White Sox

Chris Sale knocked out early as White Sox fall to Phillies

Chris Sale knocked out early as White Sox fall to Phillies

PHILADELPHIA -- Chris Sale’s Cy Young chances took a hit on Wednesday night.

A slight favorite to win the award for the American League’s top pitcher according to one oddsmaker, Sale had his worst start in two months and second shortest of the season as the Philadelphia Phillies pounded the White Sox 8-3 in front of 21,703 at Citizens Bank Park. Sale’s six earned runs allowed in four innings were the most he has yielded since the Atlanta Braves tagged him for eight on July 8. The effort caused Sale’s earned-run average to rise from 3.03 to 3.23.

“I don’t know where it started, but I just never got rolling tonight,” Sale said. “Couldn’t find a groove.

“Bad night. Frustrating. Wish I could have been better. I wasn’t. It would have been nice to sneak out with a win, but I didn’t give them a chance from the first pitch.”

Courtesy of a fantastic 11-run start since the All-Star break, Sale was listed as the favorite among the AL Cy Young candidates at 8-to-5 when Bovada released odds on Wednesday. Sale, who had a 2.52 ERA in that span, held a slight edge over Cleveland’s Corey Kluber and Boston’s Rick Porcello, both of whom were listed at 2-to-1. Toronto’s J.A. Happ (10-to-1) and Detroit’s Justin Verlander (20-to-1) rounded out the candidates.

But even with an early 1-0 lead provided by an Adam Eaton solo home run to start the game, Sale didn’t look like much of a top nominee on Wednesday. The five-time All-Star allowed four of the first five batters he faced to reach base, including consecutive doubles to Tommy Joseph and Cameron Rupp to fall behind 3-1.

The damage continued against Sale, who entered Wednesday in the top five in Wins Above Replacement (5.2, first), ERA (second), Fielding Independent Pitching (3.32, third), wins (16, fourth), innings (210 2/3, second) and strikeouts (215, fourth).

Joseph tagged him again in the third inning, this time for a two-run homer and a 5-1 Phillies lead. Roman Quinn, one of three batters Sale hit on Wednesday, scored on Joseph’s homer. Cesar Hernandez also tripled in a run in the fourth inning as Sale fell behind 6-1.

“I don’t play for stuff like (the award),” Sale said. “I’m here to win games. Not to win any trophies or whatever else. I want to win games and I wanted to win tonight.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]​

Sale received an endorsement from manager Robin Ventura before the contest. Ventura doesn’t think his team’s 72-80 record should be a factor in the vote, which will be revealed in early November.

“He comes to mind,” Ventura said. “You start looking around the league, especially in our division, you can look at some guys in Cleveland. You can look at maybe somebody in Texas. There are enough guys that go around that have numbers. Porcello in Boston comes to mind.

“I’m partial (to Sale) because I see him all the time. I see what he does. I see how important he is. Regardless of where we’re at record-wise, I realize how important he is.”

Perhaps the most surprising part of Sale’s start on Wednesday was its brevity.

Sale, who has four top-six Cy Young finishes in his career, had pitched at least eight innings in his last six starts, the longest such streak by a White Sox pitcher since Jack McDowell did it seven straight games in 1994.

He leads the majors with six complete games this season.

While Wednesday’s effort is his shortest of the season since May 24, when he went 3 1/3 innings at home against the Cleveland Indians, Sale has already established a career high for innings pitched. Sale has thrown 214 2/3 innings this season, surpassing his previous high of 214 1/3 (2013).

“He’s better this year for me in a lot of ways than he has been in the past,” Ventura said.

As long as he feels up to it, Sale could receive two more starts before the season is done. Earlier this week, Ventura said he would let his pitchers make their turns as long as they physically felt up to the task. Sale’s next turn unofficially comes on Tuesday at home against the Tampa Bay Rays. He also could start on the final day of the season at home against the Minnesota Twins.

Kluber also started on Wednesday, allowing two earned runs and striking out nine in 6 1/3 innings.

“Whatever they got for me,” Sale said. “I go when my name is called. However many that is I’ll show up for them.”

Todd Frazier and Alex Avila also homered for the White Sox in the loss. 

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.