White Sox

Bullpen, defensive miscues doom White Sox in loss to Rays

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Bullpen, defensive miscues doom White Sox in loss to Rays

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Alexei Ramirez and the White Sox bullpen let one get away on Saturday evening.

Shortly after Zach Putnam allowed a game-tying single, a Ramirez throwing error allowed the go-ahead run to score as the White Sox lost to the Tampa Bay Rays, 5-4, in front of 20,248 at Tropicana Field. Instead of Jeff Samardzija earning a huge victory courtesy of a two-run, pinch-hit homer by Conor Gillaspie, the White Sox lost their second in a row to start a five-game road trip.

“If you looked at last year Kansas City goes to the World Series, the Giants winning the World Series, they win close ballgames,” center fielder Adam Eaton said. “They may squeak a few out where they say they shouldn’t have won that game. That’s what makes good teams great. We have to find that way. We have to find late in a ballgame, like we did tonight hitting the two-run home run. We have to find a way to win, win late and win close games.”

[MORE: Adam Eaton vents frustration to White Sox coaches]

With the score tied, two on and two out in the eighth, Ramirez — who missed out on an earlier critical play, too — tracked down Jake Elmore’s infield single behind second base. But the shortstop’s flip was several feet wide of Gordon Beckham at second, which allowed Steven Souza Jr. to easily score from third.

Souza had tied the game with a two-out single to left off Putnam. David DeJesus singled with two outs in the eighth and stole second without a throw to set up the rally.

An inning earlier and with the infield drawn in, Ramirez couldn’t get the ball out of his glove on a routine grounder and one out and instead settled for a play at first as the White Sox fell behind 3-2.

“Very tough finish,” bench coach Mark Parent said. “Shark did a great job.

“He did the job, we got the lead, ground ball here and there, we make a play here and there we need to make we could have won the ballgame.

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“(Ramirez) does need to make those plays. He’s made them before. Ball gets stuck in your glove, you know, it happens. It seems like things like that happen too often. Not just to him, but to us that end up adding outs, adding base runners and not getting outs. Those things are adding up too frequently.”

The White Sox battled all day against Rays ace Chris Archer and grabbed a one-run lead in the top of the eighth on Gillaspie’s homer off reliever Brad Boxberger.

The White Sox quickly got to Archer, scoring only their 19th first-inning run of the season. Ramirez singled and advanced on a wild pitch ahead of Jose Abreu’s broken-bat RBI single to center.

Archer retired eight hitters in a row but Abreu singled to right field with one out in the fourth and Adam LaRoche singled to left. Melky Cabrera’s two-out RBI single to left tied the score at 2.

But Archer retired 10 straight into the eighth inning until Adam Eaton drew a pinch-hit walk. The free pass was the first issued by Archer since May 22, a stretch of 107 batters, and it ended his day. Gillaspie’s homer on a 0-2 pitch was the third pinch-hit homer of his career.

Though he had given up 15 earned runs in his last two starts, Samardzija kept up with Archer. He yielded what has become a customary first-inning run on Evan Longoria’s one-out RBI single. The Rays added another in the third on Longoria’s RBI groundout.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

But Samardzija got DeJesus to fly out to strand a runner at third in the third and took off. He retired the side in the fourth and sixth innings and struck out the side in the fifth, including a called third strike to Longoria with two on and two outs. Samardzija even appeared to pitch around a one-out Nick Franklin triple in the seventh inning until Ramirez mishandled the grounder. Even though he allowed three earned runs and six hits in seven innings, Samardzija, who struck out seven and walked one, was in line for the loss until Gillaspie’s heroics.

“The lineup did a great job out there and swung early when they had to, made (Archer) work and drew a couple of walks,” Samardzija said. “Overall it was a good day. We’ve just got to finish it from beginning to end and we’re playing some good ball, so we put this one behind us and move on.

“You’ve got to make plays to win games, and that’s every day. That’s just not here and there. Winning teams come out and make big plays at big times. We keep playing hard and keep showing up and doing what we do and we’ll be there.”

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

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AP

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

GLENDALE, Ariz. — On a day when Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada took live batting practice for the first time this spring, off in the distance was a lanky White Sox prospect standing in the outfield grass.

But Alec Hansen was doing more than shagging flies. He was watching both hitters very closely.

“I was looking to see how much pop they had,” Hansen said of Abreu and Moncada. “I kind of look at that to see the difference in power between minor league ball and the major leagues. It’s nice to see it’s not a huge difference. That makes me feel a bit more comfortable.”

At 6-foot-8 — actually 6-foot-8-and-a-half, according to his spring training physical — Hansen is a big man with big plans for his baseball career. He might be quiet on the outside, but he has booming expectations for himself on the inside.

“I want to be the best,” Hansen said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago.

The best? The very best?

That’s what Hansen aspires to become, though later in our conversation, he did dial back a notch, settling for becoming “one of the best.”

Either is fine with manager Ricky Renteria, who is overseeing these uber-confident White Sox prospects and accepts their lofty expectations.

“I think their mindset is where it’s supposed to be,” Renteria said. “None of these kids are concerned or consumed with the possibility of failure. Much more they’re consuming themselves with the understanding that they might hit some stumbling blocks, but they’re going to have a way to avoid overcoming them and push forward and be the best that they can be.”

In his first full season in the White Sox organization, Hansen led the minor leagues with 191 strikeouts. He’s proud of that accomplishment but admitted something: He’s not that impressed because he didn’t do it where it really matters — in the major leagues.

When you watch Hansen pitch, it’s easy to see that the talent is there. His coaches and teammates rave about his ability. With his enormous size and power arm, he is loaded with strengths.  

Though there is one weakness that Hansen acknowledges he needs to work on.

“Sometimes I have a tendency to think too much and worry. I think worrying is the worst thing that I do just because I want to be perfect,” Hansen said. “I think everyone wants to be perfect, some more than others, and I worry about things getting in the way of achieving perfection.”

To Hansen, that doesn’t mean throwing a perfect game. He actually takes it one step further.

He wants to strikeout every single hitter he faces.

“I love striking people out,” Hansen said. “Not having to rely on anyone else and just getting the job done myself and knowing that the hitter can’t get a hit off me. That’s a great feeling. That they can’t put it in play. Like a line drive out. That’s terrible.”

At some point, Hansen will have to lower these impossible expectations for himself. This is an imperfect game. There’s no place for nine-inning, 27-strikeout performances. Players end up in the Hall of Fame because they learn how to succeed with failure.

In the meantime, Hansen is here in big league camp watching and learning anything and everything.

“I’m a good observer. I listen. I don’t really talk too much. I’m a pretty quiet guy. I like to sit back and observe and see how these guys go about their business. Just trying to be at their level, hopefully one day surpass them.”

Surpass?

“It’s kind of hard to surpass some of these guys. I mean, they’re at the tip-top, like the pinnacle of the sport,” Hansen said. “I guess you could say, to get on that level and then be one of the best in the league.”

He might be on his way.

White Sox free up spot on 40-man roster by outrighting Dylan Covey

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USA TODAY

White Sox free up spot on 40-man roster by outrighting Dylan Covey

The White Sox freed up a spot on their 40-man roster Sunday, outrighting pitcher Dylan Covey to Triple-A Charlotte.

Covey pitched in 18 games last season, making 12 starts for the South Siders. Things did not go well, with Covey turning in an 0-7 record and a 7.71 ERA in 70 innings.

While there was an outside chance that Covey could have provided at least some starting-pitching depth heading into the 2018 season, the team's recent additions of Miguel Gonzalez and Hector Santiago — not to mention Covey's results from last season — wiped out that idea.

At the moment, the White Sox starting rotation figures to look like this by Opening Day: James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Gonzalez and Carson Fulmer, with Santiago seeming like a good option to provide depth as the long man in the bullpen.