White Sox

Chris Sale strikes out 14 more as White Sox rout Mariners

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Chris Sale strikes out 14 more as White Sox rout Mariners

SEATTLE -- Chris Sale had quite the encore on Friday night.

The White Sox left-hander effectively used all three pitches to follow up his 15-strikeout performance against the Cubs with 14 more against the Seattle Mariners in an 11-4 victory in front of 35,770 at Safeco Field.

Sale outpitched Felix Hernandez and Carlos Sanchez knocked in a career-high four runs and Tyler Flowers drove in three as the White Sox poured it on late against the Mariners bullpen. The left-hander’s 29 strikeouts since Sunday is a franchise-record for two starts.

“When he’s got command of two pitches it’s tough, much less three like today for the most part,” catcher Tyler Flowers said. “That’s the kind of stuff you can do when it’s all clicking for him.”

Working with an effective changeup/slider/fastball combo, Sale didn’t take long to establish he was game for the showdown with The King in his court.

[MORE: Tyler Flowers on MLB's DV policy - 'We all take it serious']

After Ketel Marte led off the game with a friendly-scored double off the web of Avisail Garcia’s glove, Sale made easy work of Kyle Seager, Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano, striking all three out. Sale struck out one batter each in innings two through four and then picked up a head of steam in the fifth when he whiffed Mark Trumbo, Austin Jackson and Jesus Montero.

Sale notched the 30th double-digit strikeout performance of his career, including the 12th this season, when he got Marte swinging in the sixth and finished the inning with another of Seager.

Sale threw 20 of 26 changeups for strikes, 20 of 28 sliders and 39 of 56 fastballs. He also had 22 swings and misses.

“He can get caught up in it, trying to strike people out,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “He knows he can do it. But you have to be able to sit there and pick apart each guy individually and they’re not all the same and he’s been pretty even with what he’s throwing. It’s not just the slider, It’s the change up, fastball on some guys. Just great stuff.”

Sale found trouble in the seventh inning -- he allowed a three-run homer to Trumbo to cut the lead to 4-3 -- but it didn’t slow him down. Cruz started the inning with Seattle’s first legitimate hit, a single to right and Cano followed with a single. Sale struck out Franklin Gutierrez for the first out but left a 3-2 changeup up and Trumbo blasted it out to right center.

But Sale battled back as he struck out Austin Jackson on a 1-2 slider and blew a 2-2 fastball past Jesus Montero, both on swings. Of Sale’s 29 strikeouts in the past two games, 24 have come via swings and misses.

“All your great pitchers, that’s what they do, they turn it up a notch when they need to,” Flowers said. “In big situations, find a way to execute pitches, always have a little bit left in the tank.”

Sale threw strikes on 79 of 110 pitches (71.8 percent) and allowed four hits and three earned runs in seven innings.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Sale, who has 222 strikeouts this season, four shy of his single-season mark, finished one shy of becoming one of four pitchers in baseball history with 30 over two games along with Dwight Gooden, Rogers Clemens and Pedro Martinez.

Though Sale has been compared to the greats all season, including Randy Johnson, he’s tried not to get too caught up in his own hype. On Friday he deferred credit to Flowers for his guidance and to the White Sox offense for continuing to add to the lead after Seattle got within a run.

“I felt pretty good,” Sale said. “Felt like I had pretty command of my changeup, I was able to throw that early on and get it in there for a strike. I feel like my slider has been getting a little better over the last few starts.

“It’s fun. I definitely appreciate it and I know what it is. But it’s something I’ll look back on here at the end of the season and probably appreciate it a little bit more then. We’ve got to grind now. Now’s not the time to sit and look at the shiny stuff, we’ve got a long road ahead of us.”

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.”