White Sox

After Texas throttling, White Sox searching for positives

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After Texas throttling, White Sox searching for positives

ARLINGTON, Texas — The White Sox have been thwarted by inconsistency through the first two months of the 2015 season. It’s a hindrance that was plainly evident Tuesday night in Texas.

Fresh off a series victory over the first-place Houston Astros, Jeff Samardzija allowed nine runs — tied for a career high — in five innings as the White Sox were smoked by Texas, 15-2, at Globe Life Park. One game, no matter how bad, doesn’t represent a significant step in the wrong direction for the 23-27 White Sox, but a team that entered the season with legitimate playoff aspirations showed it still hasn’t put everything together yet.

“We made some good steps in Houston, we played well there,” center fielder Adam Eaton said, “just Jekyll and Hyde.”

At the heart of those early-season inconsistencies has been some bad baserunning and bad defense. While early-season advanced fielding stats aren’t always reliable, the White Sox entered Tuesday with a major league-worst -32 defensive runs saved while Ultimate Zone Rating has them pegged as the ninth-worst defense in baseball.

[MORE: White Sox remaining cautious with Jose Abreu’s finger]

FanGraphs also rates the White Sox as baseball’s worst baserunning team, too. But recently, the White Sox have started to see those two areas begin to be shored up.

“This has been a road trip where most of the games have been won on being able to play defense, catch the ball and baserunning, too,” manager Robin Ventura said. “We’ve had some aggressive (baserunning) decisions that worked out for us and when you start doing that, guys check in — it makes sense to them how we’re winning our games.

“For us defense has been there, even in Houston the two games we won because of pretty good defense and in critical spots. It’s more of what you want to see and guys get excited by that because that’s the way you should win them.”

While the White Sox defense had a sub-optimal Tuesday night — Adam LaRoche’s inability to field or knock down Joey Gallo’s sharp ground ball in the first inning opened the door for a four-run frame — it wasn’t the reason why they lost. The same goes for baserunning, though the White Sox only scattered seven hits and didn’t draw a walk, so there weren’t many of those chances.

Instead, Tuesday’s loss was defined by Texas’ bludgeoning of Samardzija, who had turned in strong starts in his prior three outings. Gallo led the way in his major league debut with four RBIs and a home run, while Shin-Soo Choo also homered and Carlos Corporan drove in five.

“We had no chance tonight,” Ventura said. “You can put this one behind you and play tomorrow. This one, you just get your ass kicked.”

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The good news is Chris Sale starts Wednesday night for the White Sox, and all those positives that came out of Houston could have a chance to show themselves if the club ace doesn’t spot Texas an early lead.

There’s a belief that if the fielding and baserunning continue to trend in the right direction, and guys like Eaton and Melky Cabrera start playing like they’ve proven to be capable of, things could start to come together quickly. But so far, that hasn’t happened yet, and that’s why the White Sox are in last place and remain prone to thumping losses like Tuesday.

“We still have over 110 games left at this point,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “At the same time, we want to start seeing more of the consistency we’ve seen in terms of the upside of our performance, some of the guys with the track record we expect them to eventually reach very likely will get going or will continue to get going over the next few weeks, and that’s only going to help us in the long run. There certainly is plenty of time to put ourselves back in the position to win this thing, which was our goal from the start.” 

 

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

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USA TODAY

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

PHOENIX, Ariz. — One of the White Sox prized prospects will be on the shelf for a little while.

Outfielder Micker Adolfo has a sprained UCL in his right elbow and a strained flexor tendon that could require surgery. He could avoid surgery, though he could be sidelined for at least six weeks.

Though he hasn’t received the same high rankings and media attention as fellow outfield prospects Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert, Adolfo is considered a part of the White Sox promising future. He’s said to have the best outfield arm in the White Sox system.

Adolfo had a breakout season in 2017, slashing .264/.331/.453 with 16 homers and 68 RBIs in 112 games with Class A Kannapolis.

Adolfo, along with Jimenez and Robert, has been generating buzz at White Sox camp in Glendale, with a crowd forming whenever the trio takes batting practice. Earlier this week, the three described their conversation dreaming about playing together in the same outfield for a contending White Sox team in the future.

As Cactus League play begins, how many spots are actually up for grabs on the White Sox roster?

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AP

As Cactus League play begins, how many spots are actually up for grabs on the White Sox roster?

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Some teams have it easy, with their 25-man rosters seemingly locked into place before spring training games even start.

The White Sox actually have a lot more locked-down spots than you might think for a rebuilding team, but this spring remains pretty important for a few guys.

The starting rotation figures to be set, with James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Miguel Gonzalez and Carson Fulmer the starting five. Carlos Rodon, of course, owns one of those spots once he returns from injury. But the date of that return remains a mystery.

From this observer’s viewpoint, eight of the everyday nine position players seem to be figured out, too: Welington Castillo behind the plate, Jose Abreu at first base, Yoan Moncada at second base, Tim Anderson at shortstop, Yolmer Sanchez at third base, Nicky Delmonico in left field, Avisail Garcia in right field and Matt Davidson as the designated hitter. More on the omission of a starting center fielder in a bit.

Omar Narvaez would be a logical pick to back up Castillo at catcher, and Tyler Saladino is really the lone reserve infielder with big league experience, not to mention he’s a versatile player that can play anywhere on the infield.

Leury Garcia also figures to be a lock for this 25-man roster. But will he be the everyday center fielder, as he was for a spell last season? He played 51 games in center in 2017 but battled injuries throughout the year. I think Leury Garcia will end up the starting center fielder when the season begins because of his bat. His .270/.316/.423 slash line isn’t going to make anyone do cartwheels, but it’s better than the offensive struggles of Adam Engel, who started 91 games in center in 2017 and slashed .166/.235/.282. Engel would still be a solid inclusion on the bench because of his superb defense, but to create that big a hole in the everyday lineup is tough.

How could that position-player group change? Keep your eyes in center field, where there are a couple other guys who could force their way into a roster spot this spring: Charlie Tilson and Ryan Cordell. Tilson has had a tremendous amount of trouble staying on the field since coming over to the White Sox in a 2016 deadline deal, but that hasn’t dampened the White Sox hopes for him. And Cordell got name-dropped by general manager Rick Hahn during SoxFest, when the GM said he’s received multiple calls about Cordell since acquiring him last summer. Cordell put up good numbers at the Triple-A level prior to a significant injury last year.

But the main battles figure to be in the bullpen. At times this winter, as the White Sox kept adding players to that relief corps mix, that the whole thing seemed wide open. But when you think about it, maybe there are only one or two open spots.

You’d have to think these guys are pretty safe bets to make the team: Juan Minaya, Gregory Infante, Nate Jones, Joakim Soria and Luis Avilan. Though Hector Santiago was just recently acquired on a minor league deal, he’s really the only long man of the group, and he could sub in if there’s an injury to a starting pitcher. That leaves two spots between the group of Aaron Bummer, Danny Farquhar, Jace Fry, Jose Ruiz and Thyago Vieira — not to mention guys signed to minor league deals like Xavier Cedeno, Jeanmar Gomez and Bruce Rondon.

Bummer had a 4.50 ERA in 30 big league games last year. Farquhar had a 4.40 ERA in 15 games. Vieira has gotten attention as a flame-thrower, but he’s got just one big league game under his belt, something that might or might not matter to the rebuilding White Sox. Guys like Gomez, who has 40 career saves including 37 just two years ago, and Rondon, who had multiple shots at the Detroit Tigers’ closing job in the past, could vault themselves into the mix as potential midseason trade candidates.

Then there's the question of which of those guys will be Rick Renteria's closer. Minaya had closing duties after most of the bullpen was traded away last summer. He picked up nine saves and posted a 4.11 ERA in his final 17 appearances of the campaign. Look to Soria, though, a veteran with plenty of closing experience from his days with the Kansas City Royals. If he's given the opportunity to close and succeeds, he could fetch an intriguing return package in a potential deadline deal.

But now it's game time in Arizona.

“The fun part of playing the game of baseball is playing the game of baseball," Renteria said earlier this week. "We prepare. I think they all enjoy what they’re doing in terms of their preparation. They take it seriously, they focus. But ultimately like everything that we do in life, I guess it’s a test. And the games are a test for us on a daily basis. And how we are able to evaluate them and take advantage of the opportunities that we have to see them in a real game situation is certainly helpful for us.”