERA. He fanned 96 and walked just 18.

Twenty-year-old third base prospect Trey Michalczewski checks in at No. 4. Michalczewski posted a .259/.295/.366 slash with seven home runs and 75 RBIs in 127 games at Winston-Salem last year. The kid is 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, so the Sox are hoping he develops into a player with extra-base pop.

Jacob May is No. 5. The speedy outfielder swiped 37 bags in 98 games at Birmingham last year, but he's just a punch-and-judy hitter at this point, as evidenced by his .275/.329/.334 slash line.

Rounding at the top 10 are right-handed pitcher Tyler Danish, outfielder Adam Engel, left-handed pitcher Jordan Guerrero, outfielder Courtney Hawkins and first baseman Corey Zangari.

Engel is probably the most notable of those five names. He played his way onto the list by winning the MVP of the Arizona Fall League this year.