White Sox

'Improved' Juan Minaya adds split-fingered fastball to repertoire

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USA TODAY

'Improved' Juan Minaya adds split-fingered fastball to repertoire

The White Sox wanted Juan Minaya to add another pitch when he casually mentioned a few weeks back he throws a split-fingered fastball.

The hope is to another pitch could help the rookie reliever improve against left-handed hitters. Minaya -- who has converted seven of eight saves with 49 strikeouts and a 4.75 ERA in 41 2/3 innings -- threw a split-finger fastball when he pitched in the Houston Astros farm system. But Minaya said the Astros thought he threw it too hard and discouraged its use. The White Sox are more than happy to have Minaya be able to attack another quadrant.

“The (changeup/split-fingered fastball) has been a nice addition,” pitching coach Don Cooper said. “We’re also trying to get him better and more consistent with his breaking stuff.

“Minaya has probably been one of the most improved guys, from the moment we picked him up from Houston, getting his delivery better. He’s throwing more strikes than he ever has with all of his pitches and the delivery enables that.”

Minaya, 27, hasn’t been scored upon in his last five appearances, though Avisail Garcia bailed him out with an assist on a wild game-ending play on Friday night.

Part of that success has come from the addition of the split-fingered fastball, which Minaya has thrown 16 times this month. Before September, Minaya had thrown the pitch only 11 times at the big-league level.

[MORE: Where does Jose Abreu fit in long-term plans?]

Minaya already throws a four-seam fastball, curve and a slider. But the split gives him a secondary pitch for lefties, who have an .829 OPS against Minaya this season.

“You can see he has confidence in it because he’s shaking to it a lot, which I love,” said catcher Kevan Smith. “He needed to throw that off his fastball. He has more than above average breaking stuff, but he broke it out a few weeks ago and we were like, ‘You’ve been holding out on us all season with that.’ That’s just going to bring more value to him, make more effective. A little more confident and successful.”

With the team’s entire original bullpen cast either traded or injured, Minaya has temporarily been thrust into the closer’s role. The mild-mannered righty has handled the ninth as well as could be expected and has shown the White Sox he has the stuff to potentially help out in the bullpen moving forward. Minaya would like to improve his fastball command but is pleased with how he’s handled a tricky situation. He’s also glad to have the White Sox supporting him throwing the split-fingered fastball.

“The other day I was talking with Coop and he said you need to get another pitch for lefties,” Minaya said. “I said I can throw the split, but I throw it hard. He said OK and I started throwing.

“The ninth inning is a tough inning, but you have to go out and compete.”

White Sox Talk Podcast: Peter Gammons explains why Michael Kopech will win a Cy Young Award

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Peter Gammons explains why Michael Kopech will win a Cy Young Award

On Day 2 of the MLB Winter Meetings, Chuck Garfien speaks with legendary baseball writer Peter Gammons, who shares his knowledge about the key figures in the White Sox rebuild.

He explains why Michael Kopech will win a Cy Young Award one day, and he raves about Carson Fulmer as well as the returns the White Sox got last year at the Winter Meetings in the Sale and Eaton trades.

Then Garfien is joined by White Sox manager Rick Renteria who talks about Jose Abreu’s leadership, if he sees the White Sox trading Abreu, what he’s seen from Luis Robert and more.

We wrap up the podcast with NBC Sports Chicago’s Vinnie Duber, who’s covering the White Sox at the Winter Meetings. They discuss whether the White Sox would trade for Manny Machado or Christian Yelich and give a list of free-agent pitchers the White Sox should sign.  

Carson Fulmer expected to be part of White Sox rotation, but is he a part of the rebuild's future?

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USA TODAY

Carson Fulmer expected to be part of White Sox rotation, but is he a part of the rebuild's future?

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The White Sox starting rotation is coming into focus.

With James Shields, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez locked into the top three slots, one of the items on the team’s offseason to-do list was to figure out who the final two spots would go to.

Obviously, Carlos Rodon has a spot when he’s healthy. But after having surgery at the end of last season, there’s no telling when he’ll be back. General manager Rick Hahn keeps saying it could be by Opening Day or it could be by June, and there has been no change to that prognosis at the Winter Meetings here at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort.

One of the two open spots, though, appears set to go to Carson Fulmer, the White Sox first-round draft pick back in 2015. Hahn said if everything remains the same as it is right now, the team expects Fulmer to be one of its five starting pitchers in 2018.

“We certainly have the expectation that he’ll be part of the rotation come the end of spring training,” Hahn said during his daily briefing Tuesday. “Let’s see how everybody shows up, health wise, any other potential transactions between now and then, and what the ultimate fit is and what’s best for his long-term development. But as we sit here today, I think you could look at him as one of our five.”

While Fulmer was drafted out of Vanderbilt to be a starting pitcher of the future, he’s made just five big league starts in his mere 15 appearances in the majors. As a reliever in 2016, things went poorly, as he allowed 11 runs in just 11.2 innings. Last season was better, at least after his first appearance of the season, in which he gave up six runs in 1.1 innings in a start on Aug. 21. He came back in September and posted a 1.64 ERA in six appearances, which included four starts.

Hahn admitted Tuesday that Fulmer might have been rushed to the big leagues after being selected with the No. 8 pick in 2015. But if Fulmer can replicate what happened in September, maybe there’s another future piece people should be talking about.

“He’s had some hardships thrown his way, both with getting accelerated a little too quickly to get the big leagues initially given where we were as a club at the time to some off-the-field stuff. But he’s bounced back from all of it, he hasn’t hung his head at all, and I think in September we saw him hit his stride a little bit and show some of the flashes of what he’s capable of doing,” Hahn said. “We certainly view him as a guy who has the ability to contribute both in the rotation or in the ‘pen depending on where the need is.”

Considering Fulmer was drafted and even made his major league debut before the much-heralded rebuild officially began, it’s easy to let him slip through the cracks when mentioning highly rated prospects like Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, Eloy Jimenez and even fellow pitchers like Giolito and Lopez. But Hahn said he thinks Fulmer should be included in that group of names, too.

“I think so,” Hahn said. “From a fit standpoint, from a clubhouse standpoint, it’s tough to beat him. From success in big games, we saw that going back to Vanderbilt. So he’s been tested under the brightest lights at each stage and succeeded. Now it’s a matter of him, as we saw to an extent in September, seizing the opportunity that’s in front of him and making the most of it.”

It sure looks like Fulmer will get that opportunity — even if the White Sox add a veteran to help balance out a young rotation. And then he can prove if he is truly a long-term piece of the puzzle on the South Side.