White Sox

If Sox are looking for a starter, Richard makes plenty of sense

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If Sox are looking for a starter, Richard makes plenty of sense

Earlier this week, a report surfaced that the White Sox had Zack Greinke on their radar. What that means is up for debate, but from a logical standpoint, it's tough to see the White Sox acquiring Greinke or any of the other top-flight starting pitchers on the trade market in the next few weeks.

But if the White Sox are serious about adding another starter to the mix, it makes much more sense for them to look a tier below the Grienkes, Garzas and Dempsters. And on Wednesday, a report from FOX Sports' Jon Morosi gave us a name, and it's one you may remember from such happenings such as the 2009 season and Jake Peavy trade: Clayton Richard.

Of course, "checked in" is about as vague of a trade deadline term as "on the radar." Like with Greinke, the Sox could be anywhere on the spectrum from kicking the tires to ready to execute a deal. And just because the White Sox have made some contact with San Diego about Richard doesn't mean the Padres are willing to trade him.

From a practical standpoint, though, Richard makes sense for the White Sox. He's developed into one of the National League's most durable starters and has a 3.83 ERA -- which, if it holds up, would be his third straight year with an ERA between 3.70 and 3.90.

Greinke, Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza and Cole Hamels will require a bounty for any team wishing to obtain their services prior to the July 31 non-waiver deadline. Richard, who has two more years of arbitration left before he hits free agency, likely wouldn't take a loaded package to pry away from San Diego.

Whereas the White Sox may not have the prospects to deal for a front-line starter at the deadline, they almost certainly could interest the Padres in a prospect or two for Richard.

The 28-year-old Richard has had an intriguing season with San Diego in 2012. Plenty of Padres pitchers since Petco Park opened have enjoyed the luxury of pitching half their games in its spacious dimensions. There were many who expected Jake Peavy to fall in Chicago thanks simply to moving from Petco Park to U.S. Cellular Field, where home runs are far more prevalent.

But Richard is actually allowing quite a high percentage of home runs both at home and on the road. At Petco Park, 13 percent of fly balls Richard has allowed have been home runs, while on the road that percentage is 16.7 percent. That's high across the board, but nonetheless is interesting for a successful Padres starter.

The good news for Richard is that he's walking opponents at the lowest rate of his major-league career, averaging 1.98 free passes per nine innings. He's not striking many out (about five per nine innings), but he's become an extreme ground ball pitcher -- over 50 percent of balls in play off Richard in the last two seasons have been on the ground.

That ground ball rate is a double-edged sword, though. While Richard has enjoyed success this season getting batters to beat the ball into the ground, opponents have a .256 BABIP against him, which is likely due for some sort of regression, especially with the amount of balls in play he allows.

Regardless, Richard has grown quite a bit since he was sent to San Diego at the deadline in 2009 -- the main key has simply been a drastic reduction in walks allowed. And that there is some familiarity between him and Don Cooper could wind up being a positive if he were to return to Chicago.

There's still plenty of time between now and the trade deadline. Maybe the White Sox surprise everyone and make a blockbuster deal for a starter. But if they are indeed looking for rotation help, trying to add their old friend in Richard may make more sense.

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.”