Showing posts with label Chicago White Sox. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chicago White Sox. Show all posts

Thursday, November 16, 2017

White Sox acquire hard-throwing right-hander Thyago Vieira

Worried about the White Sox bullpen? Of course you are. What Sox fan isn't?

It's anybody's guess which pitchers will make up the team's relief corps in 2018, but general manager Rick Hahn made a move Thursday that could pay dividends as soon as next season.

The Sox acquired right-hander Thyago Vieira from Seattle in exchange for $500,000 in international signing bonus pool money.

Vieira, 24, made one appearance with the Mariners last year and retired all three batters he faced with one strikeout Aug. 14 against the Baltimore Orioles.

He went 2-4 with a 4.00 ERA, four saves and 46 strikeouts in 41 appearances and 54 innings between Double-A Arkansas and Triple-A Tacoma in 2017. He limited right-handed hitters to a .194 average. Vieira also was selected to compete for the World Team at the All-Star Futures Game last summer.

While this pitcher's numbers might not be eye-popping, his stuff is. He has an 80-grade fastball that consistently sits between 97 and 100 mph, and tops out at 102. His second-best pitch is a 55-grade curve that showed improvement the second half of last season.

Vieira was ranked as the eighth-best prospect in the Seattle farm system. The Sox's farm system is deeper, so Vieira is now checking in as their 20th-rated prospect.

If Sox pitching coach Don Cooper can harness Vieira's control -- he's walked 4.6 men per nine innings in his minor league career -- this is a potential high-leverage reliever that the Sox acquired for nothing more than cash considerations.

Why, you ask, would Seattle be willing to give up one of its top-10 prospects and receive no players in return?

Well, the Mariners are going to make a run at signing Japanese free agent Shohei Ohtani. The additional international pool money aids them in that quest.

As for the Sox, count Vieira among the young pitchers who will contend for a roster spot when camp opens in the spring.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A Jose Abreu trade? Never say never, but it's unlikely

Jose Abreu
White Sox general manager Rick Hahn has been asked about the possibility of making another big-splash trade this offseason, which would involve dealing either Jose Abreu or Avisail Garcia.

Predictably, Hahn didn't rule out anything:

“It has to be in play,” Hahn said to reporters. “Everything is in play. Even a couple of years ago when we come to these meetings, there would be all these Chris Sale rumors. The reason for that was we had to keep our options open. There are simply no untouchables. We have to fully vet and understand our players and make an appropriate decision about what is best for the long-term health of the organization.”

Indeed, the Sox are the organization that traded Chris Sale, and if Sale can be dealt, then anyone can be dealt.

But there a few reasons why I think Abreu is likely to remain with the Sox. First and foremost, if a team needs a first baseman, that's one position where there are some reasonable free agent options: Eric Hosmer, Carlos Santana, Logan Morrison, Yonder Alonso.

Wouldn't a club rather sign one of those guys than deal elite prospects to the Sox in exchange for Abreu? I'm thinking yes.

Also, Abreu will be 31 years old when spring training opens. He hasn't shown signs of slowing down, but the free agent first basemen are either younger than him, or in the same age range. Not sure how many clubs in the current marketplace are going to be willing to give up top-50 prospects for a slugger who plays a corner position.

And from Hahn's perspective, if the market doesn't yield top-50 prospects for Abreu, there isn't any incentive to move.

And then there's this:

“His leadership, his role in the clubhouse, the way he plays the game, the example he sets for everyone is important,” Hahn said of Abreu. “It's something that quite frankly may well tilt it so that we value him more than anyone else in the game because we've had the privilege of having him in our clubhouse and know the value that he adds and others are just speculating on that part. Every team in baseball is able to put a value on him based on what he does between the lines. We increase that value to us based on what he does in the clubhouse.”

Somebody has to be the veteran clubhouse presence during the rebuild. That guy is Abreu. In addition to being a good hitter, Abreu brings intangible value, and he's the sort who just might be more valuable to the Sox on the roster than he would be in a trade.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

My favorite memory from Roy Halladay's career

Roy Halladay
The baseball world was shocked and saddened by the news that former All-Star pitcher Roy Halladay died Tuesday when his private plane crashed into the Gulf of Mexico.

Halladay, 40, left fans with quite a few memories from his brilliant career. He won the Cy Young award in both leagues. He pitched a perfect game, then fired a no-hitter in the playoffs that same season for the Philadelphia Phillies.

Those are all great accomplishments, but when I think of Halladay, the first thing that comes to mind is a game that I attended July 28, 2007, at U.S. Cellular Field.

What a duel it was that night between Halladay, who was then the ace of the Toronto Blue Jays, and White Sox All-Star Mark Buehrle. The game lasted only two hours, seven minutes, as two of the best in the game at that time put on a pitching clinic.

Buehrle earned the 2-0 win, as he scattered eight hits over eight shutout innings. Despite taking the loss, Halladay fired a 126-pitch complete game. He gave up 10 hits, but most of them did no damage whatsoever.

The lone exception? A two-run homer by Jerry Owens in the bottom of the seventh inning, which scored Danny Richar, who had singled one pitch earlier.

That home run turned out to be the only one of Owens' career in 540 plate appearances. Of all people to produce the game-winning runs against the great Halladay, it was the combination of Owens and Richar.

Owens hooked an inside cutter from Halladay down the right-field line, barely fair and just over the wall 335 feet from home plate. That's the beauty of baseball -- you sometimes see things you never expect to see.

What a great game that was.

And that wasn't the only time Halladay and Buehrle hooked up for a classic duel during the 2007 season. They also pitched against each other in Toronto on May 31. That game took only one hour, 50 minutes to play. The final score of that game also was 2-0, but Halladay got the upper hand with seven shutout innings, while Buehrle took a complete-game loss.

That was the same day Sox great Frank Thomas, then with the Blue Jays, homered off his good friend and former teammate Buehrle.

While we all can enjoy the occasional 13-12 slugfest, for me, there's something great about watching two star-caliber pitchers lock up in a low-scoring game. In those types of games, you never know which pitch is going to be the one that decides the game, and you never who the hero is going to be.

Sometimes it's Frank Thomas, a Hall of Famer, and sometimes it's Jerry Owens, a player long forgotten by most people.

When I think of Roy Halladay, I'm first going to think of that pitchers' duel in July 2007. Even though he was the opponent of my favorite team, it was a joy to watch him compete.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Chris Sale gets rocked in first career postseason start

Chris Sale
Chris Sale spent more than six years in a White Sox uniform and made five All-Star appearances. There are few complaints one could make about his performance on the South Side, but if there is one, it would be this: Sale fades at the end of seasons.

Sale, who was traded to the Boston Red Sox last offseason, always has been strong out of the gate, and that's one reason he's always on the mound for the American League in the All-Star Game. But it's no secret September is the month when he's most prone to having some struggles.

Here are Sale's career ERAs by month:

April: 2.91
May: 2.57
June: 2.66
July: 2.66
August: 3.22
September: 3.78

Granted, a 3.78 ERA is hardly an embarrassment, but it is indicative of Sale going from a nearly untouchable ace to a league-average mortal late in the season. That's always created some questions about how well Sale would perform if given the opportunity to pitch in the playoffs.

As it turns out, Sale looked was quite mortal Thursday in his postseason debut with the Red Sox, giving up seven runs on nine hits -- including three home runs -- in five innings of Boston's 8-2 loss to the Houston Astros in Game 1 of the ALDS.

It was the continuation of a bizarre late-season pattern for Sale this year. Including Thursday, he's made 12 starts since Aug. 1, and he was lights out in five of them. Four times he allowed no runs. There was another start where he allowed only one run.

However, he's also had four starts where he has allowed five runs or more, and Thursday marked the third occasion when he has allowed seven runs or more.

Bad Sale appeared at the worst possible time, and that is not going to sit well in Boston. The Red Sox were favorites to win in the 2016 American League playoffs, but they were dismissed in three straight games by the Cleveland Indians, largely because of pitching failures by David Price and Rick Porcello.

Boston acquired Sale in December as a response to that. Keep in mind, the Red Sox were a playoff team without Sale. He wasn't brought in to help them win the division. He was brought in specifically to help them win in the postseason. One game and one start does not a series make, but there is going to be a ton of pressure on Sale to deliver should he be fortunate enough to receive another start in this series against the Astros.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

White Sox pare 40-man roster down to 33

As we follow two ALDS Game 1s -- Boston at Houston and New York at Cleveland -- on this Thursday afternoon and early evening, there are some White Sox roster moves to report.

The Sox outrighted catcher Rob Brantly, outfielder Rymer Liriano and pitchers David Holmberg, Brad Goldberg and Chris Volstad to Triple-A Charlotte.

Goldberg remains in the organization as a non-roster player, because this is the first time he has been outrighted. Brantly, Liriano, Holmberg and Volstad elected free agency.

The moves reduce the Sox's 40-man roster to 33. There are three guys on the 60-day DL -- Charlie Tilson, Zach Putnam and Geovany Soto. After those three men are activated, the roster moves to 36, then reduces to 34, because Soto and Mike Pelfrey are free agents-to-be.

That leaves six spots open for the Sox to protect players from the Rule 5 draft, although it's possible we'll see more roster dreck purged in the coming weeks.

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.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson surging in second half

Tim Anderson
There is nothing White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson can do at this point to make his overall 2017 statistics look impressive. He struggled both offensively and defensively throughout the first four months of the season, and his numbers reflect that.

There is no greater example than his error total. Anderson has committed 26 errors this season, the most by any shortstop in the American League. There's no getting around it -- that's a high number.

But here's something that is encouraging: Anderson has committed only four errors in his past 53 games. He committed his 22nd error of the season July 16, in his 80th game.

The average fan is going to look at those 26 errors and declare that Anderson is a poor defender. But aside from a two-error game in Texas on Aug. 19, a closer look reveals that Anderson has been playing a mostly clean shortstop for a good two months.

Corner turned? We'll find out next year, and we can hope.

When Anderson was struggling, I suspected he was taking his poor at-bats into the field with him, which is a tendency among many young players. His improved defense coincides with a late-season offensive resurgence.

Entering Tuesday's play, Anderson is riding a nine-game hit streak in which he has gone 18 for 43 (.419 average) with three doubles, a triple and a home run. He also has stolen six bases in his past nine games, nearly doubling his season total from seven to 13.

Anderson has hit in 12 of his past 13 games, and he has posted a .418/.426/.612 slash line in September.

Garbage-time heroics, you say? Well, perhaps, but Anderson has been trending in the right direction offensively since about Aug. 1, and given the choice, wouldn't we rather see a garbage-time surge than another two months of Anderson flailing about?

Here are Anderson's slash lines by month for the season:

April: .204/.237/.301
May: .319/.319/.500
June: .213/.242/.298
July: .198/.207/.296
August: .259/.272/.500
September: .418/.426/.612

June and July were a wasteland for Anderson, and his overall slash line (.262/.281/.414) suffers as a result of those extended struggles. The September performance is not sustainable, of course, but his performance has looked more like it should now for an extended period.

Some fans will point out that Anderson still is not taking many walks, and his on-base percentage is suffering for it. True enough, but I think we all need to get over the idea that Anderson needs to walk more. He isn't going to walk more. That's not who he is as a player. Accept that as reality.

Anderson has good bat-to-ball skills. He has speed and athleticism. Those tools should allow him to get hits, steal bases and play good defense. We've seen him do those things recently. If he can do that with more consistency next season, I'll be content with him as the Sox's starting shortstop, low walk totals be damned.

White Sox avoid infamy, split four games with Detroit

Matt Boyd
The White Sox scored 29 runs through the first three games of their four-game weekend series against the Detroit Tigers.

So, naturally, on Sunday, they went out and nearly got no-hit by one of the worst starting pitchers in the American League -- Detroit left-hander Matt Boyd.

Boyd retired 26 of the first 27 hitters he faced in a 12-0 victory, with Rob Brantly being the only man to reach base on a walk with two outs in the top of the third inning.

Alas, Sox shortstop Tim Anderson broke up the no-hit bid with a two-out double in the top of the ninth. The Sox are lucky the Tigers had a third baseman (Nick Castellanos) playing right field, because a good outfielder might have run down Anderson's liner into the right-center field gap.

Boyd finished with a one-hitter, and that will be forgotten about by next week -- if it hasn't been forgotten about already. No-hitters live forever, and it would have been embarrassing for the Sox to be no-hit by Boyd, who is 6-10 with a 5.33 ERA this season.

Crazy thing is, Boyd had been 0-4 with a 6.13 ERA in eight previous career starts against the Sox. Normally, I look forward to seeing Boyd on the mound, so I have no idea how he managed to pitch a one-hitter in Sunday's game.

Here's a look back at the rest of the series:

Thursday, Sept. 14
White Sox 17, Tigers 7: The Sox pounded 25 hits, including 21 singles, and forced the Tigers to use eight pitchers.

It was a career day for right fielder Avisail Garcia, who went 5 for 5 with a three-run homer and seven RBIs. The top five hitters in the Sox lineup combined for 19 hits. Yoan Moncada had four hits, including a home run, and scored five runs. Jose Abreu had four hits, three runs scored and two RBIs. Anderson went 3 for 7 with two runs scored and two RBIs, and Matt Davidson went 3 for 5 with three RBIs. It was quite an offensive display.

And, Tyler Saladino went 0 for 6. Hey, somebody has gotta make the outs, right?

The Sox got a decent outing from James Shields (4-6), who allowed four runs over six innings and struck out seven. With that kind of run support, even the erstwhile Shields is a good bet to pick up a victory.

Friday, Sept. 15
Tigers 3, White Sox 2: There were two positive signs the Sox could take out of this loss. First and foremost, they got a second consecutive good start from Carson Fulmer.

Fulmer went six innings, allowing one run on four hits. He struck out five and walked only one. The right-hander allowed only one run in six innings in his previous start against the San Francisco Giants, so it's possible Fulmer has found something after struggling for much of the year at Triple-A Charlotte.

Or, perhaps Fulmer just capitalized on pitching against two bad teams in San Francisco and Detroit. His next scheduled start should be against AL West champion Houston, so that might provide a better measure of Fulmer's progress.

The other positive sign? Moncada homered for the second straight game. The prized prospect has been swinging the bat better of late.

The bullpen combination of Al Alburquerque (0-2), Aaron Bummer and Juan Minaya coughed this game up by allowing a run in the bottom of the ninth inning, but what else would you expect from that group?

Saturday, Sept. 16
White Sox 10, Tigers 4: The Sox scored six runs in the first two innings and went on to total 17 hits in a lopsided win.

Anderson went 4 for 5 with two runs scored, Moncada collected two more hits, Nick Delmonico connected for his eighth home run of the season, and Abreu is up to 97 RBIs after he knocked in two more runs in this game.

The run support was useful for right-hander Reynaldo Lopez (2-3), who struggled early but settled in to throw seven innings. The Tigers got three off Lopez in the second inning, but only one the rest of the way.

Lopez, Fulmer and Lucas Giolito all have two wins each since being called up from Charlotte. All of them are at least contenders for rotation spots in the 2018 season.

Sunday, Sept. 17
Tigers 12, White Sox 0: We already talked about this terrible game, so can I just say Dylan Covey is NOT a contender for a rotation spot in the 2018 season and move on?

Thanks.

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.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Jose Abreu becomes first White Sox player to hit for the cycle since 2000

Jose Abreu
What are the odds that slugging White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu will hit a triple in any given at-bat?

Not high, you say? Well, you are correct.

Abreu has appeared in 596 career games through Sunday, and he has made 2,582 plate appearances. He has 11 career triples, which means he triples once in every 235 plate appearances.

So, when Abreu stepped to the plate in the bottom of the eighth inning Saturday night needing a triple to complete the cycle, I doubt too many people thought he would actually do it. His odds got even worse after he fouled a ball off his leg in that at-bat, and the game had to be delayed briefly while manager Rick Renteria and trainer Herm Schneider checked on him.

Wouldn't you know, Abreu got back in the box and lined the very next pitch into the right-center field gap. Sore leg and all, the race was on, and somehow the 6-foot-3, 255-pound Abreu lumbered into third base to complete the cycle.

He went 4 for 5 with three RBIs in the Sox's 13-1 win over the San Francisco Giants.

I had the good fortune of attending Saturday's game, and it was the first time I've seen a Sox player hit for the cycle in person. That part is really not surprising, because cycles have been rare in club history. There are only six of them, and Guaranteed Rate Field isn't what you would call a triples park - with its short power alleys and symmetrical design.

Here are the other cycles in Sox history:

Jose Valentin: April 27, 2000 vs. Baltimore
Chris Singleton: July 6, 1999 vs. Kansas City
Carlton Fisk: May 16, 1984 vs. Kansas City
Jack Brohamer: Sept. 24, 1977 vs. Seattle
Ray Schalk: June 27, 1922 vs. Detroit

I think the Sox should give free admission to an upcoming home game to anyone who was actually alive when Schalk hit for the cycle.

As for Abreu, he continued his torrid hitting Sunday with two home runs in an 8-1 win over the Giants. The Sox took two out of three in the series after losing 9-2 on Friday night.

The .300/30/100 watch continues for Abreu. He's got 31 home runs now, so the "30" part is secure. He's at 90 RBIs, which means he needs 10 more in the remaining 20 games. The batting average sits at .302 entering Monday's action.

Friday, September 8, 2017

White Sox pitcher Carlos Rodon headed to the MRI machine

Carlos Rodon
Carlos Rodon was on the disabled list for the entire first half of the season, and I couldn't help but wonder whether the White Sox were lying about the severity of his shoulder discomfort.

My concerns are growing once again after Rodon was scratched from his scheduled start Thursday with "shoulder stiffness" just minutes before he was to pitch against the Cleveland Indians.

Mike Pelfrey (3-11) made an emergency start and gave up four runs before he recorded an out. The Sox went on to lose, 11-2, but really, who cares about that at this point? Pelfrey's doing all he can, which isn't much.

The story of the night was Rodon. He's an important piece to the Sox's rebuilding puzzle, and he's headed to the MRI machine Friday to get his shoulder checked out.

This is not good news. I'd rather a pitcher have elbow trouble than shoulder trouble, because velocity comes from the shoulder. It seems as though most pitchers make it back from elbow surgeries, whereas shoulder surgeries tend to ruin careers (John Danks, Johan Santana, Mark Prior).

Hopefully, whatever is troubling Rodon will not require him to go under the knife. But whatever this is, it's nagging, it's been present all season, and it was never completely healed, regardless of what the Sox said publicly about the matter.

Rodon's season likely is done. The Sox are 31 games below .500, and I can't think of a single good reason to send him to the mound again in 2017. He'll have made only 12 starts this season, and he'll finish 2-5 with a 4.15 ERA.

He had hit his stride as of late -- his ERA was 3.00 in his past seven outings -- so it's really frustrating to see him sidelined again.

I'm not concerned about Rodon's stuff at this point. From my perspective, his three-pitch mix is right where it should be. He can dominate a good lineup on a given day. But at some point, he needs to provide some consistency and show he can make 30 starts in a season and get close to 200 innings.

He has not done that, and until he does, we can't look at him as a top-of-the-rotation pitcher, even though that's what all Sox fans want him to become.

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.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Chris Beck is terrible all the time, but especially against the first batter he faces

Full disclosure: Chris Beck is probably my least favorite 2017 White Sox player. I cringe every time he comes in from the bullpen. You're never going to hear me say a nice word about him.

And there's really no arguing with the fact that he's a bad relief pitcher. He's made 51 appearances for the Sox this year, and he's got a 6.42 ERA. Somewhat remarkably, he had a 3.41 ERA as recently as July 5, but he's allowed at least one earned run in 16 of his past 20 relief outings.

That's remarkable incompetence, given that relief pitchers often are asked to pitch only one inning. You would think a major league reliever would be able to provide a scoreless inning more often than four times out of 20, but Beck's horribleness defies logic.

Here's the thing that really bothers me about Beck: He cannot retire the first man he faces to save his life. In Monday's 5-3 loss to the Cleveland Indians, the first man he faced was Jose Ramirez.

Ramirez homered.

In Tuesday's 9-4 loss to the Indians, the first man Beck faced was Yan Gomes.

Gomes hit a three-run homer.

This is not a new trend. Beck has allowed 14 home runs in 54.2 innings this season. Seven of those homers have been surrendered to the first man he faces.

In 51 games, Beck has allowed the first man he faces to reach base 25 times. Those 51 hitters have gone 15 for 40 with the aforementioned seven home runs, eight walks, two HBPs and only three strikeouts.

The slash line for those 51 hitters: .375/.490/.950. That's a 1.440 OPS!

This is not an acceptable level of performance for any reliever, even one on a rebuilding team.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

White Sox release pitcher Derek Holland; Yoan Moncada coming off the disabled list

Derek Holland
Derek Holland's services as a veteran placeholder are no longer needed.

The White Sox on Tuesday requested waivers on the left-handed pitcher for purposes of granting him his unconditional release.

The Sox have purchased the contract of left-hander Jace Fry from Double-A Birmingham, and he will be called up to the majors to take Holland's spot on the roster.

Holland appeared in 29 games (26 starts) for the Sox this season and finished 7-14 with a 6.20 ERA. Would you believe it if I told you that Holland's ERA on June 1 was 2.37?

He was perhaps the Sox's best starter the first two months of the season. Regression was inevitable, but there's regression, and then there's falling off a cliff. This was falling off a cliff.

Since June 1, Holland was 3-10 with a 9.32 ERA. These were three of the sorriest months I've ever seen put together by a Sox starting pitcher.

The Sox tried to throw Holland a lifeline by giving him an opportunity to work as a situational left-hander out of the bullpen. Holland entered Sunday's game against the Tampa Bay Rays in the top of the eighth with the Sox leading, 6-1, and he promptly walked .194-hitting Brad Miller leading off the inning.


Naturally, that walk came around to score, although Greg Infante successfully minimized the damage, and Lucas Giolito picked up his second career win in a 6-2 Sox victory.

But that outing showed that Holland can't be trusted to do the job even when he's being given a favorable matchup against a light-hitting left-hander. When you reach that point, it's time to hit the bricks.

As for Fry, he's made it back from Tommy John surgery after missing the entire 2016 season. He pitched 33 games out of the Birmingham bullpen this year and went 2-1 with a 2.78 ERA and three saves.

Why not give him a taste of the majors and see what he can do as a situational left-hander? His odds are better than Holland's at this point, I would say.

And, oh, I buried the lead again. Second baseman Yoan Moncada is coming off the disabled list after missing time with a shin bruise. So, let the prospect hype continue!

Friday, September 1, 2017

White Sox trade Miguel Gonzalez to Rangers for Ti'Quan Forbes

Miguel Gonzalez
Hours after he received a no-decision in the White Sox's 5-4 loss to the Minnesota Twins on Thursday, right-hander Miguel Gonzalez was traded to the Texas Rangers for minor league infielder Ti'Quan Forbes.

Forbes, 21, was the Rangers' second-round pick in the 2014 draft. He has played both shortstop and third base, and he has split time between Class-A Hickory and High-A Down East this season. His slash line is not that impressive: .236/.283/.345 with 11 home runs and 45 RBIs combined in 131 games between the two levels.

I've read that Forbes is described as a "slow developer," and he's still a young player -- having been drafted out of high school. In fact, he just turned 21 on Aug. 26, so he would have been one of the younger guys in his league at age 20 for most of this season.

This kid is pretty much a lotto ticket, and it will be at least a couple years before we know whether he amounts to anything. Hell, for all I know, this will be the last time I ever write about him on this blog.

But, really, you can be expecting much return for Gonzalez, who is a free agent at the end of the season. There are about 30 games left to go, so the Rangers are looking at getting five, maybe six, starts out of Gonzalez, who is nothing more than a league-average starter.

What is that really worth? Apparently, it's worth a longshot prospect such as Forbes.

Credit Gonzalez for pitching well enough the second half of the season that he had some value to a contender. He allowed three runs over six innings Thursday, which represented his fifth consecutive quality start, and eighth quality start in nine second-half appearances.

Gonzalez is 2-0 with a 1.85 ERA over his past five starts. If you're the Rangers, and you're four games out of the wild card on Sept. 1, and you're getting increasingly desperate for pitching, you could do worse than Gonzalez in the middle or at the back of your rotation.

From the Sox perspective, well, this probably keeps the struggling Derek Holland in the rotation the rest of the year. Reynaldo Lopez is coming off the disabled list to start Friday night, and now he'll take Gonzalez's spot instead of Holland's.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Michael Kopech named Southern League's Most Outstanding Pitcher

White Sox pitching prospect Michael Kopech has been named the Southern League's Most Outstanding Pitcher for 2017.

Kopech, 21, recently was promoted to Triple-A Charlotte, but this recognition is for the right-hander's season-long dominance at Double-A Birmingham.

In 22 starts for the Barons, Kopech went 8-7 with a 2.87 ERA. Among qualified pitchers, he led the Southern League in strikeouts (155), batting average against (.184), hits allowed (77) and strikeouts per nine innings pitched (11.69).

Kopech becomes the first Sox farmhand to win this honor since Mark Buehrle in 2000. In that season, Buehrle went 8-4 with a 2.28 ERA before receiving a July promotion to the Sox. Buehrle never returned to the minor leagues after that. The following year, in 2001, he won 16 games for the Sox, and the rest is history. The Sox retired his No. 56 in June.

I doubt Kopech will be on any fast track to the major leagues. He's thrown 129.1 innings this season combined between Birmingham and Charlotte, and that is by far a career high.

So far for Charlotte, he's 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA in two starts. He's scheduled to pitch for the Knights on Friday night, and I'm guessing that will be it for his year, since the minor-league regular season ends within a week.

There have been rumblings that Kopech will compete for a rotation spot in spring training next year, but the smart money has him starting in Charlotte in 2018. Even if everything continues to go well, I can't see Kopech coming to Chicago until after the Super Two service time issues are no longer an issue.

Keep in mind, we didn't see Yoan Moncada or Reynaldo Lopez get a call to the majors until the second half this year. Kopech is one prospect we could see in the second half of next year, but most likely not before then.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Jose Abreu: the .300/30/100 watch is on

Jose Abreu
For the fifth consecutive season, the White Sox (52-78) will finish with a losing record, and games in September won't mean a thing in the standings -- at least not to the Sox.

So, it's that time of year where we look for reasons to watch and reasons to care. How about first baseman Jose Abreu's sustained excellence?

Abreu went 4 for 4 with a double, a walk and two RBIs on Tuesday in a 6-4 loss to the Minnesota Twins. The perfect night raised his batting average to .303, and he has 26 home runs and 80 RBIs on the season.

He is on pace to finish with 32 home runs and 100 RBIs right on the nose.

Yes, indeed, the .300/30/100 watch is on.

Abreu already is the first Sox player to hit at least 25 home runs in each of his first four seasons in the major leagues. He also is seeking his fourth consecutive 100-RBI season. Last year, he had exactly 100, reaching the milestone on the final day of the season. His career high is 107. Abreu's career-best batting average is .317, set in his rookie season of 2014. He hit .290 in 2015 and .293 in 2016.

It's remarkable that Abreu puts these sorts of numbers up playing for bad teams. He probably does not get the credit he deserves -- locally or nationally -- because of some of the dreck that is playing around him.

But, he's a player who gives us a reason to watch, and we'll see if he can attain some of these individual milestones again this season.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Avisail Garcia is hitting a lot of singles since coming off the DL

Avisail Garcia
White Sox right fielder Avisail Garcia is second in the American League in hitting with a .322 batting average.

Who would have thought we'd be making that statement on Aug. 29? Garcia continues to perform well above his career norms -- he's a lifetime .272 hitter, and it's not a small sample size. By the end of the week, he will have 2,000 career plate appearances in the big leagues.

Garcia is not going to challenge for the batting title. Houston's Jose Altuve is well ahead of the field with a .356 batting average, but Garcia has been hot since he came off the disabled list Aug. 8.

In his past 16 games, Garcia is 25 for 58. That will pencil out to a .431 batting average. He has at least one hit in 13 of those 16 games. He has eight multi-hit performances, including three three-hit games.

But here's the thing about it: Most of Garcia's hits are singles now. Since coming off the DL, Garcia has only four extra-base hits. All of those are doubles, and the last one came two weeks ago on Aug. 13.

Garcia was sidelined for about two weeks with a sprained thumb, and it's amazing how injuries to hands, thumbs and wrists rob hitters of their power.

Credit Garcia for continuing to get base hits during this period where he likely is not 100 percent healthy, but it's unfortunate that this hot streak has produced only seven RBIs for him.

A modest suggestion for manager Rick Renteria: Flip the batting order and put Garcia third, ahead of Jose Abreu.

For the most part, Abreu has been hitting third, with Garcia fourth. Abreu has seven home runs since Aug. 12, but only 10 RBIs to show for it. The guys hitting first and second haven't been getting on base for Abreu.

Who has been getting on? Well, Garcia has. Put him before Abreu in the lineup, and maybe some of these Garcia singles turn into runs for the Sox, if Abreu can continue to drive the ball off the wall or over it with consistency.

Monday, August 28, 2017

White Sox take two out of three from Detroit Tigers

Yolmer Sanchez
This weekend represented a rarity for the White Sox this season: They went into a three-game series in which the pitching matchups seemed to present them with an outstanding chance of winning at least two out of three.

The Sox did, in fact, take two out of three games from the Detroit Tigers, although the order in which they won this series was a little different than I anticipated. Let's look back on the weekend that was:

Aug. 25
White Sox 3, Tigers 2: This was the one game in the series where I felt the Tigers had the edge with their ace, Justin Verlander, going against Sox right-hander Miguel Gonzalez.

Perhaps I should have known better, because Gonzalez has had a strong second half. He's racked up seven quality starts in his past eight outings and lowered his season ERA from 5.15 to 4.30 in the process. And he more than matched Verlander in this game:

Gonzalez: 8 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 9 Ks, 0 BBs
Verlander: 7 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 8Ks, 2 BBs

This one ended up being decided by bullpens, and while neither club has a good one, it was Detroit's relief corps that broke first.

With the score tied at 2, Tim Anderson led off the bottom of the ninth inning with a double off Joe Jimenez (0-2). Yolmer Sanchez followed a game-ending RBI single.

That made a winner of Sox reliever Juan Minaya (2-1), who worked 1-2-3 top of the ninth.

Aug. 26
Tigers 6, White Sox 3: I thought this would be the most favorable matchup for the Sox this weekend, so, of course, they lost.

Carlos Rodon (2-5) had allowed two runs or less and worked six innings or more in five straight starts coming into Saturday, but his hot streak ended against the Tigers.

The left-hander lasted only five innings and gave up five runs. Sanchez staked him to an early 2-0 lead with a home run, but Rodon handed it right back by giving up back-to-back home runs to Justin Upton and Miguel Cabrera in the top of the third inning. Cabrera's homer gave Detroit a 3-2 lead, and the Tigers led the rest of the way.

Detroit starter Buck Farmer (3-1) has a 6.17 ERA this season, but two of his three wins have come against the Sox. Farmer was nothing special in this game, allowing three earned runs over 5.2 innings, but he was better than Rodon. That was disappointing.

Aug. 27
White Sox 7, Tigers 1: Not so disappointing was the performance of rookie right-hander Lucas Giolito (1-1), who fired seven shutout innings to pick up his first major-league victory in the rubber match of the series.

Unlike his first start, Giolito had his four-pitch mix working. He was consistently ahead in counts and allowed only two hits through his first six innings. He struck out four and threw 72 of his 104 pitches for strikes.

His seventh and final inning was a tough one, but he managed to get out of a two-out jam that saw the Tigers load the bases. Jose Iglesias hit a ball down the left-field line that was initially ruled a grand slam. Replays showed the ball was clearly foul, and the call was reversed. After the loud strike one, Giolito induced Iglesias to ground out to shortstop, and that completed his seven-inning day.

The Sox have had a lot of success against Detroit lefty Matt Boyd (He's 0-4 vs. Chicago in his career), and they scored five runs off him in the bottom of the third inning Sunday. Matt Davidson's two-out, two-strike three-run homer turned a 2-0 lead into a 5-0 lead, and the Sox remained in control the rest of the way.

Sanchez went 3 for 4 and finished the series 6 for 12 with a home run, a double, two runs scored and four RBIs. 

The win finished up a 5-3 homestand for the South Siders. The Sox are 9-5 in their past 14 home games, so at least they are playing better before their fans at Guaranteed Rate Field. Their 2-8 road record this month stinks, but being able to compete and win at home is a step forward over what we were seeing for most of June and July.

Friday, August 25, 2017

White Sox place Yoan Moncada on 10-day disabled list

The White Sox won both Wednesday and Thursday night and ended up taking three of the five games against the Minnesota Twins this week, but Thursday's 5-1 victory came at a price.

Yoan Moncada has been placed on the 10-day disabled list after an MRI on Friday morning revealed a bone contusion in his right shin.

The rookie second baseman sat out two games last weekend against the Texas Rangers with shin splints, and he aggravated the nagging injury Thursday night while rounding third base on his way to scoring a run during a three-run rally in the fourth inning.

Moncada limped back to the dugout and played one more inning before exiting the game.

Third baseman Matt Davidson has been activated from the disabled list to take Moncada's spot on the roster. Davidson, who has 22 home runs this season, was hit by a pitch Aug. 1 and had been on the disabled list since Aug. 6 with a bruised right wrist.

He had played only one game on a rehab assignment to Triple-A Charlotte. I'm sure the Sox would have liked him to get a few more ABs down there before activating him, but the Moncada injury makes his presence in Chicago necessary.

It's good to have Davidson back in the lineup. I'm sure he'll play third base every day, and Yolmer Sanchez will move back to second base in Moncada's place.

Still, it stinks to have Moncada out. As the Sox (50-76) play out the string, Moncada's at-bats give us something to watch and talk about, but he'll be sidelined for at least the next 10 days and possibly longer.

Certainly, the Sox should exercise caution with Moncada. A lot is invested in him, and if they need to shut him down for the year, so be it. He's dealt with several injuries this season, and it's important that he be 100 percent healthy by the time the 2018 season rolls around.