White Sox

Adam LaRoche: 'About time' offense picked up White Sox pitchers


Adam LaRoche: 'About time' offense picked up White Sox pitchers

The White Sox haven’t tried to sugarcoat the fact that they’ve stunk.

Players, coaches and the front office expected far more than has been produced through the team’s first 80 games. The defense has been one of the worst in the majors and the offense continues to produce at dismal levels, averaging 3.44 runs per contest.

But it could be much worse than 37-43 were it not for a pitching staff that has a 3.33 ERA over the past 18 games and has been the most consistent facet this season. Though the White Sox team 4.05 ERA ranks 22ndoverall in the majors, it’s 3.67 Fielding Independent Pitching is 10th among 30 teams.

“I can't imagine what our record would be if those guys were scuffling along with us offensively,” veteran Adam LaRoche said. “They've no doubt done their part. It's about time we picked them up once in a while.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Somehow -- can you say American League parity? -- the White Sox are within a reasonable hot streak of wild-card contention despite their inability to consistently score.

Even though they have produced four or fewer runs in a franchise-record 23 straight home games, the White Sox started Tuesday 5 1/2 games out in the wild-card standings. It doesn’t mean they’ll find a way to leapfrog the nine teams ahead of them, but the White Sox remain hopeful their offense finally gets going and they can rebound.

Manager Robin Ventura likes some of the recent signs he has seen, especially from Melky Cabrera, who has a .348/.392/.522 slash line with 11 extra-base hits and 15 RBIs in 102 plate appearances over the last 25 games. With Cabrera hitting well behind Jose Abreu, who has a .310/.333/.552 slash line in seven games in the second spot, and Adam Eaton having rebounded as well, the White Sox are hopeful for a trickle-down theory to the rest of the offense. After all, the White Sox are 27-9 this season when they score at least four runs.

[MORE: Buehrle says atmosphere on Monday was 'outstanding']

“Early on we struggled in the first two spots in the order, those guys are picking it up,” Ventura said. “We moved Jose there, Melky is swinging it better, even from the left side he’s swinging it. Eaton getting on base so there is a different element there that you like offensively the trend that’s going there. But you still have to be able to score some crooked numbers to win. We’re relying on these pitchers to win 1-0, 2-1 and you need to give them a little relief aswell because they’re doing their job.”

LaRoche is up front about the team’s struggles -- “it’s been disappointing,” he said. But given that the White Sox aren’t a Titanic-like disaster because of their pitching, LaRoche has hope the offense can come around.

“I don't think anybody expected it to take this long, and we're still not there yet,” LaRoche said. “We're still working some kinks out.

“But again, we've got some baseball left. Hopefully we can make a run. Start with one run at a time.”

Lucas Giolito relieved to be able to shed No. 1 pitching prospect label

Lucas Giolito relieved to be able to shed No. 1 pitching prospect label

GLENDALE, AZ — You don’t need a scale to see that Lucas Giolito lost some weight in the offseason. As he walks around Camelback Ranch, he just seems lighter. These pounds were shedded thanks to a certain label that has been detached from his name and his being.

“Lucas Giolito, number-one pitching prospect in baseball” is no more.

“Definitely. Big time relief. I carried that title for a while,” Giolito told NBC Sports Chicago. “It was kind of up and down. I was (ranked) 1 at one point. I dropped. I always paid attention to it a little bit moving through the minor leagues.”

Which for any young hurler is risky business. The “best pitching prospect” designation can mess with a pitcher’s psyche and derail a promising career. Giolito was walking a mental tightrope reading those rankings, but after making it back to the majors last season with the White Sox and succeeding, the moniker that seemed to follow him wherever he went has now vanished.

“Looking back on it, that stuff is pretty cool," Giolito said. "It can pump you up and make you feel good about yourself, but in the end the question is, what are you going to do at the big league level? Can you contribute to a team? I’m glad that I finally have the opportunity to do that and all that other stuff is in the rear view."

This wasn’t the case when the White Sox acquired Giolito from the Washington Nationals in the Adam Eaton trade in December 2016. When he arrived at spring training last year, he was carrying around tons of extra baggage in his brain that was weighing him down. Questions about his ability and makeup weren’t helping as he tried living up to such high expectations.

“Yeah, I’d say especially with the trade coming off 2016 where I didn’t perform well at all that year," Giolito said. "I got traded over to a new organization, I still have this label on me of being a top pitching prospect while I’m going to a new place, I’m trying to impress people but at the same time I had a lot of things off mechanically I was trying to fix. Mentally, I was not in the best place as far as pitching went. It definitely added some extra pressure that I didn’t deal with well for a while."

How bad was it for Giolito? Here are some of the thoughts that were scrambling his brain during spring training and beyond last season.

“I saw I wasn’t throwing as hard. I was like, ’Where did my velocity go?’ Oh, it’s my mechanics. My mechanics are bad. I need to fix those,” Giolito said. “Then I’m trying to make adjustments. Why can’t I make this adjustment? It compounds. It just builds and builds and builds and can weigh on you a ton. I was 22 turning 23 later in the year. I didn’t handle it very well. I put a lot of pressure on myself to fix all these different things about my performance, my pitching and trying to do it all in one go instead of just relaxing and remembering, ‘Hey, what am I here for? Why do I play the game?’”

Still, pitching coach Don Cooper wanted to see what he had in his young prospect. So last February, he scheduled him to make his White Sox debut against the Cubs in front of a packed house in Mesa.

“It was kind of like a challenge," Giolito said. "They fill the stadium over there. I’m like, ‘Alright here we go."

Giolito gave up one run, three hits, walked one and struck out two in two innings against the Cubs that day.

“I pitched OK," he said. "I think I gave up a home run to Addison Russell. At the same time, I remember that game like I was forcing things. I might have pitched okay, but I was forcing the ball over the plate instead of relaxing, trusting and letting it happen which is kind of my mantra now. I’m saying that all the time, just having confidence in yourself and letting it go.”

A conversation in midseason with Charlotte Knights pitching coach Steve McCatty, suggested by Cooper, helped turn Giolito’s season around. The lesson for Giolito: whatever you have on the day you take the mound is what you have. Don’t force what isn’t there.

Fortunately for Giolito he has extra pitches in his arsenal, so if the curveball isn’t working (which it rarely did when he came up to the majors last season) he can go to his change-up, fastball, slider, etc.

It’s all part of the learning process, both on the mound and off it. Setbacks are coming. Giolito has already had his share. More will be on the way.

“You want to set expectations for yourself. You want to try and achieve great goals,” he said. “At the same time, it is a game of failure. There’s so much that you have to learn through experience whether that be success or failure. Especially going through the minor leagues. There’s so much that you have to learn and a lot of it is about development. It’s a crazy ride for sure.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Rick Hahn gives an update on the state of the White Sox rebuild


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Rick Hahn gives an update on the state of the White Sox rebuild

In this episode of the SportsTalk Live Podcast, Danny Parkins (670 The Score), Chris Bleck (ESPN 1000) and Scott King (WGN Radio) join David Kaplan on the panel.

Ryan Pace’s offseason begins. Josh Sitton and Jerrell Freeman are gone, but what will he do with Kyle Fuller?

Plus, Rick Hahn joins Kap from Glendale, Ariz., to discuss the state of the White Sox rebuild, how tough it is to keep their best prospects in the minors and why Jose Abreu is so important for his young team?

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: