Showing posts with label Jose Contreras. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jose Contreras. Show all posts

Monday, February 12, 2018

Former White Sox pitcher Esteban Loaiza arrested on drug charges

Esteban Loaiza
I was surprised when I saw former White Sox pitcher Esteban Loaiza at SoxFest in January.

Loaiza's name had not been mentioned as being among the attendees before the event, and he hadn't been involved in the Sox organization much since he was traded for Jose Contreras in the middle of the 2004 season. Sure, he pitched three games for the South Siders at the end of his career in 2008, but he hadn't been heard from since.

It seemed strange that he suddenly resurfaced, 15 years after he won 21 games for the Sox and started the 2003 All-Star Game for the American League at U.S. Cellular Field.

Turns out, Loaiza might have been desperate to make whatever appearance fee the team pays former players who come to SoxFest.

The former right-hander was arrested Friday after authorities searched his home in Southern California and found more than 44 pounds of what is suspected to be cocaine.

Loaiza is being held on $200,000 bail on suspicion of possessing and transporting narcotics for sale, according to a San Diego Union-Tribune report.

According to baseball-reference.com, Loaiza made $43.7 million during his 14-year major league career. His inability to post bond to this point suggests that perhaps he blew through all that money, and perhaps he was trying to make some easy cash with the drug running.

I suspect he randomly showed up at SoxFest for the first time in years also for purposes of trying to make some easy cash.

At the end of the day, it's quite possible Loaiza soon will be throwing cut fastballs in the California Penal League. This is an unfortunate story about a player who had the best season of his career while wearing a Sox uniform in 2003.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Random thoughts from the goings-on at SoxFest

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

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

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


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



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


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

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

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Dubious definition of a 'key free agent' -- Mike Pelfrey

Mike Pelfrey -- in younger years
If you've watched MLB Network's offseason coverage lately -- and if you're reading my blog at this time of year, you probably have -- you may have noticed it has a tracker of "key free agents" running across its bottom crawl.

One by one, each team in MLB's logo is shown, followed by a list of that team's unsigned free agents. The White Sox have only one such unsigned free agent this year, and it never fails to make me smile to see him described as a "key free agent."

Good ol' Mike Pelfrey.

Yep, "Big Pelf" gets a mention, even though he went 3-12 with a 5.93 ERA for a Sox team that went 67-95 in 2017.

Key free agent? Ha! I'm quite sure the fate of the 2018 Sox rests on something other than Pelfrey's future with club, and I can't imagine too many rival teams are lining up to try to "steal" the journeyman right-hander who is entering his age 34 season away from the Sox.

Hey, something's got to keep me entertained during this offseason of very little baseball news, right?

Other additions to SoxFest

The Sox have announced a few additions to the SoxFest lineup. Catcher Welington Castillo, manager Rick Renteria and his coaching staff and former pitchers Jose Contreras and Jon Garland all will be at the Chicago Hilton from Jan. 26 to 28.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

White Sox make additions to 2016 SoxFest roster

Jose Contreras
With the holiday season over, it's time to look ahead to SoxFest 2016, which believe it or not is just a little more than two weeks away.

The event is scheduled for Jan. 29 to 31 at Hilton Chicago.

The White Sox on Monday announced outfielders Melky Cabrera and Avisail Garcia; pitchers Dan Jennings, Erik Johnson, Nate Jones, Zach Putnam and Daniel Webb; and catcher Dioner Navarro have been added to list of current players expected to attend.

World Series hero Jose Contreras highlights the list of former players slated to appear. Other 2005 team members include Carl Everett and Willie Harris. Chet Lemon, who was an All-Star outfielder for the Sox in 1978 and 1979, will be in attendance, as will former pitcher Kirk McCaskill, who is best known for being on the mound when the Sox clinched the 1993 AL West Division championship.

Overall, the list of ex-players slated to attend the event is pretty good. It includes Carlton Fisk, Harold Baines, Bo Jackson and Ron Kittle.

Other current players who previously committed to appear include first baseman Jose Abreu, catcher Alex Avila, pitcher John Danks, third baseman Todd Frazier, infielder Tyler Saladino and pitcher Chris Sale.

If Twitter is any indication, center fielder Adam Eaton also will be on hand.

You can monitor any additional updates to the list of attendees by visiting whitesox.com/SoxFest.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Top five deadline deals for the White Sox since 2000

Baseball's trade deadline looms Thursday. It's the last shopping day for teams to make moves without putting players on waivers first. Since that process is sometimes an impediment to adding reinforcements, the days before the July 31 deadline are always among the busiest on the baseball calendar.

Besides being the time to bolster rosters for the stretch run -- something neither Chicago team will be doing this year -- teams can also make more forward-thinking moves such as moving a veteran player for prospects, or picking up a veteran player under contract for multiple seasons yet. These kind of trades can be big moves that shape the future of a franchise, or small ones that add finishing pieces or future role players.

Here are the five best deals the White Sox have made near the deadline since 2000:

5. July 30, 2013. Traded Jake Peavy to the Boston Red Sox. Received Avisail Garcia from the Detroit Tigers and Francellis Montas, Cleuluis Rondon and Jeffrey Wendelken from the Red Sox. The Red Sox sent Jose Iglesias to the Tigers.

Garcia hasn't played much this season because of a shoulder injury. The Sox are hoping the fast-healing outfielder will see some time later this year because if he can develop into a solid everyday player, this trade will be exactly the kind of veteran-for-prospect deal the youth-starved Sox needed to make.

For all the flaws the Sox rotation has shown this year, Peavy isn't really missed considering his tepid performance this season and the big money he's making on the last year of his contract.

4. July 29, 2000. Traded Miguel Felix, Juan Figueroa, Jason Lakman and Brook Fordyce to the Baltimore Orioles. Received Harold Baines and Charles Johnson.

Johnson was a huge upgrade at catcher for the Sox over Fordyce (.272/.313/.464) and Mark Johnson (.225/.315/.316), batting an incredible .326/.411/.607 in 158 PAs over the last two months of the season. Consider how ridiculously talented the Sox offense was that year when Johnson, batting ninth in the playoffs, had 30 home runs on the season.

While Johnson left after the season, the Sox didn't win a playoff series and Baines wasn't a very effective bench bat during his third tour of duty with the team, this trade worked out just fine as none of the pieces the Sox gave up would haunt them down the road.

3. July 31, 2008. Traded Nick Masset and Danny Richar to the Cincinnati Reds. Received Ken Griffey, Jr. and cash.

It's easy to crack jokes about how Griffey was a shell of himself by the time he got to the Sox because it's true. He was no longer a great hitter and his play in center field could make you want to close your eyes. But consider that Brian Anderson, Dewayne Wise and down-season Nick Swisher were tasked with patrolling that spot after Alexei Ramirez was moved to second base full-time.

Griffey batted a decent .260/.347/.405 for the Sox, plus made a good defensive play to throw out the Twins' Michael Cuddyer at home plate in the 1-0 win over Minnesota in the AL Central tiebreaker. So even though Masset had a few decent seasons as a reliever, this is a trade the Sox should be happy they made.

2. July 31, 2004. Traded Esteban Loaiza to the New York Yankees. Received Jose Contreras and cash.

Despite having traded for Freddy Garcia just a month earlier, the Sox were headed in the wrong direction after losing Frank Thomas and Magglio Ordonez for the season. Loaiza, who appeared to have turned his career around the previous season, was also struggling, so the Sox opted to swap him for another right-hander who was getting roughed up, but had some potential and wasn't a free agent at the end of the year.

Contreras kept scuffling that year, pitching to a 5.30 ERA, only a slight improvement over his work with the Yankees. But the next season things clicked for the Cuban as he finished with a 3.61 ERA, including a dominant second half where he posted a 2.96 ERA and was the Game 1 starter in three playoff series as the Sox went 11-1 on their way to their first World Series title in 88 years.

1. July 31, 2005. Traded Ryan Meaux to the San Diego Padres. Received Geoff Blum.

Blum wasn't anywhere near as important as Contreras to the 2005 title march. In fact, a lot of observers were puzzled when he was the only piece added at the deadline by then-Sox GM Kenny Williams, who was notorious for his all-in style of roster building.

But it's hard to beat it when a trade deadline acquisition does this...

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Masahiro Tanaka: Some first impressions

I finally got a chance to watch New York Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka on TV for the first time on Wednesday afternoon. The highly regarded Japanese import started the first game of a day-night doubleheader against the Cubs at Yankee Stadium, and I have to say I was impressed.

Tanaka fired eight shutout innings in New York's 3-0 victory. He struck out 10 and walked just one, while surrendering only two hits. And, oh, both those hits were bunts. That was the extent of the Cubs' offense on this day. Tanaka threw first-pitch strikes to 20 of the 27 batters he faced, and had only two 3-ball counts the entire afternoon. He was simply overpowering.

Some scouts have said Tanaka has the best split-finger fastball they've ever seen. I'm in no position to argue. He had Cubs hitters swinging and missing at that pitch all afternoon. They couldn't hit it, nor could they lay off it. For the most part, Tanaka was starting his splitter at the bottom of the strike zone, enticing the Cubs hitters to swing at it, but it would fall out of sight before it reached home plate.

I also was impressed by Tanaka's ability to change the hitter's eye level. He wasn't afraid to pitch up in the zone with his fastball. A few of the Cubs hitters took belt-high fastballs that were right over the plate. They were probably looking for the splitter and got out-guessed. Tanaka also showed he could grab a first-pitch strike by using his slider. He got ahead in the count against almost everybody, and that made for a long afternoon for the Chicago hitters.

Tanaka reminded me a bit of the late 2005 version of Jose Contreras, when his split-finger was overpowering opposing hitters. Tanaka doesn't have as much heat on his fastball as Contreras did, but his slider is probably better. And the two pitchers are similar in the sense that you could tell a hitter the splitter is coming, and they still wouldn't be able to do anything about it.

Through the first 22 innings of his major league career, Tanaka has struck out 28 and walked just two. He's allowed six runs (five earned) through his first three starts, and all of those runs were scored in either the first inning or the second inning. From the third inning on, he has allowed nothing in each of his three outings.

When it comes to ace pitchers, they always say you better get them early in the count, and you better get them early in the game, otherwise you aren't going to get them. Tanaka has been an example of that thus far. 

All that said, it is worth noting that the Cubs' offense stinks. The North Siders were blanked 2-0 by Michael Pineda and three New York relievers in Wednesday's nightcap. The Cubs, who fell to 4-10 on the season, are not swinging the bats well right now and are hardly the toughest test Tanaka will face.

There are some good hitters in the AL East. Boston and Baltimore, in particular, have strong lineups when all their players are healthy. The more you face an opposing pitcher, the more you know, and it will be interesting to see how the AL East hitters adjust the second, third or fourth time they see Tanaka as the season moves along. That will be the true test to see just how good this guy is.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Freddy Garcia and Jose Contreras: Back from the Dead

Back when Jose Contreras was the ace for the 2005 World Series champion White Sox, I assumed he was about 50 years old. He was a terrific pitcher at that time; he just looked like he was old enough to be my grandfather.

Freddy Garcia was a starting pitcher on that team, too. The following year, in 2006, he looked like he was pitching injured. Sure enough, by midseason 2007 he was on the shelf with shoulder problems. I figured his career might be over then.

Well, I was wrong about that. Can you believe both these two men are back in the major leagues? Both were recalled within 48 hours of each other this week.

Garcia made an immediate contribution to his latest team, the Baltimore Orioles. He took a no-hitter into the seventh inning Saturday against the struggling Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim before running out of gas. As a matter of fact, Garcia faced the minimum 18 batters through the first six innings. He ended up allowing two runs in 6.2 innings and received a no-decision in Baltimore's 5-4, 10-inning win.

Contreras, meanwhile, has made it back from Tommy John surgery, a procedure he had done last June 20. He'll be a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates' bullpen after being recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis on Friday. Contreras is listed as being 41 years old. Believe that at your own peril. He might have been older than that during his White Sox heyday.

I'm really surprised these two guys have hung around for this long. It just goes to show that guys who know how to pitch can enjoy long, long professional careers.