White Sox

Ballantini: Dunn hopes to be sprung soon

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Ballantini: Dunn hopes to be sprung soon

Sunday, April 10, 2011
Posted: 2:18 p.m.
By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com
Adam Dunn emerged from his postoperative, underground lair and took batting practice in the warm breeze of an uncommonly beautiful, 80-degree Chicago afternoon and didnt look any different than when he still had his appendix.

It was good to get out of solitary confinement and hang out with the general population, you know what I mean? Dunn said after a full hitting session on the field. The genial slugger put at least three balls over the fence and another high off the wall, taking batting practice balls out to center and giving Omar Vizquel the chance to delightfully chase bruised and battered baseballs into the center-field tunnel.

Whether the White Sox will clear him to start tomorrow night against As lefthander Dallas Braden, who Dunn has never faced (in eight career games vs. Oakland, Dunn has a .643 OPS with two homers and four RBI).

I dont know if Ill play, the Big Donkey said. Im done making those bold predictions. I feel better than I did yesterday, which is good. But again, the guys who are looking at me are a lot smarter than I am. I just want to be ready when Im in the lineup, whenever that may be.

One thing that was evident is that the slugger was swinging freely in the cage, under the watchful eye of hitting coach Greg Walker. When one observer felt Dunn was swinging too softly, Dunn was quick issue a correction.

You know, I really dont ever swing full force until the game, Dunn said. Today I swung more aggressively than I did yesterday, and it felt good. Im still going to feel stuff, but its nothing where its going to inhibit the way I swing the bat.

Dunn has been adamant about never wanting to miss a game and crawling the wallsas much as a load of a mellow fellow can crawl walls. Its easy to imagine a multimillionaire taking his sweet time to return from a serious surgical procedure, but Dunn is no ordinary superstar.

Its been a battleI wouldnt call it learning, Dunn said when asked what hes learned from being sidelined. I feel like Im being punished. Its kind of like youre, being grounded and you dont know what you did. I hope it never, ever happens again.

Thats what manager Ozzie Guillen adores about Dunneven if it means he has to keep a seriously watchful eye on his status.

This guy is a baseball playerhe wants to be out there, Guillen said. He doesnt want to sit down and watch his teammates having fun and play the game. You as a manager, as a coach, you always appreciate when the guys want to go out and perform, and I do. But we have to be careful. Were not in a hurry. We want to make sure when hes back, hes back for good.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.

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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USA TODAY

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: