White Sox

Erik Johnson improves to 3-0 as White Sox sweep doubleheader

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Erik Johnson improves to 3-0 as White Sox sweep doubleheader

DETROIT -- Erik Johnson’s second round of auditions continues to go well.

The young White Sox pitcher tied a career-high with nine strikeouts on Monday night in Game 2 of a doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers. Johnson picked up his third victory in four starts as the White Sox completed a sweep of the split-doubleheader with a 3-2 win over the Tigers at Comerica Park.

Johnson allowed two runs in six innings and Jose Abreu doubled in a run and Gordon Beckham homered. Nate Jones and David Robertson combined for four strikeouts in three scoreless innings.

“(Johnson) threw great,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “I think even when they got some guys on he was able to show some command. We got him some early runs and he was able to make it hold up.”

[MORE: Jeff Samardzija's one-hitter paces White Sox to win over Tigers]

Johnson has done nothing in September to hurt his chances for the 2016 White Sox rotation. With Jeff Samardzija headed for free agency and the White Sox considering anything to upgrade their roster, Johnson could be in line for one of possibly two spots in the 2016 rotation.

Though he needed 114 pitches to complete six innings, Johnson was in control early and worked around some trouble in the middle before a strong finish. Johnson used a slider/fastball combination early as he struck out three, including Miguel Cabrera, and retired the first six batters he faced.

“It was hard, away early,” Johnson said. “We tried to go in for effect to a lot of their hitters, and then later in the game you started doubling up on sliders and getting away from sequences we used earlier in the game.

“I felt good. It was a good first inning to put the right foot forward, and I thought I was very aggressive in the zone with fastball, slider, change. I gave up a few hits. Sometimes the aggressiveness, you’re going to run into some hits here and there.”

The International League pitcher of the year left a fastball over the middle to Alex Avila and he homered to start the third inning. Johnson gave up two more singles and a sac fly to Ian Kinsler as Detroit rallied to within 3-2. But catcher Rob Brantly nailed Rajai Davis stealing second to end the inning with Miguel Cabrera at the plate.

[RELATED: David Robertson rebounds from rough week with sharp performance vs. Tigers]

Johnson then loaded the bases with two outs in the ninth inning but he struck out Josh Wilson on a 2-2 fastball above the letters to strand the trio.

Johnson retired seven of the last eight he faced, including four strikeouts.

He allowed five hits and walked two.

“Those two middle innings where they were long, it’s tough because you have to find the middle ground to where you’re aggressive in the zone, but you can put guys away early, to the point they’re not fouling off pitches and you’re not going into deep counts,” Johnson said. “Sometimes that’s where it leads to bigger innings or more pitches per inning. Sometimes in the middle you’ve just got to grind things out and you fall back into a nice rhythm.”

Trayce Thompson tripled to start the second inning and scored on Avisail Garcia’s sac fly against Randy Wolf. Beckham homered later in the second to give the White Sox a 2-0 lead. Tyler Saladino tripled with two outs in the third and Abreu doubled him in as the White Sox took a three-run lead.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Johnson and his bullpen did the rest.

It was another impressive outing for Johnson late in an outstanding season as he continues to rebound from a poor 2014 campaign. Johnson had a similar season in 2013 that helped him win a job in the 2014 rotation but he only lasted five starts before he was demoted to Triple-A Charlotte.

“He’s aggressive in the zone and that’s been the biggest thing of coming back up here,” Ventura said. “He’s aggressive, coming after you and I think he has to pitch that way. It’s good to see.”

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.”