White Sox

Buehrle return not looking good

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Buehrle return not looking good

DALLAS--- If youre holding your breath for Mark Buehrle to return to the White Sox, you might need an oxygen mask.

And if youre Robin Ventura, who arrived at the winter meetings on Monday as the new manager of the White Sox, youre facing the realistic possibility that when the season begins, Buehrle will be wearing a different uniform.

Its easy if he stays, you just let him pitch. Obviously if he goes, its a tremendous loss, Ventura told reporters. You look at what hes meant to the organization as a teammate, and even being around as little as I was, it was obvious what hes meant. Id be disappointed.

The Marlins, Rangers and Nationals have been the most aggressive in their attempts to sign Buehrle. When the Nationals met with him at his home last month in Missouri, they expressed that signing him was their No. 1 priority, according to a source. Now the Nationals have entered the mix for fellow lefty free agent C.J. Wilson. Maybe theyve gotten the hint.

As Comcast SportsNet reported on Sunday, the Marlins' offer to Buehrle is considered very strong and Im told they remain the leading candidate to sign him.

Things could change here over the next few days. His agent, Jeff Berry, is a busy man. Many teams want to speak with him about his client, but the Marlins have been sitting on a pile of money for years and now theyre ready to spend it -- a lot of it. Just ask the Mets, who tried to resign shortstop Jose Reyes and got beaten out by Miami by over 30 million.

Leaving Chicago would be the most difficult decision of Buehrles career, but if the White Sox are unable to counter with a competitive offer to bring him back, theyll help make the decision for him.

Every White Sox fan hopes it doesnt come to this, but unless something changes, this appears to be the road where its all headed.

Its a scenario Ventura found himself in back in 1998 when, after nine seasons, he left the White Sox, the team that drafted him, and signed with the New York Mets as a free agent.

Ive been in his position and I know whats going through in his head, Ventura said of Buehrle. He likes Chicago, he likes the White Sox, but again, its where youre at in your career, and whats getting offered, and whats getting thrown at you. Sometimes you get a little confused. When you look at what you really want, if it could happen, he would probably want to stay, but theres a lot of people wanting him, and thats something he has to weigh and hes probably getting better offers.

Ventura actually ran into Buehrle a couple weeks ago in New York City where Mark received his Gold Glove Award.

I dont know if its bad, but I made my case in person to him, Ventura admitted. I just wanted him to know what I thought of him and what hes meant to the organization.

What was Buehrles reaction?

He just smiled and laughed.

Ventura knows its not his decision to make. He says that he will voice his opinions to Williams about players, whether its Buehrle or possible trade pieces like John Danks, Carlos Quentin and Gavin Floyd. But in the end, its not his call.

There was no I had to have this or 'I had to have that, Ventura explained about his dealings with Williams when he took the job. Im agreeing to manage the White Sox, not that I have to have a certain player. Would I like to have them? Oh yeah. I realize what John means, and Carlos and Mark. I get that and would love to have that, but in the situation were in and what happened last year, is it for sure? No, but I would like to have it.

Everyone wants to have Buehrle back.

Ventura.
Williams.
Jerry Reinsdorf.

But theres only so much money.

And oxygen.

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: