Showing posts with label Melky Cabrera. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Melky Cabrera. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

White Sox going young in center field (and other news)

It's looking as if Jacob May has won the job as the starting center fielder for the White Sox.

Charlie Tilson is still in a walking boot for the next three weeks and may not be back until late May, and the Sox on Monday traded Peter Bourjos to the Tampa Bay Rays for cash considerations.

Subtracting Tilson from the equation, here are the offensive numbers the three contenders for center field have put up in the spring:

May: .339/.361/.525, 2 BB, 12 K, 4 for 5 in stolen bases, 61 plate appearances
Bourjos: .313/.340/.521, 2 BB, 7 K, 1 for 1 in stolen bases, 50 plate appearances
Leury Garcia: .339/.355/.424, 2 BB, 9 K, 2 for 4 in stolen bases, 64 plate appearances

May is the best of the three defensively, and he nosed out the other contenders with his performance at the plate, as well. I can't say I disagree with giving him the chance. He's 25 years old, the team is rebuilding, why not find out what you have with him?

Most of the prospect guys say May is a fourth outfielder, and that might very well be all he is. But you don't know until you give him some big-league time and see how he responds.

However, I was surprised they decided to move Bourjos. He seemed like a good veteran insurance policy at a position where the Sox have painfully little depth. At the very least, I was expecting him to make the club as a fourth outfielder.

Instead, the Sox are apparently going with the cringeworthy Garcia. They like his "versatility," but as I've said before, sure, he plays five positions, but he plays them all poorly, so who cares?

If May does poorly and Tilson doesn't recover from his injury, we could be looking at a starting Sox outfielder of Melky Cabrera, Leury Garcia and Avisail Garcia. That's the kind of defensive lineup that will lose you a lot of games, which might be the goal for this season anyway.

Rodon diagnosed with bursitis

Sox pitcher Carlos Rodon will begin a two-week throwing program after being diagnosed with bursitis (inflammation) in his left bicep tendon, according to a CSN Chicago report.

Rodon will begin the season on the 15-day disabled list.

In his absence, potential stopgap measures for the rotation include right-handers Dylan Covey and (gulp!) Anthony Swarzak.

This is another area where the Sox don't have much depth while they wait for more heralded pitching prospects to become big-league ready.

If Rodon is hurt and Jose Quintana gets traded, it will make what already is shaping up as a difficult season even more challenging.

A.J. Pierzynski
Pierzynski retires, takes broadcasting job

Former White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski announced his retirement Tuesday. He will join FOX as a full-time baseball analyst.

Pierzynski will serve as both a color commentator and studio analyst for FOX, while also making regular appearances on FS1's MLB Whiparound.

"With Opening Day right around the corner, this is always a great time of year," Pierzynski said in a statement from FOX Sports. "I’m really looking forward to what should be a very exciting MLB season and to being a part of the FOX Sports team again."

Pierzynski previously worked with FOX during the 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015 MLB postseasons.

It's no secret that I'm a fan of Pierzynski's. Despite his bad reputation with some folks, he's a smart guy and knows the game inside and out. I'm looking forward to hearing his insights on the FOX broadcasts.

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.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

White Sox have had their best offensive month in September

Leury Garcia
Stat of the day: The White Sox have scored 137 runs in 25 games this month, an average of 5.5 runs a game.

That makes September far and away their best offensive month of the season. The next best offensive month? It was May, when the Sox plated 123 runs in 28 games (4.4 a game).

Where was this September offense in June and July, you ask? Great question. This is obviously a case of too little and much too late, but the Sox continued their run of better-than-we're-used-to offense with a 13-6 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night.

Three batters into the bottom of the first inning, the Sox had three runs. Adam Eaton doubled and scored on a single by Tim Anderson. Melky Cabrera followed with his 14th home run of the season to make it 3-0. The Sox had the lead the rest of the way.

It was a tough night for Tampa Bay starter Alex Cobb, who is trying to make it back from Tommy John surgery. He lasted only three innings and gave up eight runs. His ERA swelled to 8.59 after five starts. The Sox added two runs in the second and three more in the third, including a three-run home run by Leury Garcia, of all people.

For Garcia, it was just his second career home run and first since June 4, 2014.

Anderson continued to impress in his rookie season as he went 3 for 5 with a double, his eighth home run of the season, two runs scored and three RBIs. His batting average sits at a respectable .278 clip 94 games into his career. At no point during this season has he looked overmatched offensively or defensively, and while it's still too soon to say what kind of player Anderson will ultimately become, it has to be comforting for the Sox to know who their shortstop is going to be in 2017. It's one less hole to fill.

The beneficiary of all this run support was Sox ace Chris Sale (17-9), who equaled a career high in wins with 17 in what might be his last start of the season. Sale wasn't at his sharpest, but he didn't need to be. He went seven innings, allowing three runs on eight hits. He struck out seven and did not issue a walk, which is typically the recipe for success when pitching with a big lead.

Chris Beck worked a 1-2-3 eighth, and the Sox led, 13-3, after eight innings. Enter Matt Albers, whose career is probably going to be over after this week. He allowed three runs (two earned) to account for the final score. Remember when Albers was unscored upon for 30 straight appearances? Well, his ERA is up to 6.31 now. That's how badly he's pitched the last three or four months. He's done.

The win was the Sox's fourth in a row, and at 76-81, they still have an outside shot at finishing .500 if they can win the rest of their games this week. Not likely, but hey, it's all we got, right?

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

White Sox pitcher James Shields will avoid 20-loss season

James Shields
For a change, struggling White Sox pitcher James Shields didn't lose Monday night.

The right-hander picked up his first victory since July 26, firing six innings of one-run ball in a 7-1 Sox win over Shields' former team, the Tampa Bay Rays.

With the victory, Shields improves to 6-18 (4-11 with the Sox) and ensures that he will not be a 20-game loser this season, regardless of the outcome of his final scheduled start Saturday against the Minnesota Twins.

Shields struggled for most of the game. Tampa Bay had multiple base runners in four of the six innings he pitched, but a couple of well-timed double plays and six strikeouts allowed Shields to pitch out of trouble.

I'm still 100 percent opposed to the idea of Shields being in the Sox's rotation for 2017. His 0-4 mark with an 11.42 ERA over six starts in August was more than enough for me to say it's time to move on. But the reality is Shields has two years left on his contract, and the Sox are probably going to trot him to the mound for 32 starts next season, so we're left with hoping the Shields of Monday night appears more often.

It didn't hurt that the Sox had another decent offensive game. Justin Morneau and Carlos Sanchez each hit two-run homers as part of an 11-hit attack. Morneau, Sanchez, Jose Abreu and Omar Narvaez had two hits each. Abreu picked up his 98th RBI, inching closer to reaching the 100-RBI mark for the third straight season. Melky Cabrera collected his 40th double Monday, becoming the first Sox hitter to reach that plateau since Jermaine Dye in 2008.

After a six-game losing streak, the Sox (75-81) have won three straight games and will send ace Chris Sale to the mound Tuesday in the second game of the four-game series with the Rays.

Monday, September 26, 2016

White Sox (temporarily) prevent Indians from clinching AL Central

Carlos Rodon
The Cleveland Indians would have the AL Central Division title wrapped up if they had won either of their last two games against the White Sox over the weekend.

Instead, the Sox surprised them with back-to-back victories and a rare series win in Cleveland. The Indians' magic number remains at 1 heading into Monday's action.

Here's a look back at the weekend in Cleveland:

Friday, September 23
Indians 10, White Sox 4: The Sox were in decent shape halfway through this game. They had a 4-2 lead headed to the bottom of the fifth inning, after a pair of two-run homers -- one by Melky Cabrera in the first inning and the other by Avisail Garcia in the fifth.

But the wheels came off for Sox starter Miguel Gonzalez (4-8) in the bottom of the fifth. The Tribe touched Gonzalez and reliever Juan Minaya up for four runs to take a 6-4 lead, and for good measure, they added four more in the sixth off the relief combination of Minaya and Dan Jennings.

Blessed with a 10-4 lead, Cleveland starter Trevor Bauer (12-8) got two outs deep in the eighth inning and picked up the win.

The Sox lost outfielder Adam Eaton for the rest of the series after he crashed into the center field wall hauling in a line drive off the bat of Cleveland catcher Roberto Perez in the fifth inning.

Saturday, September 24
White Sox 8, Indians 1: The Sox have scored a few more runs for Jose Quintana (13-11) the second half of the season, and this was the lastest example. A two-spot in the first inning gave Quintana the lead before he ever took the mound, and that had to be comforting for him, because he did not have his best stuff.

The left-hander worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the first inning, and kept the Indians to just one run in the second inning, when the Tribe left runners at second and third.

The Sox added single runs in the fifth and sixth innings -- Todd Frazier hit his 39th homer of the season in the sixth -- and then broke it open with a four-run hit parade in the eighth inning. Carlos Sanchez and Jose Abreu each had three-hit games to back Quintana, who nursed the lead through six innings.

Tommy Kahnle, Jennings, Nate Jones and David Robertson combined for three innings of scoreless relief to give the Sox just their second victory at Cleveland this season.

Sunday, September 25
White Sox 3, Indians 0: Cleveland entered the day with its magic number at 2, needing a win and a Detroit loss to clinch the division. The Tigers lost, 12-9, to Kansas City, but the Indians couldn't hold up their end of the deal.

Left-hander Carlos Rodon (8-10) turned in one of the finest performances by a Sox starting pitcher all season. He went eight shutout innings, allowing just two hits (both singles), and tied his career high with 11 strikeouts.

Frazier went 1 for 3 with a single, a walk, two stolen bases and two runs scored. Each of the two steals led directly to a run. Sanchez drove him home with a single in the fifth; Omar Narvaez knocked him in with a single in the ninth.

Those three runs were ample for Rodon, who needed just one inning of help from the bullpen. Robertson provided it with one of his most impressive performances in months. The closer earned his 36th save by striking out Cleveland's 3-4-5 hitters -- Jose Ramirez, Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana -- in succession, all on nasty curve balls.

The Sox (74-81) now come home to conclude the season. They've got four games with Tampa Bay and three with Minnesota at U.S. Cellular Field this week.

Monday, September 12, 2016

White Sox lose two out of three to Kansas City

Carlos Rodon
Nothing brings out the worst in the White Sox quicker than the sight of Kansas City Royals uniforms in the other dugout. The Sox dropped two out of three at home to Kansas City over the weekend. They have lost all five series they have played against the Royals this season, and are now just 4-11 against Kansas City this year.

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

Friday, Sept. 9
White Sox 7, Royals 2: The late-season surge continues for left-hander Carlos Rodon, who settled down after a shaky first inning to win his fourth consecutive start and fifth straight decision.

Rodon (7-8) went six innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on six hits. He struck out nine and walked two while lowering his ERA to 3.80. He punctuated his outing by striking out Royals outfielder Paulo Orlando on a nasty slider with the bases loaded in the sixth inning.

Rodon is now 5-0 with a 1.85 ERA since Aug. 1, a period spanning seven starts. He continues to be a bright spot in an otherwise miserable second half for the Sox.

The Sox offense did have a good showing Friday night, seven runs without the benefit of a home run. The South Siders pounded out 13 hits, and all nine players in the starting lineup either scored a run or drove in a run. Tyler Saladino continued a prolonged hot streak, as he went 3 for 4 with two RBIs.

Saturday, Sept. 10
Royals 6, White Sox 5: Can anyone explain to me why the Sox are suddenly using Chris Beck in a high-leverage role? The right-handed reliever has appeared in five of the last seven games, despite a 7.41 ERA and no real evidence of major league competency.

After a rare decent start by James Shields, Beck was summoned to protect a 4-3 lead in the seventh inning and did not get the job done. He gave up a one-out single to Christian Colon, who was pinch run for by Terrence Gore. The speedy Gore spooked the Sox bench and Beck by his mere presence on the bases. The Sox called for two consecutive pitchouts. Gore stole second base anyway, and Beck walked light-hitting Jarrod Dyson after the "brain trust" foolishly ran the count to 2-0 with the useless pitchouts.

After being issued the free pass, Dyson scored the go-ahead run on Whit Merrifield's two-run double (#typicalWhiteSoxnonsense), and Kansas City never trailed again.

The Sox were behind 6-4 going into the bottom of the ninth. They scored one run off Royals closer Wade Davis, but Jose Abreu and Justin Morneau struck out consecutively with runners at first and third, ending the comeback attempt.

Sunday, Sept. 11
Royals 2, White Sox 0: Ace Chris Sale struck out 12 and became the first Sox pitcher in 20 years to throw eight or more innings in five consecutive starts.

Didn't matter, because for all of Sale's brilliance, the rest of the team stinks.

The Royals got solo home runs from Kendrys Morales and Eric Hosmer, and starting pitcher Ian Kennedy and three Kansas City relievers combined to limit the Sox to just two hits -- both singles by Adam Eaton, one in the first and one in the ninth.

The Sox had another crack at Davis in the ninth, who allowed Eaton's second single and walked Melky Cabrera to put the potential winning run at home plate. But once again, Abreu lined out to right field and Morneau struck out swinging, allowing Kansas City to escape town with another in a long line of series wins over Chicago.

Here are some interesting splits on Sale:
Before the All-Star break: 14-3, 3.38 ERA
Since the All-Star break: 1-5, 2.82 ERA

Sale was chosen to start the All-Star game because of his strong first-half performance. He's been even better the second half, but you'd never know it based upon the won-loss statistics.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Carlos Rodon ties Mat Latos for third on White Sox in wins

Carlos Rodon
Mat Latos pitched his last game in a White Sox uniform June 7. He was given his release June 17. He has not since appeared in a big league game with any team.

Nevertheless, Latos has ranked third on the Sox in wins all summer long with six, trailing only All-Stars Chris Sale (15-7) and Jose Quintana (11-10).

But Friday, one of the other Sox pitchers finally reached the exalted six-win plateau. Left-hander Carlos Rodon won his fourth straight decision, going a season-high seven innings in an 11-4 win over the last-place Minnesota Twins.

Rodon allowed four runs -- three earned -- on seven hits. He struck out five and walked one while improving his record to 6-8. He is now tied with the erstwhile Latos for third on the team in wins. Hooray!

The Sox's offense solved a nemesis. They knocked around Minnesota right-hander Kyle Gibson (5-9) for five runs on nine hits over 5.2 innings. Gibson had allowed only one earned run in 12.2 innings in two previous starts against the Sox this year, including seven innings of shutout ball in a Minnesota victory on June 28.

In this game, the Sox pounded out a season-high 16 hits. Adam Eaton went 4 for 5 with four runs scored. Jose Abreu and Melky Cabrera both went 3 for 6 with three RBIs, and Todd Frazier hit a two-run homer, his 35th of the season. With the home run, Frazier sets a new record for homers by a Sox third baseman in a single season. The previous record (34) was set by Sox manager Robin Ventura in 1996.

But more importantly, Rodon looks poised to finish the season strong. He's 4-0 with a 2.27 ERA over his last six starts. With about five starts left, he appears to be in good position to push Latos farther down the team rankings in wins.

Monday, August 29, 2016

White Sox take three out of four from Seattle Mariners

Jose Quintana
The Seattle Mariners this weekend became the latest American League contender to lose a season series to the White Sox.

The Sox took three out of four over the weekend at U.S. Cellular Field and finished 4-3 against Seattle this year. Chicago (63-66) also has prevailed in the season series against AL-West leading Texas (4-2), AL-East leading Toronto (5-1) and AL wild card-leader Boston (4-3).

Too bad the Sox can't win against their own division, where they are 20-29. Too bad 27 of the 33 remaining games are against AL Central opponents. It could be a rough road ahead, but today, let's reflect back on the weekend success against the Mariners:

Friday, Aug. 26
Mariners 3, White Sox 1: The day began with news that the Sox traded disappointing catcher Dioner Navarro to Toronto in exchange for pitcher Colton Turner.

Navarro somehow managed to be a downgrade from previous Sox catcher Tyler Flowers. We knew coming into the year that Navarro was a subpar pitch framer, and there would be defensive shortcomings. But Navarro couldn't even clear the low offensive bar set by Flowers in previous years. Good riddance to Navarro and his .210 batting average.

With Omar Narvaez behind the plate Friday, Chris Sale (15-7) pitched a complete game. He retired the last 16 batters he faced --10 by strikeout - and finished with a season-high 14 strikeouts.

Of course, he lost, because the Sox are not a good offensive team. At least this time they could say they got shut down by an elite pitcher. Seattle ace Felix Hernandez (9-4) fired 7.1 innings of one-run ball to earn the victory.

Hernandez did leave, however, with the bases loaded and only one out in the eighth. But Seattle reliever Edwin Diaz got a force at home and a popout to third to extricate the Mariners from that mess. Diaz went on to strike out the side in the ninth to earn his 11th save.

Saturday, Aug. 27
White Sox 9, Mariners 3: Avisail Garcia and Tyler Saladino both went 3 for 4 with a homer as the Sox pounded 15 hits to make a winner out of Jose Quintana (11-9).

The Sox scored two in the first and one more in the fourth against Seattle starter Ariel Miranda (1-1), who was removed after four innings in just his sixth career game and fourth career start.

The Mariners brought in middle reliever Vidal Nuno, and he fooled nobody. He gave up six runs on 10 hits, including three home runs, over three innings. The Sox scored four runs off him in the fifth, highlighted by back-to-back home runs by Garcia and Alex Avila. Saladino added his two-run homer in the seventh inning.

Quintana had to be overjoyed to pitch with a big lead. He went 7.2 innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on five hits. He struck out eight, walked one and lowered his ERA to a team-best 2.77.

Jacob Turner made the ninth inning somewhat annoying when he loaded the bases with nobody out. The Sox took a 9-2 lead into that inning, so the outcome was not really in doubt, and the Mariners scored only one run out of that situation anyway. Nate Jones came on to induce a game-ending double play off the bat of pinch-hitter Seth Smith.

Sunday, April 28
White Sox 4, Mariners 1: The Sox managed only five hits in this game, but they bunched them and made them count.

They went nine-up, nine-down against Seattle starter Taijuan Walker the first three innings, but two HBPs and a double loaded the bases in the fourth inning. Justin Morneau's two-run single put the Sox on top, 2-0.

The Sox did not get another hit until the eighth inning, but they added to a 2-1 lead with two more runs on three hits. Tim Anderson singled and scored on triple by Melky Cabrera. Jose Abreu followed with a sacrifice fly to account for the final margin of victory.

Carlos Rodon (5-8) continued his red-hot August with six innings of one-run ball. He allowed only a solo home run to Robinson Cano, and improved to 3-0 with a 1.47 ERA over five starts this month.

Anderson and Saladino turned a slick double play to extricate the Sox from a first-and-third, one-out jam in the seventh inning. Nate Jones worked a 1-2-3 eighth with two strikeouts, and closer David Robertson secured his 33rd save by pitching over two soft singles in the top of the ninth inning.

The Sox are off to Detroit to start a three-game series Monday. Will they be able to sustain this momentum from a good series win and a 6-3 homestand?

Well, James Shields is starting the opener against the Tigers, so don't bank on it.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

White Sox surprisingly quiet at trade deadline

Rick Hahn
Baseball's trading deadline came and went Monday afternoon, and the White Sox didn't do anything besides the Zach Duke deal they made with the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday.

The inactivity is surprising, because GM Rick Hahn previously indicated his frustration with the team being "mired in mediocrity." Such remarks usually signal that changes are coming, but in practice, only one deal was made.

I never expected Hahn to deal any of the Sox's headliners -- Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Adam Eaton and Jose Abreu -- but I did think he would make another trade or two similar to the Duke move. The "next tier" on the Sox roster features some productive veterans who would have value to other teams, and I figured players such as David Robertson, Melky Cabrera, James Shields or Todd Frazier could be on the move.

Instead, the gang is still all here, with the noted exception of Duke.

This has created a significant meltdown among an outraged fan base that is hungry for change. I share in the frustration, but not the outrage. You just have to put the emotions away and think logically here.

I watched MLB Network for most of the afternoon Monday, and much of the speculation centered around Sale. I'm sure the Sox received offers, and I'm sure they listened. But never for one second did I think the Sox would actually pull the trigger.

Why? Well, it because all the trade packages being offered seemed to center solely around prospects. The experts kept talking about Boston offering four top prospects for Sale, with 21-year-old Yoan Moncada being the centerpiece of the deal.

I'm sure Moncada is a fine prospect. He might even be a future star. But, you're not going to give up a five-time All-Star such as Sale in exchange for a package of ifs and maybes, with the centerpiece of the trade being a 21-year-old kid who has played a grand total of 32 games above A-ball. For a guy such as Sale -- and Quintana, for that matter -- you need at least one position player who is going to help you at the major league level right away.

I just don't think that deal is out there at midseason, because contenders are not willing to subtract from their current 25-man roster at this time of year. They are looking to add to what they already have. Once the offseason arrives, teams are more willing to part with major leaguers in a deal, because they have time to acquire somebody else to fill whatever hole(s) they create by making a trade. Those adjustments are much harder to make in-season.

Provided Sale and Quintana stay healthy the rest of the season (always a gamble with pitching), the Sox will be in position to get a better haul later than they would right now.

The free-agent starting pitching crop is very weak this offseason, which would only make Sale and Quintana more valuable in a deal, should the Sox choose the nuclear option and blow the team up this offseason.

I was very surprised there was so few rumors surrounding the Robertson-Cabrera-Shields-Frazier tier of the Sox roster. I feel like similar players from other teams were traded for reasonable prospects, so there should have been some market for these guys. But given the lack of rumors, maybe there wasn't.

No trade at all is better than a bad trade, and if the Sox couldn't get someone who might legitimately be able to help them in the future, there's no reason to dump players just for the sake of dumping. That's an emotional reaction that fans call for, but front offices can't afford to think that way.

There's always the possibility of trading any or all of these guys this offseason. That said, it's fair to say management is on the clock now to do *something* between now and the start of the 2017 season.

You can't come out and say that it's "unacceptable" to be "mired in mediocrity," then serve up another year of the status quo. Things don't necessarily have to change now, but they have to change soon. One thing we all agree on is the current results aren't nearly good enough.

Friday, July 29, 2016

White Sox settle for split in crosstown series

Tyler Saladino
In a season full of missed opportunities, the White Sox blew another one Thursday night. The South Siders were forced to settle for a four-game split in the crosstown series after a 3-1 loss to the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

We talked earlier in the week about the Sox stealing a couple games from the Cubs in which the pitching matchups didn't seem to favor them. Well, in this game, the Sox did have the advantage in the pitching matchup, and their weak offense failed to take advantage.

For his part, Sox ace Chris Sale wasn't particularly sharp in his return from a five-game suspension. The left-hander was making just his second start since July 8, and the rust showed. He did not have his good fastball command -- especially early -- and his velocity was not at peak levels. Sale did not record any strikeouts through the first three innings of the game. That's the first time that has happened in any of his 136 career starts.

That said, he went six innings and allowed only two runs on six hits. The Cubs have a power-laden lineup, and they are especially tough at home (32-16 record), but Sale kept them in the yard and generally held them down. It was not a poor performance given that his stuff was less than his best.

The loss is disappointing because the Sox hitters allowed struggling Cubs right-hander John Lackey to get back on track. Coming into Thursday, Lackey was 0-5 with a 5.06 ERA over his past seven starts. But against the Sox, he allowed only a run on four hits over six innings.

We're not tipping our caps here. This was an example of poor offense. Lackey retired 10 Sox hitters in a row at one point, and that string was broken on a single up the middle by Sale, of all people.

The Sox blew a golden chance to tie with the score at 2-1 in the top of the eighth. Tyler Saladino doubled off  Hector Rondon leading off the inning, but the Sox couldn't get him home. Apparently, the Cubs were serious about holding this lead. Saladino was at third with two outs when Cubs manager Joe Maddon summoned newly acquired closer Aroldis Chapman for a four-out save opportunity.

The hard-throwing lefty struck out Melky Cabrera to protect the lead, then retired the side in order in the ninth after the Cubs added an insurance run in the eighth off Sox reliever Nate Jones.

With the loss, the Sox are now 1-7 on the road since the All-Star break. That's ominous, given that these two games at Wrigley Field start a stretch of 17 out of 20 games away from U.S. Cellular Field.

The Sox drop to 50-52 entering Friday's play, and they are 8.5 games back of the Cleveland Indians in the AL Central -- six games back in the AL wild-card race.

The players say they do not want management to pull the plug and sell before Monday's trading deadline, but they are not making a compelling case for themselves when they fail to support their best pitcher in a game such as Thursday's.

Time is running out on the 2016 Sox.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Chris Sale suspended; White Sox pitching staff hanging by a thread

Chris Sale
White Sox ace Chris Sale has been suspended five days for "violating team rules, for insubordination and for destroying team equipment," general manager Rick Hahn said in a statement Sunday.

Sale did not want to wear the 1976 throwback jerseys the team was supposed to wear during his scheduled start Saturday, so he cut them up in the locker room before the game. The Sox subsequently sent Sale home and had reliever Matt Albers start Saturday's game instead.

Sale will be eligible to return Thursday, and I'm not going to waste any time discussing the actions by Sale or management in this whole mess. It led SportsCenter on Saturday night. It was a headline on CNN's website. Anything I might say about the matter would only be adding to the noise.

What I will say is the Sox's entire pitching staff is in deep trouble for the next week as a result of this incident. I commend the team for salvaging the final two games of a four-game series with the Detroit Tigers over the weekend, but the bullpen, in particular, is hanging by a thread after what just took place.

The relief corps had to pitch the entirety of Saturday's game. Albers went two innings. Dan Jennings worked two innings. So did Tommy Kahnle. Zach Duke pitched the seventh inning. Nate Jones started the eighth, but struggled -- his own error allowed the Tigers to tie the game at 3. Closer David Robertson relieved with two on and two out and struck out Tyler Collins to keep things even.

After the Sox failed to score in the bottom of the eighth inning, heavy rains moved into Chicago for the second time during the game. Play had to be suspended until Sunday afternoon.

When the game resumed Sunday, Robertson was still on the mound. He essentially had to get four outs to navigate the top of the ninth after J.B. Shuck misplayed a routine fly into a double, but Robertson fanned Cameron Maybin with a runner in scoring position to once again keep it at 3-3. It's worth noting that Robertson had his A stuff during that inning -- two of the three outs were swinging strikeouts.

The Sox won the game, 4-3, on a two-out RBI single by Adam Eaton in the bottom of the ninth. You have to give the bullpen credit for covering all nine innings on an emergency basis and pulling out a win.

However, that workload took its toll in Sunday's regularly scheduled game. The Sox won, 5-4, but it should have been much easier than it was. Starting pitcher Jose Quintana fired 117 pitches on a day where the heat index was 109, and he got two outs deep in the seventh inning with a 4-0 lead.

You'd like to think the Sox bullpen could close that one out, but Jones and Robertson couldn't get it done. Jones gave up a solo home run to Andrew Romine in the eighth inning, and Robertson surrendered three solo shots in the ninth -- Nick Castellanos, Collins and Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit those home runs.

Robertson had two strikes with two outs on Collins, and again on Saltalamacchia, and he couldn't close. In the earlier contest, Robertson overmatched both those two hitters with his best stuff. Both struck out swinging. But in this game, Robertson left a cutter in the center of the plate against Collins, and hung a curve ball to Saltalamacchia  -- both with disastrous results.

The Sox won anyway when Melky Cabrera singled home Eaton, who had drawn a leadoff walk, in the bottom of the ninth. But, fans are ready to tie Robertson to a chair and throw him on the eastbound lane of the Dan Ryan after he blew Quintana's win.

I'm not sure the criticism is fair. Robertson entered Saturday's game around 10 p.m. He had to be ready to take the mound again at 1:10 Sunday. And, he was summoned again shortly before 5 p.m. Sunday afternoon.

So, in about an 18-hour span, Robertson had to warm up three times and take the mound three times, in some of the hottest weather we've had in Chicago in about four years.

How many pitches can we expect a short reliever to throw in that amount of time before he loses effectiveness? Keep in mind, it's not just the pitches on the mound, it's the pitches in the bullpen, too.

Jones has pitched five times in the past six games. Robertson is obviously overworked. Should we really be surprised that they labored so badly in the Sunday afternoon heat?

Sale's actions put his teammates in a tough spot. The Sox are not a good offensive team. They play a lot of close games (49 of 98 games decided by two runs or less). The high-leverage relievers get used a lot. Overuse crossed the line into abuse on Sunday, from my perspective.

The Sox don't have an off day until next Monday. They have two games at home against the Cubs, two games on the road against the Cubs, then three in Minnesota against the Twins.

The schedule offers no relief in the short run. Robertson and Jones almost certainly will need the night off Monday vs. the Cubs. Starter Miguel Gonzalez is probably going to have to go six innings, regardless of whether he is effective or not.

I won't be surprised if some losing comes as a result of all this over the next week. This is the price the Sox will pay for Sale insubordination. Arms are being taxed, and sooner or later, more games are going to be lost. Frankly, it's fairly surprising the Sox got two wins Sunday.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Rick Hahn: White Sox are 'mired in mediocrity'

Rick Hahn
Remember when we thought the White Sox would be better in 2016 than they were last season? That was fun while it lasted, huh?

Well, guess what? The Sox are 46-49 after 95 games. At this same point last season, they were 45-50. So, all that moving and shaking over the last calendar year has resulted in a net gain of one lousy win. Hooray!

Before Thursday night's 2-1 rain-shortened loss to the Detroit Tigers, Sox general manager Rick Hahn admitted the plan is not working.

“We looked to get ourselves right as quickly as possible,” Hahn told members of the media scrum. “There was a spurt this season where it looked like it worked. As we sit here today, we’ve been wrestling with being a couple games over, a couple games under .500 for the last few weeks.

“We’re mired in mediocrity. That’s not the goal, that’s not acceptable, that’s not what we’re trying to accomplish for the long term.”

So, there you have it: The first sign that the Sox might be looking at a change in direction at the Aug. 1 trading deadline. The team is 10.5 games out of first place in the AL Central, and 7.5 games back in the wild-card race. There isn't much hope left for 2016, and Hahn acknowledged the team has ruled out any deals that would involve trading prospects for short-term rentals.

Hahn noted several times that the Sox are "open-minded" about their options. He did not rule out a complete teardown, although he commented that trading All-Star pitchers Chris Sale and Jose Quintana "might be extreme."

The Sox are not the most transparent organization in the world -- and I don't care that they're not -- so we're left to speculate about what this might mean. My speculation is they'll keep Sale. Shortstop Tim Anderson also is off limits in a trade. Quintana is unlikely to be dealt, but could be had if the right offer comes along. Everyone else is on the block, with David Robertson, Todd Frazier, Zach Duke and Melky Cabrera among the most likely candidates to be traded.

Here's what I fail to understand: The Sox allowed this season to slip away without firing the manager or anyone else on the coaching staff. Maybe the 23-10 start to the season created false hope, but the 23-39 mark since then is ridiculous. There's no way this team should have played that poorly over a stretch of 62 games.

The Sox were willing to shake up the roster, with John Danks, Mat Latos and Jimmy Rollins all being shown the door. Anderson was called up from the minors. The Sox traded for James Shields. They signed Justin Morneau. They recently recalled top prospect Carson Fulmer. They've been willing to address problems on the roster, but that hasn't improved results. There's no question the team is playing below its talent level at present, and it's been that way for more than two months. Why isn't anyone that's part of the dugout brain trust accountable for that?

I'm reluctant to let Hahn and Ken Williams undertake a new rebuilding project. They've turned almost the entire roster over since the midpoint of the 2013 season -- Sale, Quintana and Nate Jones are the only players left from that time -- but the results still are disappointing.

There's a lot of folks who want to trade Sale and Quintana, but I'm opposed to that line of thinking for two reasons: 1) I don't trust this front office to get the appropriate return, and 2) Right now, you'd be shopping them only to contending teams, and contenders are only willing to give up prospects during the middle of the season. If you're going to trade one or both of the crown jewels of your organization, I think you need to get at least one, if not two, major league players in return -- not just prospects.

Teams that are in the hunt typically are not willing to subtract players from their 25-man roster at this time of year. If the Sox do want to make a move with their top pitchers, they might be better served to wait until the offseason when every team in baseball could conceivably be in the market for Sale or Quintana. At that point in time, the Sox might be better positioned to maximize their return.

Right now, the vultures are circling, looking to pick at the carcass of the 2016 Sox. Hahn needs to exercise patience here. If he is going to move, he better make sure he gets exactly what he wants. These decisions are too important to the future of the Sox organization to rush.

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.

Monday, July 18, 2016

White Sox begin second half with pathetic showing vs. Angels

Hector Santiago
The White Sox couldn't have asked for a worse start to the second half of their season.

They were outscored 16-1 in a three-game series against the last-place Los Angeles Angels. Entering Monday's play, the Sox have scored just one run in their last 41 offensive innings dating back to July 9. They have lost four in a row to slip back below .500 at 45-46, and they are nine games behind the first-place Cleveland Indians in the AL Central.

The Sox also are 5.5 games back in the AL wild-card race, with five teams to pass. That is not good position. Let's have a brief look back at the poor weekend in Los Angeles.

Friday, July 15
Angels 7, White Sox 0: Former Sox lefty Hector Santiago had his way with the South Siders in this game. He struck out five men the first two innings and went on to throw seven innings of shutout ball. He allowed just five hits and walked nobody. He finished with seven strikeouts.

Sox starter Miguel Gonzalez kept his club in the game most of the way. He had allowed only two runs through six innings, but poor defense led to the wheels coming off in the seventh.

First baseman Jose Abreu misplayed a ball off the bat of the Angels' Daniel Nava into a "double," and an error by Tim Anderson put runners on first and third with no outs. The two defensive miscues ended Gonzalez's night and set the table for a five-run Angels rally that saw the Sox burn through three relievers. Anderson committed a second error in the inning that did not help matters.

Saturday, July 16
Angels 1, White Sox 0: I've criticized James Shields quite a bit on this blog, but let's give credit where credit is due: He was outstanding in this game. He pitched a complete game and allowed only two hits. Unfortunately, one of those hits was a leadoff triple by Yunel Escobar in the first inning. Mike Trout got that run home with a RBI groundout, and that was all the Angels needed.

The Sox made Los Angeles starter Matt Shoemaker look like the second coming of Don Drysdale. The right-hander struck out 13 and allowed only six hits in a complete-game shutout.

It was inexcusable, however, that the Sox did not score after Adam Eaton's leadoff double in the ninth inning. Abreu failed to advance the runner with a groundout to shortstop. That was huge because Melky Cabrera followed with a single. Eaton stopped at third on the hit, and he would have scored if Abreu had done something to advance him.

Instead, it was first and third with one out -- still a favorable situation for the Sox -- but neither Todd Frazier nor Justin Morneau could make any contact against the tiring Shoemaker. Both men struck out, securing one of the more unacceptable Sox losses of the season.

Sunday, July 17
Angels 8, White Sox 1: Remember back at SoxFest when I asked Rick Hahn about organizational depth with starting pitching? He said Jacob Turner and Chris Beck were in line as fallback options should anyone in the rotation get injured. My reaction to that was, "Gulp."

Well, Carlos Rodon is on the disabled list, so there was Turner on Sunday, making his first big-league start of the season despite a 4.71 ERA at Triple-A Charlotte.

Results were predictable, as Turner allowed eight runs on seven hits in just four innings of work. He walked three and allowed two titanic home runs by Albert Pujols.

Eaton ended the Sox scoreless streak in the third inning with a two-out RBI double, but the South Siders could muster up nothing else against Jered Weaver, who is 12-2 lifetime against the Sox.

The one bright spot: Two scoreless innings of relief from Carson Fulmer in his big-league debut. The first man Fulmer faced was Pujols, the future Hall of Famer, and he struck him out on three pitches. He showcased his whole arsenal. He grabbed strike one with a fastball, got a swinging strike on changeup with the second pitch, and then Pujols could not check his swing on a slider for strike three.

Fulmer threw 15 of his 21 pitches for strikes. He allowed only one hit. He struck out two and hit a batter. Nice debut overall in an otherwise miserable afternoon for the Sox and their fans.