White Sox

Garcia homers twice, Sale bounces back as White Sox top Angels

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Garcia homers twice, Sale bounces back as White Sox top Angels

A huge night for Avisail Garcia. A great outing by Chris Sale. This is how the White Sox drew it up before this so-far underwhelming campaign got underway.

The White Sox young right fielder hit a pair of homers, driving in four runs, and their four-time All Star of an ace held the visiting Angels to just two runs over 7 1/3 innings en route to an 8-2 victory Monday night at U.S. Cellular Field.

The White Sox entered Monday night’s game losers of eight of their last 10, having been swept over the weekend by the rival Royals in Kansas City, but this was a clinic in how to bust out of a bad stretch.

“I think that says a lot about our team,” Sale said. “Tough road trip, and we played them good, too. Those were three one-run ballgames. Those are kind of hard to swallow sometimes, but what a way to start off at home. We have a few days here so we can definitely build some momentum from this and move forward.”

[MORE WHITE SOX: In 'frustrating' season, Hahn doesn't want to write off White Sox yet]

Sale was excellent, but that’s come to be expected. The bigger highlights belonged to Garcia. After Melky Cabrera drove in a run with a sacrifice fly in the first and Tyler Flowers drove a solo homer to straightaway center in the third, Garcia launched a solo shot more than 420 feet into the left-center field bleachers in the fourth to make it 3-0.

Two innings later, Garcia took Angels starter Matt Shoemaker deep a second time, this home run of the three-run variety that grew the White Sox lead to 6-0. Adam Eaton’s RBI single made it 7-0 before the inning was over.

Garcia’s turned it on in a big way of late. After going nearly two months without a homer from June 8 and Aug. 4, he’s hit four in his last six games. He’s picked up a hit in seven of nine games this month and is hitting .285 during that stretch.

After struggling through much of the season, Garcia’s work to correct his issues is starting to pay off.

"Always feels great. I've been working really hard,” Garcia said. “And those guys help me a lot, the manager, (hitting coach Todd) Steverson. I just try to come here and work hard, get better every day and play hard.”

[MORE WHITE SOX: From spot starter to All Star, Hector Santiago back on South Side]

“It think he has to grind through it and fight for it,” manager Robin Ventura said. “Everyone has their level of doing it and when they do and when they make some change and when they want to make some changes. You have to believe in what the changes are. Everybody goes though that a little differently. I think for him it’s starting to click, and there’s some clarity on how you’re going to do it, how he’s going to go about it, how guys are pitching him. I think it should be a fun thing to watch for him, but I think his transition into that and his adjustments have been good.”

Sale, who caused a small panic with back-to-back rough outings in which he surrendered seven runs apiece, was in need of some personal momentum and bounced back in tremendous fashion. He silenced the Angels much of the evening, untouched until the seventh, when Johnny Giavotella drove in two runs in an already out-of-reach game. But overall, the All-Star lefty pitched 7 1/3 innings of two run ball, allowing just five hits and striking out seven.

“You don’t want to let that last too long,” Sale said of his two straight poor outings. “It’s always nice when you get a cushion. You go out in the first inning, score a run and get some big nights by guys. Avi hitting two home runs, and it seemed like Tyler is always doing something for me when I’m out there. Melky is a spark plug. That guy likes to have fun and play the game. I can go on and on. Guys running around the outfield chasing balls, double plays, Alexei (Ramirez) making an unbelievable play under the gun. It’s nice to see after a road trip like we had coming out with energy and fighting. We fought today.”

[SHOP WHITE SOX: Buy an Avisail Garcia jersey shirt]

Fighting today and only today was a theme of Ventura and general manager Rick Hahn’s pregame comments. Despite a season that’s seemed lost at more than one point, the White Sox aren’t ready to quit just yet, as they haven’t been mathematically eliminated from postseason contention.

Weekends like the one in Kansas City are the moments that have made this team look incapable of erasing the deficit and passing the teams required to earn one of the American League’s Wild Card spots. But it’s games like Monday’s that at times make the White Sox look capable of pulling off a late-season surge.

“I think when it’s a team win, you feel that way,” Ventura said. “And when guys pitch like that and you hit the ball and play some defense, everybody can feel good about it. That’s part of sticking together and grinding your way through it.”

Left, right, center: Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert and Micker Adolfo are dreaming of being the White Sox championship outfield of the future

Left, right, center: Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert and Micker Adolfo are dreaming of being the White Sox championship outfield of the future

GLENDALE, Ariz. — All that was missing was a dinner bell.

From all over the White Sox spring training complex at Camelback Ranch they came, lined up in front of the third-base dugout and all around the cage to see a trio of future White Sox take batting practice.

This is all it was, batting practice. But everyone wanted to get a glimpse of Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert and Micker Adolfo swinging the bat. And those three outfield prospects delivered, putting on quite a show and displaying exactly what gets people so darn excited about the White Sox rebuild.

How to sum it up if you weren’t there? Just be happy you weren’t parked behind the left-field fence.

Jimenez and Robert are two of the biggest stars of the White Sox rebuilding effort, with Adolfo flying a bit more under the radar, but all three have big dreams of delivering on the mission general manager Rick Hahn and his front office have undertaken over the past year and change: to turn the South Siders into perennial championship contenders. The offensive capabilities of all three guys have fans and the team alike giddy for the time they hit the big leagues.

And those three guys can’t wait for that day, either.

“Actually, just a few minutes ago when we were taking BP, we were talking about it,” Jimenez said Tuesday. “Micker and Luis said, ‘Can you imagine if we had the opportunity one day to play together in the majors: right, left and center field? The three of us together and having the opportunity to bring a championship to this team?’ I think that’s a dream for us, and we’re trying to work hard for that.”

“We were just talking about how cool it would be to one day all three of us be part of the same outfield,” Adolfo told NBC Sports Chicago. “We were talking about hitting behind each other in the order and just envisioning ourselves winning championships and stuff like that. It’s awesome. I really envision myself in the outfield next to Eloy and Luis Robert.”

How those three would eventually line up in the outfield at Guaranteed Rate Field remains to be seen. Adolfo’s highly touted arm would make him an attractive option in right field. Robert’s speed and range makes him the logical fit in center field. Jimenez will play whichever position allows his big bat to stay in the lineup every day.

Here in Arizona, the focus isn’t necessarily on some far off future but on the present. As intriguing as all three guys are and as anticipated their mere batting practice sessions seem to be, they all potentially have a long way to go to crack the big league roster. Jimenez is the furthest along, but even he has only 73 plate appearances above the Class A level. Adolfo spent his first full season above rookie ball last year. Robert has yet to play a minor league game in the United States.

The group could very well make its way through the minor leagues together, which would obviously be beneficial come the time when the three arrive on the South Side.

“We were talking about (playing in the big leagues), but also we were talking about just to have the first stage of the three of us together in the minor leagues first and then go to the majors all three of us together,” Robert said. “To have the opportunity to play there should be pretty special for us. We were dreaming about that.”

For months now, and likely for months moving forward, the question has been and will be: when?

Whether it’s Jimenez or top pitching prospect Michael Kopech or any other of the large number of prospects who have become household names, fans and observers are dying to see the stars of this rebuilding project hit the major leagues. Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez made their respective jumps last season. Hahn, who has said repeatedly this offseason that the front office needs to practice patience as much as the fan base, has also mentioned that a good developmental season for these guys might involve no big league appearances at all.

And it’s worth remembering that could be the case considering the lack of experience at the upper levels of the minor leagues for all three of these guys.

“In my mind, I don’t try to set a date for when I'm going to be in the majors,” Jimenez said. “That is something I can’t control. I always talk with my dad and we share opinions, and he says, ‘You know what? Just control the things that you can control. Work hard and do the things that you need to do to get better.’ And that’s my key. That’s probably why I stay patient.”

But staying patient is sometimes easier said than done. The big crowd watching Jimenez, Robert and Adolfo send baseballs into a to-this-point-in-camp rare cloudless Arizona sky proved that.

Dreaming of the future has now become the official pastime of the South Side. And that applies to fans and players all the same.

“I’m very, very excited,” Jimenez said, “because I know from the time we have here, that when the moment comes, when we can all be in the majors, the ones that can finally reach that level, we’re going to be good, we’re going to be terrific. I know that.”

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

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AP

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

GLENDALE, Ariz. — On a day when Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada took live batting practice for the first time this spring, off in the distance was a lanky White Sox prospect standing in the outfield grass.

But Alec Hansen was doing more than shagging flies. He was watching both hitters very closely.

“I was looking to see how much pop they had,” Hansen said of Abreu and Moncada. “I kind of look at that to see the difference in power between minor league ball and the major leagues. It’s nice to see it’s not a huge difference. That makes me feel a bit more comfortable.”

At 6-foot-8 — actually 6-foot-8-and-a-half, according to his spring training physical — Hansen is a big man with big plans for his baseball career. He might be quiet on the outside, but he has booming expectations for himself on the inside.

“I want to be the best,” Hansen said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago.

The best? The very best?

That’s what Hansen aspires to become, though later in our conversation, he did dial back a notch, settling for becoming “one of the best.”

Either is fine with manager Ricky Renteria, who is overseeing these uber-confident White Sox prospects and accepts their lofty expectations.

“I think their mindset is where it’s supposed to be,” Renteria said. “None of these kids are concerned or consumed with the possibility of failure. Much more they’re consuming themselves with the understanding that they might hit some stumbling blocks, but they’re going to have a way to avoid overcoming them and push forward and be the best that they can be.”

In his first full season in the White Sox organization, Hansen led the minor leagues with 191 strikeouts. He’s proud of that accomplishment but admitted something: He’s not that impressed because he didn’t do it where it really matters — in the major leagues.

When you watch Hansen pitch, it’s easy to see that the talent is there. His coaches and teammates rave about his ability. With his enormous size and power arm, he is loaded with strengths.  

Though there is one weakness that Hansen acknowledges he needs to work on.

“Sometimes I have a tendency to think too much and worry. I think worrying is the worst thing that I do just because I want to be perfect,” Hansen said. “I think everyone wants to be perfect, some more than others, and I worry about things getting in the way of achieving perfection.”

To Hansen, that doesn’t mean throwing a perfect game. He actually takes it one step further.

He wants to strikeout every single hitter he faces.

“I love striking people out,” Hansen said. “Not having to rely on anyone else and just getting the job done myself and knowing that the hitter can’t get a hit off me. That’s a great feeling. That they can’t put it in play. Like a line drive out. That’s terrible.”

At some point, Hansen will have to lower these impossible expectations for himself. This is an imperfect game. There’s no place for nine-inning, 27-strikeout performances. Players end up in the Hall of Fame because they learn how to succeed with failure.

In the meantime, Hansen is here in big league camp watching and learning anything and everything.

“I’m a good observer. I listen. I don’t really talk too much. I’m a pretty quiet guy. I like to sit back and observe and see how these guys go about their business. Just trying to be at their level, hopefully one day surpass them.”

Surpass?

“It’s kind of hard to surpass some of these guys. I mean, they’re at the tip-top, like the pinnacle of the sport,” Hansen said. “I guess you could say, to get on that level and then be one of the best in the league.”

He might be on his way.