White Sox

David Robertson’s dominance ‘as advertised’ and more for White Sox

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David Robertson’s dominance ‘as advertised’ and more for White Sox

MILWAUKEE — The White Sox brought in David Robertson on a four-year, $46 million deal in the offseason with the belief he’d be a long-term solution to the team’s ninth-inning woes.

But he’s been so good through his first month and a half with the club that, to a certain extent, he’s exceeded the already-high expectations that came with his blockbuster Winter Meetings signing.

Entering Wednesday’s series finale at Miller Park, Robertson has allowed one earned run in 14 innings (an 0.64 ERA) with a 25 to one strikeout-to-walk ratio. Opposing batters have nine hits in 53 at-bats against him and he’s saved six games in seven opportunities.

“He’s been sharp,” manager Robin Ventura said. “He’s been everything as advertised. We knew he was good, but he’s taking it to another level.”

[MORE: White Sox give Jose Abreu a two-day breather]

The engine behind Robertson’s prodigious early-season success — he has a -0.20 FIP, too, a stat based on home runs, walks and strikeouts that’s scaled to ERA — has been a remarkable ability to throw strikes.

He’s throwing his fastball/cutter for strikes about 74 percent of the time, according to Texas Leaguers’ pitch f/x database, while spotting it well in the strike zone. And that’s perfectly set up his curveball, which has been nearly unhittable — 75 percent of them have been strikes and he’s generated swings and misses on 36 percent of them.

Robertson has thrown a first-pitch strike to 71.7 percent of the batters he’s faced this year, too. The major league average for first-pitch strikes is 60.6 percent.

“It’s a tough delivery to pick up the ball,” Ventura said. “Once you have that cutter in there and location-wise, he’s able to hit the outside corner, he can put it in and (he has) a better curveball than I think we realized.”

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

In 2014, Robertson’s first year as a closer, his curveball generated a swing and a miss 23 percent of the time and he threw about 63 percent of his fastballs/cutters for strikes. He saved 39 games with a 3.08 ERA for the Yankees last season.

But if his early-season numbers are any indication, he’s on track to have his best season since 2011, in which his 1.08 ERA and 100 strikeouts in 66 2/3 innings setting up Mariano Rivera earned him an All-Star bid and even a Cy Young vote. Robertson, though, would rather not discuss his stats or read anything into how well he’s pitched so far.

“I don’t like people to bring up stats to me,” Robertson said. “I don’t like anything, I don’t like to talk about it. I just play baseball.”

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.”