White Sox

Can the Tigers hang in the AL Central?

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Can the Tigers hang in the AL Central?

When baseball re-starts for the unofficial beginning of the second half Friday, Detroit will sit 3 12 games behind the White Sox, riding a five-game winning streak. Given their roster and pre-season hype, it was always foolish to count Detroit out, even when they sat as many as six games out of first place as they did a month ago.

But the Tigers have a major challenge ahead of them. Yes, they've won five in a row and are two games over .500 for the first time since April 25, but they accomplished that streak by beating Minnesota twice and sweeping Kansas City.

We'll know much more about where Detroit stands in about a month. Here's who the Tigers draw in the next five weeks: @Baltimore (3), vs. Los Angeles (4), vs. Chicago (3), @Cleveland (3), @Toronto (3), @Boston (3), vs. Cleveland (3), vs. New York (4), @Texas (3). That's 29 consecutive games against teams that are currently at or above .500.

They get a three-game break at Minnesota, then face Baltimore, Toronto and Los Angeles on a nine-game homestand. After that, they draw Kansas City away and face the White Sox, Indians, Angels, White Sox, Indians and Athletics -- all teams that are currently at or above .500 -- to take them into late September.

By the time Detroit gets to coast in their final 13 games against Minnesota (6) and Kansas City (7), that brutal stretch could do them in. But if they can at least tread water until the final few weeks of the season -- at which point they may actually get Victor Martinez back -- they'll be a threat, especially because the White Sox draw the Indians (6), Angels (3) and Rays (4) in the final two weeks.

But the Tigers, in their current form, are flawed. Miguel Cabrera has been great, but not as good as his elite-level 2010 and 2011 seasons. The same goes for Prince Fielder. That pair are still incredibly tough in the middle of the Tigers lineup, but not moreso than Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko.

Austin Jackson was a major All-Star snub, entering the break hitting .332.408.545 and leading the Tigers with 4 WAR. While he may regress a bit in the second half based off his .417 BABIP, he's a tremendous asset at the top of Detroit's lineup.

Quintin Berry has been outstanding, too, coming up from the minors and hitting .299.388.417 with 12 steals in 42 games. Whether he can keep that level of production up remains to be seen -- he hit .270.368.321 in Triple-A before his promotion and has a .416 BABIP in the majors.

Getting Andy Dirks back in the lineup may help, whenever that may be. He hit .328.379.515 before going on the disabled list on May 31 with Achillies tendinitis in his right foot.

But Alex Avila has taken a step back, hitting .242.336.384 a year after making the All-Star Game. Jhonny Peralta has come back to earth, too, and the Tigers have a major hole at second base.

Defensively, the Tigers are brutal, hitting the break with the second-worst UZR and fourth-worst - ratings in baseball. That certainly hasn't helped the causes of Doug Fister, Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello and Drew Smyly, all of whom have ERAs above 4.

While FIP -- generally a pretty good predictor of future ERA -- likes those four starters, Detroit's defense could very well continue to hold back their run prevention efforts. Justin Verlander is still elite and very well could win the Cy Young again, but beyond him, there are plenty of question marks.

Jose Valverde's regression hasn't helped matters, either. While he only has three blown saves, he's walking nearly five batters per nine innings and hasn't come close to his unblemished 2011 performance. The rest of Detroit's bullpen, though, has been pretty solid.

There's plenty of room for improvement on this Tigers team, from individual player performance to an opening to add another starting pitcher. Getting Matt Garza, for example, would be huge. But simply getting improved performances out of Fister, Scherzer, Porcello andor Smyly would go a long way.

Most likely, Detroit's going to continue to hit the ball well. Whether they can pitch -- or field -- well enough to keep them in the race is the big question.

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:

White Sox Talk Podcast on The Three Amigos: Jimenez, Robert and Adolfo

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast on The Three Amigos: Jimenez, Robert and Adolfo

The White Sox three outfield prospects are creating a lot of buzz at spring training.

On this edition of the podcast, Micker Adolfo tells Chuck Garfien about a conversation they all had about one day becoming the starting outfield for the White Sox. Adolfo talks about his longtime friendship with Eloy Jimenez, his impressions of Luis Robert, Luis Basabe and the White Sox future.

But first, it's a conversation with MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez who has great insight on many of the White Sox players: Jimenez, Robert, Yoan Moncada and Jose Abreu. He tells an amazing story about why Jimenez decided to sign with the Cubs when he was a teenager, how much Abreu is revered in Cuba and much more.

Listen to the full episode at this link (iOS users can go here) or in the embedded player below. Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.