White Sox

Jeff Samardzija bests Royals in potential last start for White Sox

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Jeff Samardzija bests Royals in potential last start for White Sox

Just as the White Sox hoped when they acquired him, Jeff Samardzija earned a late September victory over a top American League club on Tuesday night.

But little else has gone according to plan for Samardzija or the White Sox.

Samardzija delivered seven sharp innings as the White Sox bested the Kansas City Royals 4-2 at U.S. Cellular Field. But instead of pitching in a pennant race, Samardzija was mostly improving his free agent resume as he likely made his final start for the White Sox, who officially were eliminated from the wild-card race last weekend. After losing eight of his previous nine starts, Samardzija won his second in a row.

“We all wish it would have been different,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “I know he would, we would. But again, I look at him as a good pitcher. It didn't work in that period of time but you see him throw these last two games he threw, you realize he's a good pitcher.”

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Two starts after he was booed off the U.S. Cellular Field mound, Samardzija disappointed a Royals-friendly crowd as he posted five straight scoreless innings to start.

Samardzija, who threw a one-hit shutout last week in Detroit, only got in trouble once in the early going. But he pitched around a pair of one-out singles in the second inning and retired nine straight batters into the fifth.

It’s just the type of outing the White Sox envisioned from Samardzija when they acquired him from Oakland last December and one he has only delivered on occasion in a disappointing season. Prior to his shutout on Sept. 21, Samardzija went 1-8 with 9.24 ERA in the nine starts since the White Sox opted to hang onto him at the trade deadline. At the time of that decision — a total reversal as the club was expected to sell Samardzija to the highest bidder — the White Sox had won seven straight games. Suddenly they found themselves in the thick of the wild-card race and had visions of a deep postseason run with a rotation headed by Samardzija and Chris Sale.

But by the time Samardzija lost an Aug. 29 decision against the Seattle Mariners — his sixth straight loss in August — the White Sox had fallen seven games behind the second wild-card spot.

[RELATED: Robin Ventura hopes entire coaching staff returns in 2016]

Instead of a storybook ending pitching for the team he grew up rooting for, Samardzija said he’s unsatisfied with his season.

“I had a big role in what happened this year, and just think about it, if you throw a couple better games here and there, instead of some clunkers like I did, we might be telling a little different story right now,” Samardzija said. “But you let it all hang out every game and what happens, happens. Unfortunately it didn't go my way as many times as I wanted to for this team, but, you know, that's the way it goes.”

With Samardzija in top form on Tuesday the White Sox never trailed. They took a 1-0 lead in the third inning on Jose Abreu’s two-out RBI single and increased the lead to three runs on Adam Eaton’s two-run homer in the sixth.

Samardzija — who allowed two runs and eight hits in seven innings — saw his scoreless innings streak end at 14 in the sixth as Eric Hosmer and Kendrys Morales had back-to-back solo homers to get Kansas City within a run.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

But Samardzija, who finished 11-13 with a 4.96 ERA in 214 innings, struck out Mike Moustakas to end the sixth and was aided by a fantastic run-saving catch by Trayce Thompson in the seventh.

Samardzija intends to enjoy his final five games in a White Sox uniform. He believes the team has a lot of great pieces and only needs to solve its consistency issue.

He also said it’s hard not to wonder what if.

“That’s the million-dollar question every year,” Samardzija said. “As a professional, you’re meant to go out and find that as quick as possible, and a lot of times that’s out on mound mid-game. There’s a lot of things that go into it. Sometimes it’s about just clearing your head and having fun out there, and enjoying what you’re doing instead of putting so much pressure on yourself.”

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.”