White Sox

Early misplay costly for Hector Noesi, White Sox in shutout loss

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Early misplay costly for Hector Noesi, White Sox in shutout loss

TORONTO -- Neither Hector Noesi nor the White Sox seem to have much of a margin for error these days.

So it didn’t figure to be long before Alexei Ramirez’s first-inning misplay -- he spun and missed tagging second base on what should have been a relatively easy double play and only got one out -- haunted the White Sox.

Three batters later, the White Sox trailed by four runs.

Drew Hutchison and the Toronto Blue Jays didn’t need much more to send the White Sox, 6-0 losers at the Rogers Centre, to their third straight loss and sixth in seven games. To make matters worse, outfielder Avisail Garcia exited Monday’s game after 1 1/2 innings with right knee inflammation. Hutchison threw a four-hit shutout.

“I don’t know what the purpose is,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said of Ramirez’s spin. “(Hector is) out of the inning if we end up playing clean.”

Making his first start since May 9, Noesi -- who allowed five earned runs in seven innings -- did himself no favors in the first inning as Jose Reyes led off with a double and Josh Donaldson drew a walk.

[MORE SOX: Avisail Garcia exits Monday's contest early]

But Noesi got Edwin Encarnacion to bounce into a potential double play only for Ramirez -- who declined comment -- to miss the bag after a good feed from Emilio Bonifacio. Ramirez’s relay to first was in plenty of time to retire Encarnacion, but second-base ump Jordan Baker immediately ruled safe at second and Robin Ventura’s argument got him nowhere.

With men on second and third, Noesi got cleanup hitter Russell Martin to bounce out to third, which meant neither runner could advance. Chris Collabello took care of that on the first pitch he saw from Noesi as his two-run single gave Toronto a 2-0 advantage. Two pitches later, Justin Smoak got enough of a 95-mph fastball to homer into the right-field bullpen for a four-run cushion.

“They got (Noesi) before he got settled in,” catcher Geovany Soto said. “That first inning, we all saw it, they got four runs. After that he settled in and was throwing strikes and commanding both sides of the plate. But it was a little too late.”

All four first-inning runs go on Noesi’s record as earned. He could have pitched his way out of trouble.

But there’s no question that a White Sox defense that ranks 29th among 30 teams with minus-24 Defensive Runs Saved had its fingerprints all over the inning.

Ramirez, who ranks 20th of 29 shortstops in Defensive Runs Saved, also settled for one out in the eighth inning when he dropped a Tailor-Made double play and Smoak made it count with a two-out, RBI single off Scott Carroll.

“I was happy (with the grounders),” Noesi said. “We could have made a double play and then the bases should be cleared by the next hitter.”

Those plays along with a second-inning Josh Donaldson solo home run accounted for what proved to be an insurmountable deficit.

Fresh off a seven-game homestand in which they scored 15 runs and had a .196/.252/.290 slash line, the White Sox didn’t offer Hutchison much of a challenge.

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

Hutchison -- who entered the game with a 6.06 ERA -- never allowed more than one batter to reach in any frame and two were wiped out by double plays, including one by Ramirez to end the second inning. Ventura said Hutchison’s outing reminded him of 1996 American League Cy Young winner Pat Hentgen.

The team’s chances only were further damaged when Garcia, who sat out Friday and Saturday’s games, exited. Garcia singled with one out in the second inning but appeared hobbled on the bases. J.B. Shuck replaced him in the bottom of the second inning in right field. Garcia is listed as day to day with right knee inflammation.

As it were, however, the White Sox put themselves in a hole out of which they’ve had too much trouble recovering from.

“(The double play) should be turned,” Ventura said. “It wasn’t. It ends up hurting you. After that, Hector battled and got through it. But the only thing really good about the game was it was fast. That was it. We weren’t very good offensively. We weren’t good defensively in that situation, and you’re going to end up losing the game.

“If you’re not going to score, it becomes very thin. Right now the offense isn’t clicking at all. You’re not being able to put anything in the outfield. Most of your hits are in the infield. They know it, and it’s got to change or you’re going to lose games.”

White Sox Talk Podcast: Michael Kopech tells all about his past, present and future

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Michael Kopech tells all about his past, present and future

The White Sox top pitching prospect sits down with Chuck Garfien for a revealing interview at spring training. Kopech says he almost quit the game after he got into a fight with a Red Sox minor league teammate in 2016. He goes in-depth about his desire to be great, why meditating makes him a better pitcher, his failed PED test in 2015, comparisons to Justin Verlander, possibly becoming the future ace of the White Sox and much more.

Why Michael Kopech almost quit baseball: Revelations from the future White Sox star

Why Michael Kopech almost quit baseball: Revelations from the future White Sox star

GLENDALE, Ariz. — A failed PED test. A 50-game suspension. A fight with a former teammate. A broken pitching hand.

It all blew up like that for Michael Kopech in one calendar year.

And it was probably the best thing that ever happened to him.

“There have been points where I wanted to quit baseball. There have been points where I wanted to stop trying,” Kopech said Thursday in an exclusive interview with NBC Sports Chicago.

This was the breaking point that almost ended Kopech’s career before it truly began but would eventually change his life for the better once the storms passed.

“Everything felt like it was on me at once, and it was tough because I had just gotten through the suspension, worked my butt off all offseason, came back to spring training in the best shape I had ever been in, and then broke my hand the first day of spring,” Kopech explained. “More than anything, I was frustrated and knew I wasn’t making anything better for myself and I was ready to get out of there.”

How long was he in this mode of possibly quitting baseball?

“Probably a couple weeks.”

The PED suspension in 2015 was for the stimulant Oxilofrine, which has been found in supplements which Kopech says he didn’t knowingly take.

“We do have certifications that we’re supposed to follow. We’re supposed to make sure that everything we take or put in our bodies is certified, and I probably wasn’t as safe as I should have been on that. I do take responsibility on that, and I regret it. But it’s part of the past and I did learn from it, so I can’t be too upset about it now and dwell on the past.”

The fight wasn’t only with Kopech’s teammate. It was also with his roommate.  

“It was a good friend of mine I was trying to help out. Things went south and he took a couple swings at me and I took one swing back. It just happened to not be a very good punch,” Kopech said. “I’ve accepted that I messed up. He accepted it as well. I’m open about it because it’s in the past and I’ve learned from it. But I’m not too proud to say I made a mistake. Fortunately, he’s still with the Red Sox and doing well over there. I think it didn’t alter our careers negatively, but maybe we both matured quite a bit from it and somehow, someway altered it positively. He’s still one of my good buddies.”

To say that Kopech’s dream is to make the major leagues would be limiting. He has a strong desire not only to be great but to be one of the all-time greats.

You can’t always pinpoint where a person’s ambition comes from. Kopech thinks it was from his torturous year as a nomad, out of baseball with a broken hand and a broken soul.

“Everybody talks about that itch to get back to spring training. When you have that for 12 straight months, it just grows and grows and grows,” Kopech said. “There’s going to be adversity coming your way in baseball. Learning from the adversity off the field is one of the tougher things I’ve ever had to do. Having all that come at once forced me to learn from it. I probably was a little stubborn and hard-headed at first, but taking a year off baseball, all you have time to do is think, anyway. I put myself in much better positions, became a lot more mindful about the game, and I feel like it has a lot to do with who I am today.”

Partly what changed him, and frankly might have saved him, was learning how to meditate. It’s a practice he learned from Red Sox mental performance coach Justin Su’a soon after the fateful fight with his teammate.

“It put me in a mental state that I never experienced. It’s almost like a flow state when I pitch but a lot calmer, so I got hooked on meditating and it took me away from the negativity of all that,” Kopech said. “I realized that my mind is my most powerful tool. I got addicted to this feeling that came from me being a more mindful athlete rather than just a powerful athlete or an athlete that throws 100 miles per hour. It took me away from being this guy that’s one dimensional to the outside public and made me have a lot more self value than Michael Kopech the baseball player.”

Kopech meditates before every start. Where exactly?

“For the most part, I’ll go find a closet or empty room somewhere in the stadium where I can zone out,” he said. “But even if it’s close to the clubhouse and I hear a little chatter that’s fine because the type of meditating I do focuses a little on background noise and helps my mind get to the place where I need it to get.”

It’s become such a powerful tool, he believes it gives him a distinct advantage over the hitter when he's on the mound.

“It’s tapping into this part of your mind that most people can’t dive into, and what’s funny is pitching is like cheating to me. When I pitch, the first batter I see with the stadium full of people, I’m in that state. Most people have to work their whole lives to feel that type of dopamine rush. Whatever it is actually, I don’t know exactly what it is, but I know the feeling and I get it instantly when I take the mound. For me, that’s why I love the game because it makes me feel alive.”

It's a purpose and passion that has been reborn. Living proof that Kopech's mind is maybe all that matters.