A.J. Pierzynski insists hes not doing much of anythingdifferent as his home run total continues to climb.The veteran White Sox catcher will enter the All-Star breakwith 16 home runs this season, two shy of his career high. But Pierzynski saidhe hasnt switched his approach nor has he done anything different in battingpractice.Pierzynski is hitting .286 with 16 homers and 49 RBIs in 72games.People think Im doing all this crazy stuff, Pierzynskisaid. Im really not. Its more of an effort-level kind of thing than anythingand thats really it. Were doing the same drills in the cage. Im taking thesame approach in (batting practice). Its just a different feel and a differenteffort-level basically.Last week in New York, Pierzynski said he has hit more ballswith backspin this season. In the past, Pierzynski hit the ball with topspin,which led to base hits, but not home runs. He said he and hitting coach Jeff Manto have continued tohold the same discussions Pierzynski had previously with former coach GregWalker, which led to a minor switch.But the change in results is significant. Pierzynski, 35, needs only two more homers to tie thecareer-high 18 he blasted in 2005. After he entered this season with a home runonce every 41.5 at-bats for his career, Pierzynski is homering once every 16.19at-bats this season.White Sox manager Robin Ventura said hes not surprised.He has a lot more power thanI think people give him credit for, Ventura said. You see the way he has hisapproach and everything, he's got power. It's there. Everybody goes throughphases of not swinging it well. But when he's swinging well he has just as muchpop as anybody else.Pierzynski attributes everything to a relaxed approach and agood plan of attack. Nothing else.Just trying to have a good planand stick with it, Pierzynski said. Not that I didnt before. I just thinkone thing Ive been able to do this season when in the past Ive beenstruggling is Ive been able to sneak some home runs in. In the past I wouldmiss it and get jammed and instead of a home run it would have been a bloopsingle. This year for some reason, I dont know. It has been fun and hopefullyit will continue.
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.
Micker Adolfo has a sprained UCL in his right elbow and strained flexor tendon. Getting a 2nd opinion and could avoid surgery but even with rehab would be shut down for at least six weeks.— James Fegan (@JRFegan) February 23, 2018
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.
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.”