White Sox

Bo knows Chicago: Why Jackson never left the Windy City

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Bo knows Chicago: Why Jackson never left the Windy City

If you live in the Chicagoland area, one of the greatest athletes in the history of sports just might be your neighbor.

He could be that guy walking his dog, or driving down the highway, or eating out with his family at a local restaurant.

He lives among us here in Chicago, but somehow, someway Bo Jackson has done it almost anonymously for more than two decades.

Bo knows baseball, Bo knows football, but what most people don't know about Jackson is that after signing with the White Sox in 1991, he decided to make Chicago his home—and he hasn't left.

"I've lived here for 25 years and I still run into people at the service station, right up the street from my house. They see me pumping gas in my pickup truck and they ask, 'Aren't you..?' And then they say 'What are you doing here?' And I make up some lie like, 'I'm just passing through. I'm on my way to the West Coast' and I live three blocks down the road," Jackson said in an interview with Comcast SportsNet. 

The eighth of 10 children growing up poor in Bessemer, Alabama, Jackson says his family never had enough food. But he soon learned that he did have something no one else did—special athletic ability.

"Sports always came easy for me. Not saying that from a bragging standpoint," Jackson said. "The first thing I learned how to do as a kid before baseball, before football, way before any sport—I learned how to run and throw a rock better than any kid in my neighborhood, so whenever a house window got broken or a car window got smashed, a kid came home bleeding from a hit in the head, they came to my house. 'Go to the Jackson kid's house because that's probably who threw the rock,' and 99.999 percent of the time it was true. So I learned how to do those two things better than I learned how to eat."

[MORE: Five White Sox to watch this spring]

He'd become a two-time state champion in the decathlon. He'd be selected by the New York Yankees in the second round of the 1982 draft, but instead chose to play football at Auburn where he won the 1985 Heisman trophy, rushing for 1,786 yards and 17 touchdowns. With the Kansas City Royals and Los Angeles Raiders, he became the only person to be named an All-Star in two different professional sports.

As for Jackson's White Sox career, it was a brief one. He played a combined 108 games in 1991 and 1993 as he attempted to come back from a major hip injury suffered during a 1991 playoff game for the Los Angeles Raiders. A seemingly innocent tackle by linebacker Kevin Walker of the Cincinnati Bengals led to something much worse: a degenerative condition of his left hip bone.

He would never play football again.

The Royals figured he'd never play baseball again either, so they cut him. However, two weeks later, the White Sox signed him to a one-year contract.

"No hard feelings, but I smelled a rat long before they released me," Jackson said of the Royals at the time. "It was actually a relief when it finally happened, and it's given me the chance to come play for a winner."

After playing only 23 games for the White Sox in 1991, his hip eventually gave out, forcing Jackson to have hip replacement surgery at the ripe old age of 30.

He'd miss the entire 1992 season rehabbing the injury. Then the following year, he tried coming back despite the fact that every time he took the field, he ran the risk of his femur literally popping out of the joint. 

In his very first game on April 9, 1993, Jackson came off the bench as a pinch hitter at Comiskey Park and homered off the Yankees Neal Heaton. Hawk Harrelson admits that when he called the home run, tears were running down his face.

It's these kind of moments that keep Jackson's career alive, even though he's been retired for so long.

"To this day, I've been out of sports for almost 25-30 years now. It's almost comical to me that people still get a rise when they see me," he said.

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When Jackson was a senior at Auburn, there was an incoming freshman who played tight end who was also pretty good at hitting a baseball. His name was Frank Thomas. 

"I think Frank ended up where he needed to be. History proves to us that he made the right decision to play baseball," he said with a smile.

How great of a hitter was Frank? 

"I'll put it to you like this: if you combine the hitting power of me, Rafael Palmeiro and Will Clark and the hitting knowledge of a Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, you get Frank Thomas. I had the eyes. I had excellent eyes. I challenge anyone, but Frank had the technique. Frank had the ability to identify pitches quicker than anyone and he adjusted. His batting average, his home run total, everything proved that. That's why he's a Hall of Famer."

If he stayed healthy, Jackson could have been a Hall of Famer in both baseball and football. Imagine that.

But his life took a detour, and as it turned out, it brought and kept him here in Chicago.

Ask Jackson for a favorite memory of his White Sox career, and he won't single out a moment or a game. What stays with him is "the" game and that he was able to play it for a living.

"It's going out and playing a game that 99 percent of us would play for free. And we're getting paid to do something that we've been doing since we were little boys out on the sandlot field. Playing in our sneakers with the bottom part half coming off and cutoff jeans and no gloves and the baseball bat being a broom handle and swinging at a tennis ball. So to make it all the way to the top of that pinnacle in that sport, it's something great. And to be rewarded for it, that's icing on the cake."

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.”