White Sox

AJ may need extra boost for All-Star bid

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AJ may need extra boost for All-Star bid

NEW YORK -- A.J. Pierzynski celebrated his 1,000th game with the White Sox in style on Saturday with two solo home runs.

Already with 14 homers this season, the veteran catcher is within four of the career-high 18 he established in his first season with the White Sox in 2005. His play has many in the clubhouse of the belief Pierzynski is worthy of a nod when All-Star rosters are announced on Sunday. Pierzynskis current .849 OPS is easily the highest of his career and hes hitting .285 with 45 RBIs.

A two-time All-Star, Pierzynski said hed enjoy the opportunity to head to Kansas City over the break, but its not something hes going to count upon. As of last Monday, Pierzynski was fourth among American League catchers in the fan vote, one in which Texas Mike Napoli held a hearty lead. Minnesotas Joe Mauer is also a likely candidate to make the team because he is easily his teams top -- and perhaps only -- candidate for consideration.

It would be great, Pierzynski said. Ive done it a couple of times. Its awesome. Its the ultimate personal reward as a player to be voted as an All-Star, to go there and enjoy the game. At the same time, I know how it works. Its a popularity contest and I know Im probably not going to win it and Im not going to go. Ive been there before. Ive had good first halves before and not gone so Im not going to put a whole lot of stock into it. Or get my hopes up. I think I deserve it, but if not its OK. Im not going to lose any sleep over it.

Pierzynski believes his home run total is up because of a combination of technique and maturity. Whereas in the past he hit with more top spin, Pierzynski said he has tried to hit with more backspin this season. He also said he has done a good job to avoid getting out in front when he swings.

I think now that Ive gotten a little bit older, Ive settled down a little bit, Pierzynski said. I still have my moments where I get mad, but Ive kind of learned to control especially this year a little bit better. Just trying to technique em and just get the barrel and back spin balls instead of getting a little bit anxious and getting out front. Ive always hit a lot of balls with top spin. Its gotten me a lot of hits, but it doesnt lead to hitting for power and this year Ive hit a lot more balls with backspin that have carried.

Good health has allowed Pierzynski to reach the 1,000-game mark with the franchise quickly at a position where durability is rare. Pierzynski has averaged 133 games a season since he joined the White Sox.

Ive been lucky, Pierzynski said. I havent had any major injuries, things that put me on the shelf. Last year was my first time on the shelf and it was miserable. Im fortunate to have been on competitive teams where the manager runs me out there a lot and I have to thank my parents for giving me good genes. I enjoy my job, taking the field every day. Its something I hope I can do for a few more years.

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.”