White Sox

Healthy White Sox not seeking a statement vs. Royals

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Healthy White Sox not seeking a statement vs. Royals

Whether it was their goal or not, Kansas City made an awfully strong statement to begin the season.

While the White Sox received plenty of plaudits for their whirlwind offseason, the Royals had a relatively quiet winter and lost key players James Shields and Billy Butler. The result was prognosticators picking the White Sox to win the AL Central at a far higher rate than the Royals, despite Kansas City's 2014 run to the World Series.

[MORE: White Sox rookie Carlos Rodon ready for next chance]

So a three-game sweep in which the Royals dismantled the White Sox served as a reminder of just how good the Western Missouri club could be.

But the White Sox didn't have ace Chris Sale or setup man Jake Petricka for that series. 2014 No. 3 overall pick Carlos Rodon wasn't in the majors yet, either. Those three guys are here for the four-game series with Kansas City that opens Thursday night at U.S. Cellular Field, but the White Sox aren't approaching it like they need to make a major statement to the reigning American League champions.

"I’d like us to play better than we did the last time against them," manager Robin Ventura wryly said. "Statement series, that’s probably a bit much, but you want to play good baseball -- that’s the statement you want to make. I think guys are swinging it a little better and pitchers are doing well and that’s the stuff you really look for. I’d rather us play better baseball than make a statement to them. I’d rather make a statement for ourselves."

Center fielder Adam Eaton said the idea of statements or getting fired up for series like this is overblown -- "It doesn’t matter who’s out there, it could be a high school team, we want to take three out of four," he said -- even if the 11-4 Royals have come firing out of the gate.

[MORE: Jeff Samardzija earns first White Sox win]

At 6-8, the White Sox have leveled out since Kansas City throttled them to open the season. Getting Sale -- who's starting Thursday night against Royals ace Yordano Ventura -- has been the biggest boost. And it's one the White Sox will need to avoid another string of thorough defeats over the next few days.

"They’re very athletic and they’ve been playing well so you have to be able to use everybody and everybody needs to kind of be in their spot and be available," Ventura said. "It’s big for us to have Chris back at any time, but especially when you’re going up against a team and the way we started with these guys. You always want to feel complete when you’re competing with somebody as good as these guys."

After last season's personal tragedy, Tim Anderson ready to unleash real self

After last season's personal tragedy, Tim Anderson ready to unleash real self

GLENDALE, AZ --  There’s a different Tim Anderson at White Sox spring training this year.

You can see it on his face  You can hear it in his voice.

“I’m busting out of the shell. I’m talking more,” he said as he sat down for an interview with NBC Sports Chicago (in the video above).

It’s not the new Tim Anderson. It turns out, it’s the real one that’s been there all along.

“This is me. It’s always been me. I never knew how to express myself. I feel like I’m being a lot more open,” Anderson explained. “That’s what I want to give to fans. Let them know the real me. You’re cheering for me. Why not know me? I’m being open and kind of let fans into my life.”

The White Sox shortstop has learned a lot about life in the past year. It all started in May when the White Sox were in Baltimore to play the Orioles. Anderson received a phone call at 4 a.m. It was news from back home.

It was the worst phone call of his life.

His best friend Branden Moss had been murdered in the parking lot of a Tuscaloosa, Ala., bar after helping the victim of a fight.  

The two were like brothers. Anderson is the godfather to Moss’s young daughter. Moss was the godfather to Anderson’s 2-year-old daughter.

“It was heartbreaking,” Anderson said.

While Anderson grieved, playing baseball seemed like it would be a perfect escape for his pain. Only it wasn’t. Far from it.  Baseball might have made things even worse.

In fast-paced sports like football and hockey, players don’t have much time to think. It’s react, react, react. Whatever might be happening off the field feels like a million miles away.

Not in baseball.

The game moves at a much slower speed. There’s plenty of time for your mind to wander. Thoughts kept going back to Anderson’s lost friend, taken from him in an instant.

At 23, he didn’t have the tools to deal with the emotional pain and excel at baseball at the same time.

“The year was rough. I wasn’t having fun in between the lines. I was making the game harder than it was. I was thinking too much. I was feeling sorry for myself and the list can go on. When my friend died it definitely took a lot out of me. I had a dark moment,” Anderson said. “Some days I didn’t feel comfortable coming to the ballpark because I knew it was going to be a bad day.”

Making matters worse, there were many nights when Anderson didn’t sleep. Not a wink. Still, he dragged himself to the ballpark and somehow tried to play.

The results weren’t pretty. On June 22, Anderson already had 16 errors at shortstop, most in the majors. At the plate, he was hitting .256/.284/.374 with six home runs and 19 RBIs.

He knew he was better than that. He also knew something else: He needed help.

In July, Anderson started meeting with a therapist who was able to unlock the pent up thoughts and emotions that he was burying inside him.

The therapist would write down everything that Anderson was feeling on paper and then read it back to him.

“Just going in and talking and pouring everything out of you. It lets you hear what you’ve been going through,“ Anderson said. “When she did it, it was a lot. I took what she read to me, balled it up and threw it away. I got lighter. It was a brightening. Those counseling sessions definitely helped me.”

Soon, Anderson was back to being himself both on and off the field.

In the month of August, he had 8 doubles, 5 home runs and 16 RBI.

“Woof. I was hot,” he said after hearing those stats. “That’s Tim. That’s more Tim that we need to see.”

In September, he batted .327 with 3 home runs and 9 stolen bases.

“We need a lot of that this year. That’s the way I want to go. That’s the way I want to go about it. Get back to what got me here.”

There was still an issue with his plate discipline. He had 32 strikeouts and only 1 walk in September.

“We play a tough sport as it is. They’re going to come,” Anderson said about the walks. “I mean, when I walk more, what are you going to tell me? ‘Start swinging more?’ It’s one of those things. It’s a give and take. We’ll see what happens.”

In 2017, Anderson received a crash course in adversity. What did he learn from all that pain and misery?

“Tough times happen, but they don’t last forever.”

Now that he’s survived the personal storm from last season, he wants “another shot at it. I feel like last year went left. This is new season.”

So, what does he envision for himself in 2018?

“Having fun, smiling a lot, picking up my teammates, hugging on the coaches and players. A lot of love, more so than stats,” Anderson said. “I’m fired up. I’m excited. I feel like I’m ready to lead this pack. We got a great group of guys. We’ve got a chance to do something special.”

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.