White Sox

Dunn homers as Sox beat Angels

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Dunn homers as Sox beat Angels

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Albert Pujols wasn't concerned that it took seven spring training games to hit his first homer for the Los Angeles Angels. He knows they will come.Pujols hit two Wednesday in the Angels' 9-7 loss to the Chicago White Sox, a game in which Los Angeles starter Ervin Santana was struck on the right shoulder by a line drive.Santana exited after being hit in the second inning and is day to day with a bruise. Manager Mike Scioscia said Santana, who is in line to be the No. 3 or 4 starter, could miss a start without being set back for the season.Santana said he felt a little pain, but he wasn't worried. While icing the shoulder, he said no X-ray was planned. Santana pitched a no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians on July 27 and he finished last season 11-12 with a 3.38 ERA."Everything will be OK," he said.The White Sox's Tyler Flowers and Adam Dunn homered, and the Angels' Howie Kendrick also homered.
Pujols hit a three-run home to left field and a solo shot to center. The three-time NL MVP signed a 10-year, 254 million deal with the Angels in December after he played 11 seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals."I try to just put a good swing on it all the time," Pujols said. "I'm not sitting out there trying to hit the ball out of the park. I'm just trying to hit the ball back to the middle and let the ball get deep and try to make good swings every day, whatever I have to do to help this ballclub and this organization win."I know it's spring training. The games probably don't count, but you still need to take the game serious," he added."We hope we're going to see that often this year," Scioscia said. "It's great to see him getting comfortable in the box."After the line drive struck Santana, he was able to field the ball and throw to first to retire Alexei Ramirez. The Angels' staff checked on Santana and then he was replaced by Eddie McKiernan."We'll see tomorrow," Santana said.Santana allowed a run and a hit, struck out two and walked one in 1 1-3 innings in his second start of spring training."I felt very good," Santana said. "The ball was coming out good."Chris Sale allowed five runs in 4 1-3 innings for the White Sox. He gave up seven hits and struck out two. Sale, who is transitioning from a reliever to a starter, has allowed eight runs in 7 1-3 innings."That's unacceptable on every level, I don't care who you are," Sale said. "By no means am I going to go home and kick myself in the rear, but I'm disappointed with what happened today. At the same time, there are positives with this. I had some good innings."Sale hit Pujols with a pitch in the first inning. Pujols hit a three-run home run off Sale the next time he faced him."A hitter like him, he's arguably the best in the game," Sale said. "He proved a couple innings later if you're going in, you better get it in."Manager Robin Ventura reaffirmed his confidence in Sale."He's still got great stuff," Ventura said. "He's going to be in there."Flowers hit a solo homer, his second of the spring, off McKiernan. Kendrick hit his second home run, a two-run shot off Anthony Carter. Dunn also hit his second of the spring, a two-run drive.NOTES: As a precaution, White Sox closer candidate Jesse Crain didn't pitch because of a slight strain of his right oblique. .Dunn was back in the lineup as the designated hitter after sitting out Tuesday with a stiff neck. .The White Sox optioned right-handed pitcher Gregory Infante to Triple-A Charlotte, reassigned catcher Damaso Espino, right-handed pitchers Brian Omogrosso and Jacob Petricka and outfielders Brandon Short and Delwyn Young to the minor league camp and added infielder Tyler Saladino to major league camp. Ventura said he wanted to see Saladino, who started at second base and hit second.

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: