White Sox

Jeff Samardzija challenges Miguel Cabrera, keys White Sox win

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Jeff Samardzija challenges Miguel Cabrera, keys White Sox win

How many times has Miguel Cabrera devastated the White Sox with a critical home run?

The non-scientific answer is enough where it’s not a surprise if he delivers a tying, go-ahead or clinching blast when presented with the opportunity. He was presented with one of those opportunities in the fifth inning of the White Sox 5-2 win Tuesday, coming to bat as the tying run with runners on the corners and two out.

Jeff Samardzija, though, stepped on the gas. He fired a 93 mile-per-hour cutter for strike one. Cabrera fouled off a fastball for strike two. And instead of wasting a slider or splitter out of the zone on 0-2 and risking letting Cabrera back into the count, Samardzija went at him with a 94 mile-per-hour fastball up and a little off the plate. The result was a foul tip into Geovany Soto’s mitt for strike three.

[SHOP: Get a Jeff Samardzija jersey here]

“There’s not much you need to say about (Cabrera),” Samardzija said. “He’s pretty impressive. You know every time he digs in (that) box you’ve got to be at your best. I just didn’t want to give him anything he could drive, especially with that three-run lead.

“I just wanted to stay away with him, and a guy like that if you put him on so be it. He’s not going to take any bags on you, but luckily we got out of it and especially with runners on its good to get that, start the next inning clean not facing Cabrera.”

Because it was in the top of the fifth, it wasn’t an incredibly high-leverage situation. But for the White Sox, a team that lost all five games it played last week and returned home to a cacophony of criticism, that strikeout — and the way Samardzija went about it — did stand as a key moment at least for one night.

Who knows how the White Sox would’ve responded had Cabrera mashed a three-run homer to tie the game at five. The Sox haven’t scored more than five runs in nearly two weeks, a stretch dating back to April 22 and covering nine games. And too, through 23 games, the White Sox have only topped the five-run mark three times.

[MORE: White Sox preach accountability as losing streak comes to an end]

The White Sox may or may not have taken momentum from Samardzija’s strikeout of Cabrera — that’s a difficult thing to determine, especially when the offense didn’t score again. More important, in terms of leverage, was Samardzija absorbing Ian Kinsler’s comebacker, pouncing off the mound and throwing the Tigers second baseman out with two on to end the top of the seventh.

“If (Brent) Seabrook can stay in the game taking a puck off the face I can stay in the game with a puck off the arm,” Samardzija said.

But in the fifth, they weren’t dealt the kind of haymaker thrown at them by Baltimore and Minnesota, the kind Cabrera — who went 0-4 Tuesday — has so frequently landed over the past eight seasons. And for that, it stood out on a chilly, cloudy evening in which the White Sox snapped that five-game losing streak.

“That was a big moment for us,” manager Robin Ventura said. “Anytime Cabrera's up there with guys on, it's never a good situation. You can tell there's some swing moments in there where he can back it up and get through it. That's one of them.”

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.