White Sox

Alexei Ramirez 'starting to click' at right time for White Sox

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Alexei Ramirez 'starting to click' at right time for White Sox

CLEVELAND -- Alexei Ramirez has played his best baseball of the season and it couldn’t come at a better time for White Sox general manager Rick Hahn.

With a week left before the trade deadline, Ramirez continued to shine in every facet on Friday night in a 6-0 White Sox victory over the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Ramirez had three hits, stole two bases and made a trio of nice defensive plays and Jose Abreu homered for the first time since July 3 in support of Jose Quintana, who earned his first victory since July 1. Quintana struck out eight in the first complete game and shutout of his career.  

“(Ramirez) was doing everything tonight,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “Right now, it’s probably that time where he’s starting to click, offensively and defensively.”

Since July 1, Ramirez has a .333/.363/.483 slash line with five extra-base hits and eight RBIs in 66 plate appearances. It’s an eye-opening stretch compared with the rest of his 2015 season as Ramirez hit .212/.235/.281 with two homers and 26 RBIs in his first 293 plate appearances.

Not only that, but Ramirez ranked near the bottom of the league in qualified shortstops in Defensive Runs Saved. But as of Friday, Ramirez has improved to 18th of 26 shortstops with minus-4 runs saved, according to fangraphs.com.

[MORE: White Sox react to Larry King's trade prediction]

While Ramirez is under contract through this season, he’s only owed $1 million for 2016 unless his $10 million team option is picked up. His recent play -- for which he credits the White Sox coaching staff -- could make Ramirez an attractive option for a contender in need of a veteran shortstop before next week’s non-waiver trade deadline. Pittsburgh, which acquired Aramis Ramirez from Milwaukee on Thursday, also could use a shortstop with Jordy Mercer out with an injury.

“I really appreciate all of the coaches having my back and supporting me,” Ramirez said through an interpreter. “I feel it’s been working out good with all of the support they’ve given me. We had a talk and a meeting in a friendly way, and they said we’re going to continue to play hard, and that’s what I’m doing.”

Ramirez made his presence felt several times throughout Friday’s win over reigning American League Cy Young winner Corey Kluber. But none was bigger than a two-run double off first base in the eighth inning against Bryan Shaw to give the White Sox a six-run lead.

Ramirez scored the team’s first run in the third inning when he singled, stole second base, advanced on a grounder and scored on a Kluber wild pitch. He also singled and stole second base in the seventh inning.

The three-hit performance comes on the heels of a monstrous three-run homer by Ramirez in Thursday’s game, which Ventura said was the best ball the 2014 Silver Slugger had hit all season.

But Ramirez’s rebound hasn’t been limited to his bat, as he has seemingly made one diving stop after another for most of the month.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

A Gold Glove finalist last season, Ramirez has looked like one again in July. In the second inning, Ramirez knocked down a screamer headed for the outfield, retrieved the ball and flipped it between his legs to Carlos Sanchez at second for the force. An inning later, Ramirez made a nice play in the hole and threw behind Jason Kipnis, who overran second base for an out. Ramirez also took a hit away from Giovanny Urshela in the eighth inning.

Those plays helped Quintana to his first career shutout and complete game. Quintana gave up five hits through the first three innings but then settled in as he retired 15 of the next 16 batters he faced. Quintana struck out eight batters and walked none in a 120-pitch effort.

“Alexei plays good every time,” Quintana said. “Tonight, he got us a couple double plays. Good.”

Ramirez has been his most productive since that meeting, which took place in Detroit late last month. While he always has been a streaky player, Ramirez took a little longer this time. But Ventura has confidence Ramirez -- who entered Friday worth minus-0.7 F-Wins Above Replacement -- is on the rebound.

“Every year, you look at him and he goes through ruts,” Ventura said. “This one was a little bit extended. But at the end of the year, you look up and he’s right at the top of everybody at shortstop. 

“You are going to look up and he’ll be right around .270 and even though it started out slow, he just always seems to beable to get to that point by the time the season is over. You half expect a hot streak.”

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.”