White Sox

Chris Sale does it again as White Sox outlast Cardinals


Chris Sale does it again as White Sox outlast Cardinals

ST. LOUIS — According to his catcher, Chris Sale didn’t have his best command on a muggy evening in St. Louis.

But that didn’t stop the White Sox ace from putting together a 12-strikeout masterpiece as the White Sox outlasted the first-place Cardinals in a 2-1 extra-inning win in front of a sellout crowd of 45,626 on Tuesday night at Busch Stadium. Tyler Flowers’ 11th-inning solo home run — which rocketed 431 feet into the left field bleachers — broke the tie and wound up being the game-winner.

Sale tied Pedro Martinez’s major league record with his eighth consecutive start with 10 or more strikeouts and finished his evening having allowed only one run. That lone blemish came when Randal Grichuk led off the fourth with a long home run into the second deck of the left field stands, but outside of that he scattered five other hits and one walk.

And Sale did all of it, history included, without being able to command half of the plate.

[MORE WHITE SOX: Chris Sale equals Pedro Martinez’s record for consecutive 10-K games]

“It wasn’t his best command day,” Flowers said. “We were having a hard time getting in on righties consistently. A lot of those led to elevated pitches up out over the plate, which is effective too. So we kind of had to change the gameplan a little bit just because he was having a hard time getting opposite arm side.

“So we threw a lot more arm-side sinkers, fastballs there to kind of save anything going in until later in the counts. We mixed in a few more sliders too to keep them honest, not dive out there. It was a little out of the ordinary for him to not have a good feel for that side of the plate, but we changed it up a little bit and made it work.”

Sale’s impact wasn’t limited to the mound, though. He led off the third by flipping a broken-bat single to left, his first career hit, and raced around to score from second on Jose Abreu’s single later in the inning. The 26-year-old awkwardly slid into home plate — “It’s my first one in like nine years, what do you expect?” he laughed — and came back to the dugout beaming about getting his uniform dirty.

“Yeah, the slide was a little much,” manager Robin Ventura said, dryly. “I don’t know if he’s done it — he’s real proud of it, that he got dirty.”

“It was cool,” Sale said. “I tell these guys I had two accidents today: the homer and the hit. I found it really. I got lucky.”

[MORE WHITE SOX: Ventura sees Chris Sale growing into veteran role for White Sox]

Sale was all smiles after the game, but for a good portion of the evening it looked like the White Sox might waste another dominant outing from their ace.

The White Sox didn’t get a hit between Flowers’ one-out single in the fourth and Abreu’s leadoff single in the eighth. After loading the bases with nobody out in the second, Flowers struck out and Carlos Sanchez hit into an inning-ending double play. Adam Eaton meekly struck out with the go-ahead run on second in the top of the ninth.

Sale, though, was up to the challenge, most notably in pitching out of an eighth-inning jam to keep the score level at 1. After allowing back-to-back singles to Peter Bourjos and Grichuk, Sale struck out Jhonny Peralta — his 12th and final strikeout of the evening, all swinging — and got Mark Reynolds to fly out to strand the go-ahead run on second.

“In the end, I don’t have a better guy in the bullpen than him,” Ventura said. “So he’s going to go ahead and finish that and he deserves that."

[SHOP WHITE SOX: Get a Chris Sale jersey right here]

The win pushed the White Sox to 4-4 during Sale’s frenzied stretch of strikeouts, one that included back-to-back 2-1 losses. His win-loss record might not impress the old-school crowd, but he has a 2.87 ERA and 141 strikeouts in 103 1/3 innings. He’s put together a run of dominance only seen twice in baseball history and should be named to his fourth consecutive All-Star team this month.

While his team might not be winning games he starts at the pace it could be, Sale has kept his focus on what he can control. On Tuesday, it was fighting back baseball’s best team and, for one night only, contributing with his bat and legs, too.

“I don’t watch ESPN or anything like that, I don’t read too much in the newspapers and stuff,” Sale said. “You have a packed house tonight and the best team in baseball, if I’m not mistaken. That will get your focus on what you need to focus on.”

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries


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?


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.”