White Sox

Cubs' Len Kasper had big influence on new White Sox announcer Jason Benetti


Cubs' Len Kasper had big influence on new White Sox announcer Jason Benetti

After the White Sox hired him, the first call Jason Benetti made was to his parents, of course, which resulted in nearly an hour of joyous tears from his mother.

But it didn’t take long for the team’s new play-by-play TV announcer to inform Cubs broadcaster Len Kasper of what he describes as “surreal” news.

Following a laborious search that spanned several months and involved calls to numerous candidates and industry insiders -- Kasper included -- the White Sox announced Wednesday that Benetti would split broadcast duties next season with veteran announcer Ken "Hawk" Harrelson.

Headed into his 32nd season with the White Sox, Harrelson -- who along with analyst Steve Stone received a multi-year contract extension -- has reduced his workload and will call 81 games, with all but three coming on the road.

Benetti, a Homewood-Flossmoor High School grad who grew up a White Sox fan, is set to call 81 games, including 78 at home. After he spoke to White Sox vice president of sales and marketing Brooks Boyer early in the process, Kasper believes the team made the correct call.

“They got it totally right,” Kasper said. “He’s got a great voice, great delivery, incredibly intellectual, willing to learn. He’s just a great, great human being.

“It won’t take long for White Sox fans really to grab on to Jason and his quirky sense of humor. He grew up here and he was a White Sox fan. It’s not just that he’s a really good broadcaster, but this means a lot to him on a personal level.”

A graduate of Syracuse University and the Wake Forest School of Law, Benetti has nearly six seasons as an announcer for the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs. Since 2011, Benetti, 32, has also announced college sports at ESPN.

[MORE: White Sox hire Benetti as new play-by-play announcer, extend Harrelson, Stone]

When the White Sox first contacted him, Benetti, who emulated the swing of Frank Thomas in backyard Whiffle Ball games -- “not very well,” he said -- and was a big Robin Ventura fan, tried not to get his hopes up. He didn’t want to focus too much on what he thought was a long shot. But as he realized his chances were strong, Benetti remembers thinking, ‘Oh, my gosh. This might actually happen.’

“When I was a kid, my parents would just sometimes on a whim just say, ‘We are going to go to a Sox game,” Benetti said. “To sit in the booth the other day was bizarre to see the field from that angle. It’s awesome. It’s really awesome. It means the world to me.”

So does his relationship with Kasper, one of several broadcasting mentors along with Bob Costas, Ian Eagle and Sean McDonough. The two first exchanged emails in January 2011. But Benetti, who was born with cerebral palsy, was particularly intrigued by Kasper’s June 2014 story about dealing with anxiety.

“I wrote him a letter about it and I sent him a tape and he’s written me back with specific feedback and encouraged me to aim higher,” Benetti said.

When Boyer called in October, Kasper, one of several broadcasters queried, had Benetti at the top of his list.

But he wasn’t alone. And although being a White Sox fan wasn’t a prerequisite, it didn’t hurt Benetti’s chances, either.

“Jason was on almost every single one of those lists,” Boyer said. “When you look at work ethic and the passion for connecting with fans, all the things that kind of checked our box, Jason has them all.”

One aspect Benetti is expected to bring is an understanding for advanced metrics, which Kasper has encouraged -- “He’s not afraid to use statistics that need a little explaining,” Benetti said. Benetti hopes to mix metrics into the conversation while also relying on the analysis and storytelling ability of his partner, Stone. How Benetti works has impressed Kasper from the outset.

“I heard his work and just thought he was immediately good,” Kasper said. “I hear from a lot of young broadcasters and some are good, some are developing, some you’re trying to kind of find what it is you really like. With him it’s just instant. I just thought he was a big league talent from Day One.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Following their introduction, Kasper has invited the young broadcaster to the ballpark several times and has constantly pushed him to “aim higher,” Benetti said. Though he didn’t expect the news, Kasper isn’t surprised.

“When he called the other day and told me this is going to happen, I felt as happy for him as I did for myself when I got different jobs along the way,” Kasper said.

Of course, he’s happy, Benetti said.

“He has made it clear that I am buying dinner the first time,” Benetti said. “He is somebody that has basically said, ‘Be you and do great work and here is how I would like to help.’ So I owe him more than he even knows.”

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries


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?


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.”