White Sox

Clutch offense reappears for White Sox after 20 days

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Clutch offense reappears for White Sox after 20 days

MINNEAPOLIS -- Want to know why the White Sox are eight games below .500 (among a variety of reasons)?

The offense hasn’t been very clutch, especially of late. The White Sox hope to build of some of the two-out momentum gained in the late innings of a 6-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Not only did the White Sox score four runs with two outs, all from the sixth inning on, they also had their most hits with runners in scoring position in 20 days.

[MORE WHITE SOX: Samardzija, Soto lead White Sox to victory over Twins]

“When you can produce with two outs, it’s very important because that is a difficult moment,” slugger Jose Abreu said through an interpreter. “You probably have the inning on the line, and for us, it’s important. It’s important any time you can produce after two outs. We did it today. I don’t know how to explain, but we did it today, and it’s a good first step.”

Geovany Soto was the first to step forward when he singled in the sixth inning on a 0-2 pitch from Mike Pelfrey to tie the game at 2. An inning later, Melky Cabrera singled to left center to drive in Abreu, who singled with two outs and moved to second on an Adam LaRoche walk.

Adam Eaton doubled in Carlos Sanchez, who doubled, with two outs in the eighth inning. And Gordon Beckham doubled in LaRoche in the ninth, to extend the team’s lead to four runs.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

The White Sox were 5-for-16 with runners in scoring position. Not bad for a team that had gone 18-for-105 (.171) since posting five hits with RISP in a June 3 win over the Texas Rangers. Even more impressive is that it came after the White Sox left them loaded in the first inning with only one out and stranded two more in the second against Pelfrey.

“After the first inning you could fall into a trap of it’s not happening and guys stayed with it,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “(Two-out hits) are always important. You feel like you always leave them out there.

“When you get two-out hits it hurts the other side. We know what it feels like when it happens to us and guys grinding away, Gordon there in the last inning getting some and taking care of it. Any time you add on and just get those to squeak through with two outs, you kind of wear away the other side.”

Since they went 5-for-12 with runners in scoring position in a 9-2 win over the Texas Rangers on June 3, the White Sox have hit .171 as a team. Before the slump, the White Sox were hitting .270 with runners in scoring postion. The team’s average dropped to .250 heading into Tuesday’s victory.

Lucas Giolito relieved to be able to shed No. 1 pitching prospect label

Lucas Giolito relieved to be able to shed No. 1 pitching prospect label

GLENDALE, AZ — You don’t need a scale to see that Lucas Giolito lost some weight in the offseason. As he walks around Camelback Ranch, he just seems lighter. These pounds were shedded thanks to a certain label that has been detached from his name and his being.

“Lucas Giolito, number-one pitching prospect in baseball” is no more.

“Definitely. Big time relief. I carried that title for a while,” Giolito told NBC Sports Chicago. “It was kind of up and down. I was (ranked) 1 at one point. I dropped. I always paid attention to it a little bit moving through the minor leagues.”

Which for any young hurler is risky business. The “best pitching prospect” designation can mess with a pitcher’s psyche and derail a promising career. Giolito was walking a mental tightrope reading those rankings, but after making it back to the majors last season with the White Sox and succeeding, the moniker that seemed to follow him wherever he went has now vanished.

“Looking back on it, that stuff is pretty cool," Giolito said. "It can pump you up and make you feel good about yourself, but in the end the question is, what are you going to do at the big league level? Can you contribute to a team? I’m glad that I finally have the opportunity to do that and all that other stuff is in the rear view."

This wasn’t the case when the White Sox acquired Giolito from the Washington Nationals in the Adam Eaton trade in December 2016. When he arrived at spring training last year, he was carrying around tons of extra baggage in his brain that was weighing him down. Questions about his ability and makeup weren’t helping as he tried living up to such high expectations.

“Yeah, I’d say especially with the trade coming off 2016 where I didn’t perform well at all that year," Giolito said. "I got traded over to a new organization, I still have this label on me of being a top pitching prospect while I’m going to a new place, I’m trying to impress people but at the same time I had a lot of things off mechanically I was trying to fix. Mentally, I was not in the best place as far as pitching went. It definitely added some extra pressure that I didn’t deal with well for a while."

How bad was it for Giolito? Here are some of the thoughts that were scrambling his brain during spring training and beyond last season.

“I saw I wasn’t throwing as hard. I was like, ’Where did my velocity go?’ Oh, it’s my mechanics. My mechanics are bad. I need to fix those,” Giolito said. “Then I’m trying to make adjustments. Why can’t I make this adjustment? It compounds. It just builds and builds and builds and can weigh on you a ton. I was 22 turning 23 later in the year. I didn’t handle it very well. I put a lot of pressure on myself to fix all these different things about my performance, my pitching and trying to do it all in one go instead of just relaxing and remembering, ‘Hey, what am I here for? Why do I play the game?’”

Still, pitching coach Don Cooper wanted to see what he had in his young prospect. So last February, he scheduled him to make his White Sox debut against the Cubs in front of a packed house in Mesa.

“It was kind of like a challenge," Giolito said. "They fill the stadium over there. I’m like, ‘Alright here we go."

Giolito gave up one run, three hits, walked one and struck out two in two innings against the Cubs that day.

“I pitched OK," he said. "I think I gave up a home run to Addison Russell. At the same time, I remember that game like I was forcing things. I might have pitched okay, but I was forcing the ball over the plate instead of relaxing, trusting and letting it happen which is kind of my mantra now. I’m saying that all the time, just having confidence in yourself and letting it go.”

A conversation in midseason with Charlotte Knights pitching coach Steve McCatty, suggested by Cooper, helped turn Giolito’s season around. The lesson for Giolito: whatever you have on the day you take the mound is what you have. Don’t force what isn’t there.

Fortunately for Giolito he has extra pitches in his arsenal, so if the curveball isn’t working (which it rarely did when he came up to the majors last season) he can go to his change-up, fastball, slider, etc.

It’s all part of the learning process, both on the mound and off it. Setbacks are coming. Giolito has already had his share. More will be on the way.

“You want to set expectations for yourself. You want to try and achieve great goals,” he said. “At the same time, it is a game of failure. There’s so much that you have to learn through experience whether that be success or failure. Especially going through the minor leagues. There’s so much that you have to learn and a lot of it is about development. It’s a crazy ride for sure.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Rick Hahn gives an update on the state of the White Sox rebuild

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Rick Hahn gives an update on the state of the White Sox rebuild

In this episode of the SportsTalk Live Podcast, Danny Parkins (670 The Score), Chris Bleck (ESPN 1000) and Scott King (WGN Radio) join David Kaplan on the panel.

Ryan Pace’s offseason begins. Josh Sitton and Jerrell Freeman are gone, but what will he do with Kyle Fuller?

Plus, Rick Hahn joins Kap from Glendale, Ariz., to discuss the state of the White Sox rebuild, how tough it is to keep their best prospects in the minors and why Jose Abreu is so important for his young team?

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: