Showing posts with label Brett Lawrie. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Brett Lawrie. Show all posts

Friday, February 3, 2017

White Sox position players: There are roster spots available

Todd Frazier -- still here
As we stated Wednesday, for a rebuilding team, the White Sox's pitching staff looks surprisingly set going into spring training. Position players? That's another story.

Looking over the 40-man roster, you can find about eight position players -- maybe nine -- that would be considered roster locks for Opening Day, and most of them are infielders. I'm assuming the Sox are coming north with 13 position players, so that means there are jobs to be won when the team convenes this month to begin workouts in Glendale, Arizona.
Melky Cabrera -- still here

Let's take a look at how things stand right now, while at the same time acknowledging that more trades are possible between now and April:

Infielders
1. Jose Abreu
2. Todd Frazier
3. Tim Anderson
4. Brett Lawrie
5. Tyler Saladino
6. ?????

The infield might have been considered a weakness for the Sox as recently as two seasons ago, but if this rebuilding club has a strong point, this is probably it. The Sox are set with Abreu at first base, Lawrie at second base, Anderson at shortstop and Frazier at third base. Saladino is a solid utility player. His glove won't hurt you at any of the four positions, and his bat is league-average.

Abreu and Frazier combined for 65 home runs and 198 RBIs last year at the corners. Anderson is an emerging young talent, and Lawrie is a league-average player who should be serviceable if he can stay healthy.

The hope is Lawrie will eventually be replaced by Yoan Moncada, the highly regarded prospect who was the Sox's marquee acquisition in the Chris Sale trade. It's unlikely we'll see Moncada make the team out of camp, but it's possible he'll make his Sox debut sometime in 2017.

Others in the mix for a roster spot include Matt Davidson and Carlos Sanchez. If Davidson hits during spring training, he'll probably make the club and get some starts at third, first and designated hitter. Davidson is entering his age 26 season, so I'm thinking the Sox want to find out once and for all what they have with him, if anything.

If Davidson stinks it up in Arizona, that might open the door for Sanchez to make the club, although he'd be redundant on the roster with Saladino, and he's not as good in the utility role as Saladino is.

Leury Garcia still is hanging around as a rostered player. I'm not a fan, so I'm hoping he'll be enjoying the sights and sounds of Charlotte, North Carolina, once again this season.

One other thing to watch: There's no obvious choice for a backup first baseman here, so look for non-roster invitees Nick Delmonico and Danny Hayes to get some spring playing time. Injuries limited Hayes to 55 games at Charlotte in 2016, but the left-handed hitter did put up 10 home runs and 42 RBIs in 184 at-bats. Delmonico tore apart Double-A last year, hitting .338 with 10 home runs in 38 games. But he was so-so after a midseason promotion to Charlotte (.246 with 7 home runs in 72 games).

Other non-roster invitees in camp include former Philadelphia third baseman Cody Asche and former San Diego shortstop Everth Cabrera.

Outfielders
1. Melky Cabrera
2. Avisail Garcia
3. ??????
4. ??????
5. ??????

Here's where it gets interesting. Cabrera and Garcia are probably going to play left field and right field, respectively, although both are candidates to get some DH time, as well. The starting center fielder and the backup outfield spots are open questions.

At SoxFest, GM Rick Hahn expressed a preference to see Charlie Tilson get an extended look in center field. Tilson was acquired mid-2016 from the Cardinals in the Zach Duke deal, but he suffered a serious groin injury in his Sox debut and was not seen again for the rest of the season.

If he's healthy, he's going to get the first shot in center, but I'm not going so far as to make him a roster lock. Prospects Adam Engel and Jacob May are both on the 40-man roster. A strong spring could put either man in the mix for a roster spot. They are similar players, however -- speedy, good defensively, and questionable with the bat.

Engel has had an interesting past 18 months. He was the 2015 MVP of the Arizona Fall League, but he struggled at the start of the 2016 season in Birmingham. He got demoted to High-A Winston-Salem, but by the end of the year he was at Triple-A Charlotte and ended up getting added to the 40-man roster. Senior Director of Baseball Operations Dan Fabian told me at SoxFest that he believes the trip to Winston-Salem allowed Engel to iron out some issues with his swing. We shall see.

The Sox also will have three busted outfield prospects in camp. Rymer Liriano, who was a waiver claim from the Milwaukee Brewers, and Willy Garcia, who was a waiver claim from the Pittsburgh Pirates, are both on the 40-man roster. Neither man seems like a good bet to do anything, but sometimes rebuilding teams need roster filler.

And, yes, Courtney Hawkins still is hanging around the organization. He's only 23, blah, blah, blah, but the reality is he hit .206/.255/.349 in his second season at Birmingham last year. Injuries have hindered his development, and there's nothing going on with him that suggests progress. Oh well.

Catchers:
1. Omar Narvaez
2. ???????

Narvaez essentially made the 2017 club last year with a respectable performance in 34 games at the big league level. He hit .267/.350/.337 and seemed to be a calming influence for left-hander Carlos Rodon, who enjoyed his best two months of the season with Narvaez behind the plate in August and September.

The Sox invited Geovany Soto to camp, and if the veteran is healthy, he's going to be the second catcher on the roster. That's a big if, however, as knee injuries limited the 34-year-old to 26 games with the Los Angeles Angels last year.

Other rostered catchers include Alfredo Gonzalez and Kevan Smith. Hahn was asked about the catching situation at SoxFest, and perhaps tellingly, he did not mention Smith's name. He talked about Narvaez and Soto, and he praised Gonzalez as a good defensive catcher. So, perhaps those three men are in the mix for the two roster spots, and Smith is headed back to Charlotte.

Position players report to camp Feb. 18. There won't be any shortage of intrigue as they guys work to make the team.

Monday, December 5, 2016

White Sox agree to terms with Brett Lawrie, Avisail Garcia

Brett Lawrie
The White Sox on Friday announced that they have agreed to contract terms with second baseman Brett Lawrie and outfielder Avisail Garcia.

Lawrie is back on a one-year contract worth $3.5 million, while Garcia received a one-year deal worth $3 million.

Both of these signings caused consternation among Sox fans, many of whom assumed both Lawrie and Garcia would be non-tendered. For me, it's a mixed bag. I'm OK with bringing back Lawrie, but I was ready to give up on Garcia.

Lawrie, 26, hit .248 with 12 home runs, 22 doubles and 36 RBIs in 94 games with the Sox in 2016. He did not play after July 21 because of some sort of hamstring/quad/knee injury that nobody ever seemed to fully explain.

That's the main gripe I have with Lawrie: He's always hurt. He's still a young man, but he's only played more than 100 games once in the past three seasons. And, only once has he played more than 125 games in a season during his five years in the bigs.

There's always something going on injury-wise with Lawrie. You just can't count on him. That said, $3.5 million isn't a lot of money in today's baseball, and at least Lawrie is good enough to be an everyday player when he is healthy.

The same cannot be said for Garcia, who qualifies as a perennial disappointment. The 25-year-old hit .245 with 12 home runs and 51 RBIs in 120 games for the Sox in 2016. Garcia also has battled injuries, but now that he has 1,551 MLB plate appearances under his belt, it seems foolish to think he is ever going to break out the way the Sox and their fans hoped when he was first acquired in 2013.

Garcia is a poor defensive outfielder -- so poor, in fact, that he started more games at designated hitter (61) than he did in the outfield (51) last season. He's also a poor base runner, so to justify his place on the roster, Garcia needs to hit.

But he never has hit, as evidenced by his lifetime .695 OPS. The Sox have already said "maybe next year" with regard to Garcia three times. At some point, you just have to admit that it isn't working out and move on.

For some reason, the Sox are sticking with Garcia one more time. At least with Lawrie, there is some versatility there. As it stands today, he is the Sox's second baseman. But if the team decides to rebuild, Todd Frazier could be traded for younger players, and Lawrie could be a one-year stopgap at third base.

Garcia is a stopgap for nothing, and it's hard to see what purpose he has.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

White Sox injury updates: Avisail Garcia, Alex Avila, Brett Lawrie

Avisail Garcia
The White Sox on Tuesday activated outfielder Avisail Garcia from the 15-day disabled list and optioned outfielder Jason Coats to Triple-A Charlotte.

Garcia, 25, last played in a game Aug. 7 and has been sidelined with a sprained right knee. He recently completed a three-game rehabilitation assignment in Charlotte. Two of those starts were in right field. He went 5 for 13 with a home run and four RBIs.

With the Sox, Garcia is hitting .240/.309/.378 with nine home runs and 36 RBIs in 86 games this season. 

Coats is hitting .189/.318/.324 with one home run and three RBIs in 18 games over three separate stints with the Sox. He had a little more success during this recent two-week call-up. He is 5 for 15 at the big league level in August, and he hit his first major league home run on Aug. 13 against Miami. We'll probably see Coats again when rosters expand in September.

In other injury-related Sox news, catcher Alex Avila went 3 for 4 as the designated hitter Monday in his first game on a rehab assignment with the Knights. Avila has had two separate stints on the disabled list because of hamstring problems this year. Both times, he hurt himself running the bases. He was on base three times Monday night, and presumably, he survived.

The news is not so good for second baseman Brett Lawrie, who is back in Chicago to be re-evaluated after having a setback on his rehab assignment.

Lawrie went 5 for 12 over his first three games at Double-A Birmingham, but he was unable to complete a fourth game on Aug. 17. After two days off, he gave it a try again Aug. 20, but once again left the game after two at bats.

The second baseman originally had a hamstring strain, but then he landed on the DL when the injury was said to involve his knee. Now, a sore quad seems to be the problem in that same leg.

Lawrie had never played more than 125 games in a season until last year, and we can see why. He just keeps getting hurt. It's fair to assume he won't be of much help to the Sox the rest of the season.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

White Sox should have swept Seattle; they lose two of three instead

Dan Jennings
As previously noted, the White Sox choked away a brilliant effort from ace Chris Sale in Monday night's series opener against Seattle, but surprisingly enough, they responded with a crisp 6-1 victory on Tuesday night.

Jose Quintana (8-8) got back to .500 by winning his third consecutive start, and he was backed by home runs from Brett Lawrie, Melky Cabrera and Todd Frazier. Cabrera's blast leading off the top of the seventh inning broke a 1-1 tie and sent the Sox on their way to the win.

The Sox should have won the series finale on Wednesday, too. They had a 5-2 lead in the seventh inning, but then the old choke reflex kicked in again.

Zach Duke gave up a two-run homer to Mike Zunino in the seventh inning. Adam Lind, who homered off David Robertson to win the game Monday, struck again with a solo home run to tie it off Nate Jones in the eighth. Then, Leonys Martin went deep in the bottom of the 11th inning off Dan Jennings to lift the Mariners to a 6-5 win.

Here's the real shame of it: Miguel Gonzalez outpitched Felix Hernandez.

Yes, you read that right. The Sox's No. 5 starter got the game into the seventh inning with a three-run lead against the Seattle ace. Gonzalez provided his team with a golden opportunity to steal a win in a game that featured an unfavorable pitching matchup.

Instead, the Sox kicked the opportunity away, like they have so many others over the past 60 games. Teams that contend take advantage of those chances. Teams that finish in fourth place blow them. I'll bet you can guess which kind of team the Sox are.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Michael Pineda stinks with two outs; White Sox take advantage

Michael Pineda
Here's an unusual stat: With two outs in an inning, opposing hitters have posted a .366/.414/.710 slash line against New York Yankees right-hander Michael Pineda.

The White Sox took advantage of Pineda bizarre inability to close out innings Wednesday in a 5-0 victory over the Yankees.

Pineda retired the first two hitters in the Sox's second inning with little difficulty, but then the wheels fell off.

Brett Lawrie singled and advanced to second on a passed ball. Pineda walked Dioner Navarro on four straight pitches, which I thought might have been a pitch-around with the struggling Avisail Garcia on deck, but then Garcia burned Pineda with an RBI single that scored Lawrie.

J.B. Shuck's ground-rule double plated Navarro to make it 2-0, and Tim Anderson followed with a two-run double down the left-field line on an 0-2 pitch.

What started out looking like a harmless inning for Pineda ended with the Sox leading 4-0. These struggles are obviously a trend for the New York pitcher, but it seems to be one of those hard-to-explain things in baseball.

The Sox added one more run in the sixth, and that was more than enough for starter Miguel Gonzalez, who upped his won-loss record to 2-4 with one of his best starts of the season. He went seven shutout innings, allowing only five hits. He struck out three and walked one.

Zach Duke and David Robertson combined for two inning of scoreless relief, and the Sox (44-41) finished off their fifth consecutive series win. The Sox haven't been able to sweep anybody during that time, mind you, but an 11-5 record over the past 16 games is pretty good.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

James Shields prevails against C.C. Sabathia in matchup of declining pitchers

C.C. Sabathia
Seven or eight years ago, a pitching matchup between James Shields and C.C. Sabathia would have been marquee material.

On Monday, it was just another game, featuring a 34-year-old right-hander with an ERA near six and a soon-to-be-36-year-old 300-pound left-hander with bad knees.

Who would win this battle of titans?

Fortunately for the White Sox, it was Shields, who fired six innings of two-run ball to help the South Siders to an 8-2 win over the New York Yankees.

Neither starter was on solid ground in this game. Shields put the Sox in an early 2-0 hole when he gave up a two-run homer to Chase Headley in the top of the second inning. Sabathia surrendered the lead when Tim Anderson took him deep for a two-run homer to tie the score in the third.

The game remained tied at 2 at the halfway point, and there was a definite feeling that both teams should have had more runs.

The Sox got two men on in the first inning, but didn't score. They loaded the bases with one out in the third after Anderson's homer, but couldn't tack on any runs. They stranded a man at third in the fourth.

The Yankees had runners at second and third with one out in the fourth, but couldn't cash in. They got a runner to second base with one out as the result of two Sox errors in the fifth, but failed to score.

This came down to which pitcher was going to crack the third time through the batting order, and it was Sabathia. The Sox touched him up for three runs in the fifth. Brett Lawrie's sacrifice fly scored Todd Frazier, who had doubled, and Dioner Navarro's two-run homer put the Sox ahead, 5-2.

Shields once again walked the tightrope in the sixth inning, but the Yankees failed to score after placing runners at first and third. The Sox right-hander escaped that situation by getting Aaron Hicks to fly out to right field.

Shields' final line: 6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 Ks, 2 BBs, 1 HR. That was good enough for his second win in a Sox uniform.

The Sox tacked on one in the seventh and two in the eighth. Four Sox relievers combined for three innings of scoreless relief, and for a change, David Robertson's services were not needed to close out a victory.

Dan Jennings allowed two base runners in the top of the ninth, but finished off the six-run win in comfortable fashion.

The Sox enter Tuesday's play having won 10 of their past 14 games. 

Monday, July 4, 2016

White Sox take two out of three from Astros

Chris Sale
The Houston Astros had won 11 out of their previous 12 games through Friday, so it was impressive to see the White Sox come back and take the final two games of a three-game series this weekend.

The Sox (42-40) are now two games over .500 for the first time since June 4, and they have won four consecutive series -- including three against winning teams (Boston, Toronto, Houston). Here's a look back at the weekend that was:

Friday, July 1
Astros 5, White Sox 0: The Sox's offensive inconsistency reared its head again in the opener of the series. The South Siders had scored 15 runs in their final two games in the previous series against Minnesota, but they couldn't get anything done Friday against Mike Fiers -- who is nothing more than a league-average starter -- and three Houston relievers.

The Sox were limited to just five hits and went 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position.

It was a shame, because one of Miguel Gonzalez's better starts went to waste. He went seven innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on three hits. Through the first six innings, the Astros managed only one run against Gonzalez, and that came on a cheap infield single in the fourth.

An error on Tyler Saladino opened the door for Houston in the seventh, and Carlos Gomez homered off Gonzalez to make it 3-0 Astros. That was essentially the final nail in the coffin, although Houston tacked on two more in the eighth against Sox reliever Chris Beck for good measure.

Saturday, July 2
White Sox 7, Astros 6: Sox ace Chris Sale collected his league-leading 14th victory on a day where he had less than his best stuff.

Jose Altuve homered for Houston in the first inning, and the Astros touched Sale up for three runs in the third to take a 4-2 lead.

The Sox would rally. J.B. Shuck homered in the fourth, and then Dioner Navarro delivered a two-run single in the fifth to put the South Siders ahead to stay at 5-4.

Shuck added an RBI triple in the eighth and came around to score on a double by Tim Anderson. That increased the Sox lead to 7-4, and those two runs would prove to be the difference.

Perhaps the biggest sequence of the game came in the bottom of the eighth. Sale allowed a base hit to George Springer, and Todd Frazier committed a two-base error that put Houston runners on second and third with nobody out.

Sox reliever Nate Jones was summoned, and he got the next three hitters out, allowing only one of the inherited runners to score. The Astros missed perhaps their best opportunity to get back in the game right there.

Closer David Robertson retired the first two hitters in the bottom of the ninth before giving up a home run to A.J. Reed that made the score 7-6. Robertson then fanned Colby Rasmus to secure his 22nd save of the season.

Sunday, July 3
White Sox 4, Astros 1: There has been a lot of talk about a lack of run support for Jose Quintana, and much of that discussion is justified. However, that narrative obscured the fact that Quintana had a lousy June. He went 0-3 with a 5.51 ERA in five starts for the month.

On Sunday, the good Quintana (6-8) made his triumphant return. The left-hander earned his first win since May 8 with a brilliant seven-inning performance. He gave up a home run to Springer on his second pitch of the game, but allowed no runs after that.

Quintana allowed just two hits over seven innings, and he retired the final 15 hitters he faced.

The Sox got two runs in the third and two more in the eighth. They went 3 for 8 with runners in scoring position, with Jose Abreu, Brett Lawrie and Navarro all collecting RBI singles in the clutch.

Jones was once again strong, working a 1-2-3 bottom of the eighth with two strikeouts.

Robertson was a bit shaky in the ninth. He allowed a leadoff hit to Marwin Gonzalez and walked Gomez. That brought Reed to the plate representing the tying run with two outs.

During Saturday's ninth inning, Reed took Robertson deep on a cut fastball. He did not see that pitch this time. Robertson threw him four straight breaking balls, the last of which was a nasty knuckle-curve that Reed swung over the top of for strike three.

Robertson is now 23 for 25 in save opportunities this season.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Are the White Sox phasing out Avisail Garcia?

Avisail Garcia
Here is a little-noticed detail from the White Sox's weekend series against the Toronto Blue Jays: Avisail Garcia was not in the starting lineup Saturday or Sunday.

As I was driving to the ballpark Sunday, I heard WLS radio host Connor McKnight say Garcia was "getting another day off." That's a charitable way to say it. If a player is sitting for one game, that's a "day off." If a player is sitting for consecutive games, that player is either injured or the manager is looking for better options.

We saw a couple of interesting lineup constructions from Sox manager Robin Ventura over the weekend. Garcia played Friday as the designated hitter, but we saw Todd Frazier at first base -- Jose Abreu got the day off.

In Saturday's game, Ventura had both of his catchers in the lineup with Alex Avila serving as the designated hitter, and Dioner Navarro behind the plate. The move actually worked. Avila had a home run and a double, and Navarro also homered.

Tyler Saladino got a start at third base Sunday, with Frazier moving to designated hitter. This move also worked. Saladino walked and scored the first run of the game, and he started two slick 5-4-3 double plays that helped Sox ace Chris Sale pick up his 13th win of the season.

There are two conclusions I can draw from these moves: First, Ventura and staff have no use for Jason Coats. And who can blame them? Coats is 1 for 15 in 21 plate appearances since his recall from Triple-A Charlotte. He hasn't shown anything in limited opportunities, and it seems as if he's a waste of a roster spot at this point.

Secondly, Garcia is taking a seat because he has been providing next to nothing in terms of extra-base pop in the designated hitter role. He's a lousy defensive outfielder and a poor base runner, and he's not getting any better with the bat:

Garcia in 2015: .257/.309/.365 with 13 home runs and 59 RBIs in 601 plate appearances
Garcia in 2016: .247/.309/.358 with 5 home runs and 25 RBIs in 236 plate appearances

These are similar slash lines, and even though Garcia is still relatively young at age 25, after 1,334 plate appearances in the majors, you start to believe that he's never going to be much better than he is right now.

And what he is right now is not good enough to be an everyday designated hitter. Garcia's slugging percentage for the month of June is a pathetic .265. He has one extra-base hit (a double) in 75 plate appearances this month. His last home run came May 28, and that's the only long ball he has hit since May 6.

We're talking about a hitter who is 6-foot-4, 240 pounds, and he still hasn't shown he can drive the ball with any consistency, despite receiving more than enough opportunities from the Sox.

It seems as if Ventura has seen enough, and I can't blame him.

Saladino has a .394 slugging percentage this season -- that's 36 points higher than Garcia's slugging percentage. And Saladino provides strong defense at any position on the infield, and he's a threat to steal a base when he gets on. If Garcia is not going to hit the ball off the wall or over it as a designated hitter, then the Sox are a better team with Saladino taking Garcia's spot in the lineup. Quite simply, Saladino can do more things.

The Sox can play Saladino at third and use Frazier as the DH. The Sox can play Saladino at second base and use Brett Lawrie as the DH. The Sox can put Saladino at third, shift Frazier to first and use Abreu as the DH.

Any of these lineup combinations seem more appealing that Garcia as DH at this stage. The Sox, obviously, intend for Justin Morneau to be the DH against right-handed pitching when he comes off the disabled list sometime after the All-Star break. But until that happens, Ventura is probably better off going with a rotating DH, and he showed signs of going in that direction with his lineup construction against Toronto.

Monday, June 27, 2016

White Sox take two out of three from Blue Jays

Todd Frazier (21)
Since when did Toronto Blue Jays fans start traveling well?

I feel like U.S. Cellular Field was overrun with Toronto fans this weekend -- especially during Saturday's game.

I blame White Sox management for the large quantities of visiting fans that have been populating the Cell this season. Seven years without a playoff appearance has led to fewer Sox fans wanting to come to the park and support the team, so that makes more tickets available for fans of the visiting club.

I get that, but that didn't make it any less annoying when I had the Toronto version of Ronnie "Woo Woo" Wickers seated to my left on Saturday.

I have little patience for fans who excessively celebrate mundane things, such as major league players executing routine defensive plays. On Saturday, I heard more "Wooooooooooo!" than I care to discuss. This fan seemed pretty excited every time a Blue Jays fielder successfully caught a pop fly.

Even though the Sox lost Saturday, they took two out of three in the series, and Mr. "Wooooooooooo!" can go back to Canada secure in the knowledge that his beloved Jays went 1-5 against the Sox this season.

Here's a look back at the weekend that was:

Friday, June 25
White Sox 3, Blue Jays 2: Todd Frazier's two-out RBI single in the bottom of the seventh inning scored Tim Anderson with what proved to be the winning run in a game that was nip-and-tuck throughout.

It's been an interesting season for Frazier, to say the least. His batting average has been hovering around the Mendoza line -- he's at .201 through Sunday's play -- and that has led to fans drawing comparisons between him and past Sox busts such as Adam Dunn and Adam LaRoche.

Thing is, Frazier has 21 home runs and 49 RBIs, which puts him on pace to hit about 44 homers and knock in 104 runs if he keeps this pace over 162 games.

LaRoche had only 12 homers and 44 RBIs for the entire 2015 season, and I struggle to come up with any key hits he had for the Sox.

Frazier needs to get more hits, no question about that, but at least he has provided some key hits at important times that have produced victory for the Sox. Friday night was the latest example.

Closer David Robertson escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the ninth to preserve this win. He struck out Edwin Encarnacion on a 3-2 pitch, then got Michael Saunders to pop out to shortstop to end a heart-stopping inning.

Saturday, June 26
Blue Jays 10, White Sox 8: Now I've seen everything. The Sox out-homered the Blue Jays, 7-1, in this game, but still managed to lose, thanks to poor starting pitching by Miguel Gonzalez.

Toronto had a 5-0 lead by the time it finished hitting in the second inning. The Sox fought back -- Brett Lawrie's inside-the-park home run was the first of back-to-back-to-back home runs that brought the South Siders within two runs at 5-3.

Dioner Navarro and J.B. Shuck went deep during the barrage against Toronto starter R.A. Dickey.

Lawrie would go on to become the first Sox player since Ron Santo(!) to hit a inside-the-parker and a conventional homer in the same game. Santo accomplished that feat June 9, 1974, in a loss to the Boston Red Sox at Comiskey Park.

Shortly after the Sox got back into Saturday's game, Gonzalez put them back in the hole by coughing up a three-run top of the fourth inning that extended Toronto's lead to 8-3.

The Sox chipped away, mostly with solo home runs. Lawrie went deep in the fourth and added an RBI single in the sixth. Anderson homered in the seventh. Alex Avila's blast in the eighth made it 8-7.

But Toronto scored two insurance runs in the top of the ninth to go up 10-7, which proved important when Adam Eaton hit a solo home run in the bottom of the ninth to cap the scoring.

Sunday, June 27
White Sox 5, Blue Jays 2: Chris Sale once again showed why he is the best pitcher in the American League with another masterful performance in the rubber match.

He shut the Jays out through the first seven innings, and needed only 99 pitches to get through the eighth. Sale struck out seven, walked only two and allowed five hits to pick up his major league-best 13th victory of the season.

The Sox got a three-hit day from Melky Cabrera and another home run from Anderson to build a 4-0 lead through seven innings.

Toronto finally chipped away at Sale with two in the eighth on solo home runs by Troy Tulowitzki and Junior Lake.

Shuck, of all people, answered with a solo home run in the bottom of the eighth that made the Sox lead a little more comfortable at 5-2.

There would be no drama from Robertson on this day. He needed just 10 pitches to retire Josh Donaldson, Encarnacion and Saunders, all on lazy fly balls to the outfield. The Sox closer is now 20 for 22 in save opportunities this season.

The Sox have won two consecutive series and have pulled their record back to .500 at 38-38. Next up, three games at home against the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

White Sox settle for 3 out of 4 in Boston

Jose Abreu
The pitching matchup for Thursday's series finale between the White Sox and the Boston Red Sox did not bode well for Chicago: James Shields vs. Rick Porcello.

After all, Shields had allowed 22 runs in his first 8.2 innings as a member of the Sox, and Porcello entered Thursday's play with an 8-2 record -- including a 6-0 mark at Fenway Park.

The Sox lost, 8-7 in 10 innings, but it had nothing to do with the Shields vs. Porcello matchup. Both men turned in mediocre starts and were gone before the sixth inning was over. Frankly, this Sox loss would have been easier to take if Shields had just gotten knocked around again.

Instead, the Sox squandered two leads and blew two golden chances to score with the bases loaded in the eighth and 10th innings, and it's impossible to feel like they shouldn't have come away with a four-game series sweep.

The Sox led, 4-1, in the sixth when Shields cracked. He departed after walking David Ortiz and Ryan LaMarre consecutively to start the inning. Matt Albers provided no relief, hitting a batter and loading the bases before giving up a pair of singles. One of the singles was of the infield variety, with Brett Lawrie making an errant throw that didn't help matters.

The Sox had to use a second reliever, Dan Jennings, who extricated the team from the mess, but not before Boston had surged in front, 5-4.

Jose Abreu answered for the South Siders, clubbing a three-run homer in the top of the seventh off Junichi Tazawa to give the Sox a 7-5 lead.

That would be short-lived, as Boston scored one in the seventh off Chris Beck and another in the eighth off Nate Jones to tie it at 7.

But the real issue for the Sox here was the inability to put the game away by taking advantage of prime scoring opportunities. The South Siders loaded the bases with nobody out in the top of the eighth inning. But J.B. Shuck popped out to shallow left, Tim Anderson struck out swinging and Adam Eaton grounded out weakly to second base.

The failures kept the Sox lead at a meager one run (7-6), and Boston tied it off Jones in the bottom of the inning.

The same exact situation presented itself in the top of the 10th inning. Lawrie at third, Alex Avila at second, Avisail Garcia at first, bases loaded, no outs. Shuck popped out to shortstop. Anderson struck out swinging. Eaton struck out swinging. Once again, no runs, and a heaping pile of frustration.

In the bottom of the inning, Matt Purke lost the game. He walked two hitters and gave up a game-ending single to Xander Bogaerts.

At that point, it felt like Boston was finally putting the Sox out of their misery. They had their chances. They blew them, and Boston finally handed them the loss they deserved.

It's disappointing, because a four-game sweep of the Red Sox could have really built some momentum for the upcoming homestand against Toronto and Minnesota.

Instead, we're once again talking about an infuriating loss. We're once again talking about a sub-.500 Sox team (36-37), and we're looking at a team that is in fourth place, six games out of first.

On Monday, I think any Sox fan would have been more than happy with three out of four in Boston. From that perspective, it was a good series. But, in the bigger picture, it's still difficult to see a path to the playoffs for this deeply flawed Sox team.

Monday, June 20, 2016

White Sox get swept once again vs. a divisional opponent

"Poor Jose" Quintana
The White Sox are once again on a losing streak, having been swept in a divisional series against the Cleveland Indians over the weekend. Let's take a look back at the carnage:

Friday, June 17
Indians 3, White Sox 2: Jose Quintana ranks fourth in the American League with a 2.63 ERA. He's also 0-6 in his last seven starts because the Sox offense has scored only five runs total when Quintana has been on the mound during that same span.

It's no wonder we're seeing classic satire such as this when describing Quintana's hard-luck career pitching for a perpetually underachieving Sox team.

In any case, Quintana was spared a loss Friday. The Sox trailed 2-1 in the ninth inning, but back-to-back doubles by Brett Lawrie and Avisail Garcia off Cleveland closer Chad Allen tied the game.

While Quintana was spared, the team was not. Carlos Santana hit a walk-off home run for Cleveland on a hanging slider from Sox reliever Nate Jones in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Jones jumped ahead of Santana 0-2 with two good sliders. Sox catcher Alex Avila called for a fastball on 0-2, but Jones shook him off for another slider. Moral of the story: If you're going to throw the same pitch to a major league hitter three times in a row, you better make it a good one.

That third slider to Santana was as bad as it gets.

Saturday, June 18
Indians 13, White Sox 2: So, that James Shields trade isn't working out so well. The veteran right-hander needed only 11 pitches to get the Sox blown off the field in this game.

Shields walked Santana on four straight pitches to start the first inning. Jason Kipnis narrowly missed a two-run homer on Shields' sixth pitch of the game. The ball hit the fence for a double and placed runners on second and third.

Francisco Lindor hit an RBI single on the eighth pitch from Shields, and Mike Napoli connected for a three-run, opposite-field homer on pitch No. 11. At that point, it was 4-0 Indians, and the game was over.

Cleveland ended up scoring five runs in the first inning and three more in the second. All eight were charged to Shields, who was removed after lasting just 1.2 innings.

Shields has allowed 22 runs (21 earned) on 24 hits with nine walks in his first three starts with the Sox. We were told he is an "innings eater," but so far he's thrown only 8.2 innings.

In other words, he's recorded 26 outs as a member of the Sox, while allowing 22 runs. Let that ratio roll around in your brain for a moment. He's allowed 15 first-inning runs since the trade.

It makes no sense at all for Shields to remain a member of the starting rotation. You can't keep running a guy out to the mound who is putting your team four, five or six runs down in the first inning. Yet the Sox have stated Shields will make his next start Thursday in Boston.

Have I mentioned the Shields deal is the type of trade that gets GMs fired?

Sunday, June 19
Indians 3, White Sox 2 (10 innings): After the way the first two games went, Sunday's game just had a feeling of inevitability to it. Sox starter Carlos Rodon pitched pretty well; he went 6.1 innings and allowed only two runs.

That's not a bad outing at all, although it was disappointing that Rodon blew two leads. The Sox went ahead 1-0 in the first; the Indians tied it in the bottom of the inning. Melky Cabrera hit his sixth home run of the season in the fourth to put the Sox up 2-1; Rodon served up a home run to Juan Uribe in the bottom of the inning to make it 2-2.

It stayed that way until the bottom of the 10th when Jose Ramirez hit a two-out single with the bases loaded off Sox closer David Robertson to win the game. The Sox never trailed until the moment they lost, but watching the game, there was never a single moment where I thought they would win. Sometimes you just know it isn't going to end well.

The loss dropped the Sox (33-36) 5.5 games behind the first-place Indians. The South Siders have lost the last six head-to-head meetings with Cleveland, and they are 0-9 in road games against divisional opponents Cleveland, Kansas City and Detroit. They have been swept in three-game series in all three of those cities.

Overall, the Sox are now a combined 6-18 against Cleveland, Kansas City and Detroit -- the teams that remain relevant in the AL Central race. Manager Robin Ventura is now 140-190 (.424 winning percentage) against divisional foes during his tenure.

The Sox have dropped 26 of 36 since their 23-10 start. This "slump" has continued on for six weeks, but all the decision-makers in the organization still had jobs as of Monday morning.

People wonder why the Sox have a dwindling fan base and poor attendance. Personally, I can't blame people for not wanting to put up with this anymore.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Big comebacks mean little if you lose the next day

Adam Eaton
The White Sox were trailing 7-0 in the bottom of the third inning Monday night against the Detroit Tigers.

Incredibly, they rallied to win, 10-9, in 12 innings on a walk-off single by Adam Eaton. It was the Sox's biggest comeback since June 28, 2002, when they erased an 8-0 deficit to beat the Cubs, 13-9.

The Sox (32-32) had lost 22 out of 30 games coming into Monday, so the popular narrative after this win is going to be this: Is this inspiring, come-from-behind victory going to be the thing that puts the Sox back on track?

Well, maybe. There were plenty of positives to take out of Monday's game. Jose Abreu homered for the second straight game and knocked in three runs. Eaton had a four-hit night, and Brett Lawrie and Avisail Garcia delivered clutch, RBI-producing hits with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Garcia's at-bat was perhaps his best of the season, as he battled back from an 0-2 count before lining a game-tying single to left-center off Detroit closer Francisco Rodriguez.

The Sox and their fans will take the win and be happy about it for sure, but it's worth nothing the Tigers have their ace, Jordan Zimmermann, pitching Tuesday. He'll be opposed by Miguel Gonzalez in the one pitching matchup in this series that does not favor the Sox.

If the Sox lose to Zimmermann, we're right back in that mode where we're talking about losing 23 of 32. If the Sox win tonight, hey, that's two in a row and a rare series win against a divisional foe. There's a big difference between those two mentalities, and it goes to show the momentum from Monday's win can be fleeting if it's not backed up with another victory in Game 2 of the three-game series.


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

White Sox add to Minnesota's early misery; Twins drop to 0-7

Minnesota's Kyle Gibson had never lost to the Sox -- until Monday.
I was hoping the Minnesota Twins would win at least one game over the weekend against the Kansas City Royals. Not so much because I wanted the Royals to lose, but more because I didn't want the Twins to enter their three-game series against the White Sox this week winless.

I figure the longer a streak goes -- either a good streak or a bad one -- the more likely it is to end. The law of averages eventually kicks in.

So, I had a little bit of dismay Sunday when the Royals erased a 3-1 deficit in the ninth inning and went on to beat the Twins, 4-3, in 10 innings. That meant Minnesota would enter its home opener Monday against the Sox with an 0-6 mark. The Twins were sending right-handed pitcher Kyle Gibson to the mound. Gibson had a 4-0 career record against the Sox, including a 2.13 ERA.

The Twins were due for a win, and the Sox were facing a pitcher they never hit well. Gulp.

It turns out I had no reason to worry. Jose Quintana outpitched Gibson, and the Sox beat Minnesota 4-1, sending the Twins to 0-7.

This was a methodical win for the Sox, who improved to 5-2. They took the lead early, added to their lead, and then protected it. Brett Lawrie had an RBI single in the second inning. Austin Jackson narrowly missed a grand slam in the fourth -- the ball hooked just foul -- moments before delivering a two-run single up the middle. Todd Frazier's RBI double in the ninth accounted for the final Sox run.

Quintana fired six innings of one-run ball. Matt Albers worked a scoreless seventh. Zach Duke and Nate Jones combined for an easy eighth. Closer David Robertson worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his third save of the season. For the Sox, that's how you draw it up.

The Twins, however, did not plan on being 0-7 at this stage. Yes, there are 155 games to go, but history tells us Minnesota is a long shot to get out of this hole.

Of the 10 previous teams to start the season 0-7 in American League history, none have recovered to post a winning record, let alone make the playoffs. The 2008 Detroit Tigers started 0-7 and ended up 74-88. No team has ever reached 75 wins after starting 0-7. On average, teams that start 0-7 end up with 60 wins.

There are three teams in MLB history that have started 0-6 and recovered to make the playoffs: the 1974 Pittsburgh Pirates, the 1995 Cincinnati Reds and the 2011 Tampa Bay Rays. All three of those clubs picked up their first win of the season in their seventh game.

Make no mistake, the Twins are still likely to win one soon. Odds are the Sox will not sweep this current three-game set. But even after that first win comes, Minnesota will be fighting history the rest of the way as a result of its historically bad first week.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

White Sox offense in need of some more hits

Oakland ace Sonny Gray beat the Sox on Wednesday.
Unrealistic dreams of an undefeated season died Wednesday night as the White Sox lost, 2-1, to the Oakland A's.

Oakland ace Sonny Gray fired seven innings of one-run ball, and relievers John Axford and Ryan Madson closed out the first win of the year for the A's.

Gray is one of the best in the league, so fans should not fret too much about losing a game to him, although a fine effort by Sox left-hander Carlos Rodon (7 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 6 Ks, 1 BB) went to waste Wednesday night.

That said, it would be nice to see the Sox have a breakout game offensively sometime in the next few days. Despite a 2-1 record, most of the lineup has started cold. Leadoff hitter Adam Eaton has reached base nine times in his first 13 plate appearances (7 hits, 1 BB, 1 HBP), but he's only scored two runs because so many others have had a slow first three games:

Jimmy Rollins: 2-for-12 (but at least one of the hits was a game-winning homer)
Todd Frazier: 2-for-12 (but at least one of the hits was a three-run homer)
Melky Cabrera: 1-for-11
Avisail Garcia: 1-for-11
Brett Lawrie: 2-for-11

The Sox have a .238/.297/.337 team slash despite a red-hot start by Eaton (.636/.692/.818). They've been held off the scoreboard in 22 of their 27 offensive innings against an Oakland staff that is lacking once you get past Gray.

There's been a lot of talk all offseason about Frazier providing protection for Jose Abreu, and I remain confident that Frazier will do his job. But can Cabrera and/or Garcia provide adequate protection for Frazier?

In the sixth inning Wednesday, Eaton was on second base with one out. Abreu grounded out for the second out, and then Frazier was pitched around with first base open to bring Cabrera to the plate. Gray retired Cabrera on a weak comebacker to close the inning unscathed.

To me, Cabrera and Garcia are going to be the keys to the Sox offense this year. I think Abreu and Frazier will perform as they always do. But will the offense die once the lineup gets down to the 5 and 6 spots? That question remains unanswered.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

White Sox get gift-wrapped win on Opening Day

Chris Sale got the win in Monday's season opener.
White Sox manager Robin Ventura said his team's 4-3 win over the Oakland A's on Monday night "wasn't pretty."

In fact, I'd say Oakland gifted the game to the Sox, who were no doubt happy to accept the charitable donation on Opening Day.

The Sox scored all four of their runs on four hits in the third inning, but two costly Oakland errors (and one egregious misread in the outfield) aided the South Siders' cause.

A's starter Rich Hill walked Austin Jackson with one out, and then made an errant pickoff throw that allowed Jackson to advance to third. Oakland center fielder Billy Burns then misplayed a drive off the bat of Adam Eaton into an RBI triple that produced the first Sox run of the season.

Jimmy Rollins singled to score Eaton, and Jose Abreu doubled to give the Sox runners at second and third with one out. Hill rallied to strike out Todd Frazier, and appeared to be on his way to limiting the Sox to just two runs when Melky Cabrera hit a routine grounder to shortstop. However, Oakland shortstop Marcus Semien's throw was high and wide of the bag, and first baseman Mark Canha missed the ball. Rollins scored easily, and Abreu hustled home to make it 4-0.

That's all the Sox would need, but that doesn't mean it wasn't interesting. Ace Chris Sale handed three runs right back to the A's in the bottom of the third inning. It was an odd performance for Sale, who struck out eight over seven innings and got the win. He was his dominant self in every inning but the third:

Sale in the third inning: 1 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 2 Ks, 34 pitches
Sale in all other innings: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 Ks, 70 pitches

The Sox bullpen closed this one out, but not without some drama. Despite having better options available, Ventura used Jake Petricka to start the bottom of the eighth inning, and Petricka walked the leadoff batter, Jed Lowrie. Zach Duke was then summoned to face left-handed hitting Josh Reddick, and he retired him on a comebacker. Finally, Nate Jones came on to retire two hitters with the tying run in scoring position. Jones struck out Khris Davis on a nasty slider to end the frame, leaving fans to wonder why Jones didn't start the eighth inning in the first place.

Closer David Robertson walked the speedy Coco Crisp to lead off the bottom of the ninth, but retired the next three hitters to earn the save. Brett Lawrie made a nice play on a grounder by Yonder Alonso to secure the final out.

Offensively, the Sox knocked Hill out early, but then could not score in 6.1 innings against the Oakland bullpen. Two baserunners were picked off (Eaton in the first, Lawrie in the ninth), and two hitters (Cabrera and Dioner Navarro) popped out on bunt attempts.

By no means was this a clean win for the Sox, but it's a win nonetheless. A year ago, the Sox started the season 0-4, so it's probably a mistake for Sox fans to complain too loudly today as they woke up to a 1-0 record.