White Sox

Adam LaRoche: 'My pride has been injured a little bit'

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Adam LaRoche: 'My pride has been injured a little bit'

BOSTON — He’d prefer not to be in a position where he required a two-day breather, but Adam LaRoche is on board with the idea.

Locked in one of the worst slumps of his career, LaRoche was out of the lineup for a second straight game on Tuesday by design. Of the belief that two days off could get the veteran far enough away from his struggles, manager Robin Ventura wants LaRoche to work on his approach without having to worry about the results. LaRoche said the timing is right.

“I’m healing,” LaRoche said. “My pride has been injured a little bit.

“I told Robin, ‘I don’t want it, but I know I need it.’ I’ve played long enough to where I know there’s a time when you are just fighting against yourself every day. I think he could sense it and he’s been there, and that’s why I think he said now is the time to take a day or two and kind of relax and try to reset.”

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LaRoche has a .212/.306/.347 slash line with nine home runs and 34 RBIs in 356 plate appearances this season. He is striking out in 30 percent of his plate appearances, about eight more than his career average. But Ventura hopes LaRoche is able to focus on his stats the rest of the way rather than those he accumulated over the season’s four months.

“What we really care about is this point forward,” Ventura said. “A lot of guys want to look at the full year picture, but all that matters is right now going forward. You want to get him in a good spot and swinging it like he can.”

LaRoche is in the first season of a two-year, $25-million deal. His slow campaign hasn’t removed him from the team’s plans — they signed him to play a big role in the offense and intend to get LaRoche back into the lineup. If the White Sox want to contend, they know they’ll need contributions from LaRoche. He has seen the team’s recent run of 36 runs in five games and wants nothing more than to get in on the action.

LaRoche believes the break can help him accomplish that goal.

“It will help, no question it will help,” LaRoche said. “I just want to help out. That’s the most frustrating part. Been there before, done it for plenty of years, and to not be able to do it for this long time, it just sucks. It’s a mental thing now, I will say that.

“I’m going to use these couple of days to kind of regroup. I told you guys before, it has been frustrating. I’ve tried to change small things that probably don’t show up. It hasn’t been a huge mechanical adjustment outside of some little things that you probably couldn’t see unless you were looking for them. They just don’t seem to be working, so keep fighting through it. Keep swinging.”

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

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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: