White Sox

Chris Sale strikes out 14 Astros as White Sox get a win

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Chris Sale strikes out 14 Astros as White Sox get a win

The Houston Astros were no match for Chris Sale on Monday night.

Even the rain didn’t have a chance.

The White Sox ace worked around rain delays of 25 and 38 minutes to strike out 14 batters en route to a 3-1 victory in front of 17,352 at U.S. Cellular Field.

After he kept loose throwing in the batting cage before and during the game, Sale established a new White Sox record with his fourth straight double-digit strikeout performance. The three-time All Star limited the Astros to five hits over eight innings of one-run ball and improved to 6-2 as Avisail Garcia homered for the third time in four games.

“(Sale) was fantastic,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “He’s really been on a roll, and some of the numbers he’s starting to rack up are impressive, especially how long this organization has been here.

“Even getting up there in the last inning, going out there, there’s just a different mentality with him when it gets late in the game now.”

[MORE WHITE SOX: Ten years after: Qualls revisits site of Konerko's grand slam]

With two outs in the eighth inning and the White Sox ahead by two, Ventura briefly visit Sale on the mound. Last year’s American League batting champ Jose Altuve was up with a man on second, and Sale had already thrown 115 pitches. Four pitches later, Sale whiffed Altuve on an 83-mph slider to end the inning — the first time he’d struck out the side.

In his last four starts, Sale has 49 strikeouts and four walks in 30 2/3 innings. He has allowed five runs (four earned) and 17 hits and won three of four.

But to get that far, Sale worked around a 25-minute rain delay prior to the start of the game and a 38-minute stoppage in the bottom of the third. He said he threw 30 pitches total in the cage between the two postponements.

“I can see how it could be a distraction, but you just try to do your best to stay there and stay fresh,” Sale said. “Keep it loose and try to keep your arm loose.

“Things happen. You can't control the weather or anything like that. Play the cards you're dealt, really.”

[MORE WHITE SOX: White Sox select Vandy RHP Carson Fulmer with eighth pick]

Leading 1-0, Sale was dealt a tough hand in the fourth inning on a series of well-placed Astros hits.

But he pitched out of it anyway.

Jonathan Villar singled and advanced to third on Altuve’s single. Altuve also moved into scoring position as Melky Cabrera slipped in left field, allowing the speedy second baseman to race to second base. But Sale struck out Evan Gattis with a 98-mph fastball and Chris Carter with a 99-mph heater. He nearly escaped the jam unscathed, but Carlos Correa beat out an infield single — though it took another delay as umpires needed a 50-second replay review to determine the rookie was safe at first, which allowed Houston's only run to score. Sale got Marwin Gonzalez to ground out to end the threat and took over, retiring 13 of the last 14 batters he faced, including eight strikeouts.

“Even with the odd (rain delay) in the third, he doesn’t check out,” Ventura said. “He really mentally stayed in it, and it’s hard to do that, especially you get a couple of rain delays like that. He found a way to stay right in the mentality and the moment of it and not really shy away from wanting to go back out there.”

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

The White Sox did just enough against Astros rookie Lance McCullers.

Cabrera gave them a 1-0 lead in the second inning with an RBI single, his first since the first game of the May 28 doubleheader.

After Houston had tied it, Abreu singled and advanced to second on Adam LaRoche’s fly out, and Garcia homered to right to give the White Sox a 3-1 lead. Sale cited Garcia’s alert nature after the rain delay as a huge factor in what he determined to be, “the most important play of the game.”

“We’re sitting in here doing all this stuff, going through the weather delay and all that,” Sale said. “It’s huge for him to come and do that.”

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

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USA TODAY

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?

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AP

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.”