White Sox

Chris Sale: White Sox focus is back to baseball after emotional week

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Chris Sale: White Sox focus is back to baseball after emotional week

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Chris Sale has the look of a man ready to move on after a traumatic week, from his early arrival Saturday morning to his mellow mood in the afternoon.

A day after he dissected the Adam LaRoche controversy in a fiery media session, the White Sox pitcher said he’s ready to move forward and was “jacked” to make his Cactus League debut. Sale allowed a pair of runs and six hits in 5 1/3 innings with a walk and three strikeouts in his first true exhibition game of the spring. The four-time All-Star had pitched three times in simulated games or minor-league contests prior to Saturday’s 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers at Camelback Ranch.

Following a long week that included the abrupt retirement of a popular teammate, conflicting information and outrage, the White Sox have made it clear they are ready to resume their preparations for the regular season.

“From (today) forward, we’re showing up to play baseball,” Sale said. “I don’t think there’s anything else to talk about. We have a job to do and I think going forward, moving forward, that’s what we’re here for.”

This clubhouse won’t magically heal overnight.

LaRoche and his son Drake were popular figures with their teammates. Outfielder Adam Eaton went far enough to tell WSCR 670 AM in a Saturday morning interview that both were leaders last year. Manager Robin Ventura’s comments that his clubhouse isn’t as strong as it was five days ago -- though “I hope it will be,” he said -- is a clear indication the White Sox have some work ahead.

[MORE: White Sox must get back on track after wild week]

But Ventura is hopeful that the players within the clubhouse can get an already unified club pointed back in the right direction.

“It’s obviously a tough couple of days of being able to get through everything,” Ventura said. “But we’ll be fine. They’re a tough group.

“I’m glad it’s a veteran team, that they are able to handle it.”

Given his role Friday, when he heavily criticized executive vice president Kenny Williams for his role in the affair, Sale’s first step was a big one.

The quick turnaround shouldn’t come as a surprise, either.

Sale has had his share of passionate episodes over the years, from the Victor Martinez sign stealing episode of 2014 to his temporary move back to the bullpen in 2012 and others.

But it’s the same passion Sale has displayed in those instances that makes him an elite competitor on the field. The White Sox know the fire is part of what makes Sale great. And though they might discuss each instance with Sale, they’re not going to forbid him from speaking his mind, either.

“For anybody that has been around Chris, he has an opinion, he has a right to talk about it and I don’t think that’s going to stop as far as guys having opinions and speaking their minds,” Ventura said.

But sure enough, Sale got his emotions off his chest and has begun the process of moving forward.

That much was evident by his early morning presence at the clubhouse. Starting pitchers are normally allowed to sleep in and arrive later than the rest of their teammates. Yet there was Sale already dressed and smiling and bantering with teammates when the clubhouse opened to the media at 8:30 a.m.

The Florida Gulf Coast product couldn’t wait to pitch in the stadium after his three previous outings were relegated to backfields as part of a plan to hide him from upcoming competition. Sale said he feeds off the crowd, music and atmosphere.

“There’s a big difference,” Sale said. “I was jacked up for it.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Of the 85 pitches Sale threw, only three or four were sliders. He focused on fastball command, a work in progress he said, and was pleased to get up and down six times.

Sale yielded a double, triple and a homer. But he also picked off a base runner for a second straight game, an aspect of his game he has worked on this spring.

Sale has two more starts left before he takes the mound on Opening Day in Oakland, plenty of time to get in the proper work. And while there is clearly still some necessary healing ahead inside the clubhouse, Sale is glad to have his mind back on baseball.

“My body feels great,” Sale said. “Everything is rolling, everything is clicking.”

“It’s good. That’s what we’re here for. I’m here to play games and be ready for the season and get ready for the season. I think collectively as a group we’re doing that and when Day 1 comes we’re going to be just as good as anyone.”

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.”