White Sox

Frankie Montas gives up six runs as White Sox fall to Tigers

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Frankie Montas gives up six runs as White Sox fall to Tigers

DETROIT -- Frankie Montas received a rude welcome in his first big league start on Wednesday afternoon.

The rookie yielded a first-inning home run to veteran Victor Martinez and then was felled by a bit of bad luck and timely hitting as the White Sox lost to the Detroit Tigers 7-4 at Comerica Park. The No. 3 prospect in the organization, Montas allowed six runs in three innings as the White Sox split a four-game series with the Tigers. Melky Cabrera had three hits, including adouble and a homer, and drove in three runs for the White Sox.

"He had great stuff," catcher Geovany Soto said. "This kid throws very firm. He’s got a great two-seamer, changeup is a work in progress. The slider, it’s a good pitch for him. I feel that he did a good job. He made a few mistakes, but I think he is a real promising young man."

Already ahead 2-0, Detroit’s Rajai Davis began a third-inning rally against Montas with a one-out infield single that Alexei Ramirez couldn’t corral. Davis then should have been doubled off, but Carlos Sanchez covered second base, which allowed Ian Kinsler’s routine pop up to shallow right field to fall in for a single.

[MORE WHITE SOX: White Sox mourn the death of Yogi Berra]

Both runners then moved into scoring position as Soto bounced a pickoff throw to second into center field. White Sox manager Robin Ventura elected to intentionally walk Victor Martinez — who earlier homered — to load the bases. Montas threw a 2-2 slider to J.D. Martinez and he was able to keep the ball just inside the left-field foul line before it bounced over the wall for a two-run double and a 4-0 Detroit lead.

Nick Castellanos singled off the glove of third baseman Mike Olt to bring in another run and Alex Avila’s RBI groundout made it 6-0.

"It’s a tough lineup, an experienced group, and if you’re not going to locate, you can get hurt by it, and Frankie did," Ventura said. "The miscue at second base opens it up, you end up loading the bases and getting J.D. right there. He had a chance to maybe get out of it with a ground ball, but it doesn’t happen, so it changes the look of that inning."

Montas -- who had a 1.13 ERA in eight innings as a reliever -- got out to a slow start in the first inning, too. Davis singled and Victor Martinez ripped a 94-mph inside fastball for a two-run homer with two outs to put Detroit ahead.

Montas struck out two batters in a scoreless second inning and three overall.

He gave up six hits with two walks.

[MORE WHITE SOX: Improved knee has Adam LaRoche hopeful to return this weekend]

Montas enjoyed the experience, even though it didn't go his way. Ventura made it sound as if Montas would get one more start.

"I feel like it was not much different," Montas said. "I feel good. I was throwing the ball and things didn’t go like I wanted. It’s part of the game. A lot of things happen in the game. It’s part of the game."

Justin Verlander kept the White Sox off the board until he had a six-run lead. Trayce Thompson drew a two-out walk in the fourth inning and Cabrera ripped the first pitch for a two-run homer to get the White Sox within four runs. Ramirez doubled in a run against Verlander — who allowed three runs and struck out eight in seven innings — in the starting pitcher’s last frame to make it a 7-3 game.

Cabrera doubled in another run in the eighth to get the White Sox within three runs.

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: