White Sox

Jeff Samardzija has best start with White Sox to date

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Jeff Samardzija has best start with White Sox to date

DETROIT — Before the missed call/no challenge mess in the ninth, Jeff Samardzija put together his best outing as a member of the White Sox.

The unofficial centerpiece of the team’s massive offseason overhaul matched Detroit Tigers ace David Price for eight innings on Friday afternoon before the White Sox lost 2-1 on a Jose Iglesias walkoff single at Comerica Park.

Though he constantly had to fight out of jams, Samardzija gave the White Sox a reminder why they sent a four-player package to the Oakland A’s to acquire him in December. Samardzija, who entered with a 6.23 ERA, limited baseball’s fifth highest scoring offense to a run in eight innings and struck out seven. Price held the White Sox to a run and four hits in eight innings, striking out nine.

“You get both of those pitchers hooking up like that, they are fantastic, both of them,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “Jeff did a great job navigating through a lineup. And I think both sides were limited with what they could do because both sides were so good.”

[MORE: White Sox: Alexei Ramirez deems ninth-inning safe call incorrect]

Samardzija found himself in stressful situations most of the day, but managed to avoid trouble.

Detroit had a runner reach third base in the first, third, fifth and seventh innings, not counting Yoenis Cespedes’ fourth-inning homer.

But Samardzija found a way to wiggle out of each situation.

“If most proud of anything it was pitches with runners in scoring position,” Samardzija said. “They like to run and we cut that out, which I was happy about. That was a key going in the game. We were battling there. To get a couple ground balls here and there was huge.”

He stranded men at second and third in the first inning after Miguel Cabrera’s double off the top of the left-field wall as J.D. Martinez popped out and Cespedes grounded out to short. In the third, Gordon Beckham made two dazzling plays, one a throw to the plate and the other starting a double play with a great stab on a Cabrera shot toward the hole. Samardzija struck out J.D. Martinez to end the fifth inning and pitched around a leadoff double in the seventh as Beckham made a diving grab with a man on second. Samardzija then got two groundouts to end the rally.

“(Beckham) saved us a couple of times and made a nice play coming in,” Ventura said. “He can pick it over there.”

[SHOP: Get a Jeff Samardzija jersey here]

Though he only had three 1-2-3 innings, Samardzija got stronger as the game went on. He struck out two batters each in the sixth and eighth innings and finished with seven strikeouts. Samardzija allowed the one run and eight hits but walked none in a 106-pitch effort.

Price was just as good, if not better. Avisail Garcia homered in the fourth off the left-hander, who didn’t allow any of the other five base runners to reach scoring position.

“I always feel better the last 50 or 60 pitches of a game,” Samardzija said. “It’s a great team and I know from pitch 1 I had to have a great day to do what we wanted to do.

“I learned over the past few years when you’re facing the other team’s ace you have to be ready to go. You can’t make any mistakes and that homer to Cespedes was the difference in the game. If I could have one pitch back it would be that one.”

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

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AP

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

GLENDALE, Ariz. — On a day when Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada took live batting practice for the first time this spring, off in the distance was a lanky White Sox prospect standing in the outfield grass.

But Alec Hansen was doing more than shagging flies. He was watching both hitters very closely.

“I was looking to see how much pop they had,” Hansen said of Abreu and Moncada. “I kind of look at that to see the difference in power between minor league ball and the major leagues. It’s nice to see it’s not a huge difference. That makes me feel a bit more comfortable.”

At 6-foot-8 — actually 6-foot-8-and-a-half, according to his spring training physical — Hansen is a big man with big plans for his baseball career. He might be quiet on the outside, but he has booming expectations for himself on the inside.

“I want to be the best,” Hansen said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago.

The best? The very best?

That’s what Hansen aspires to become, though later in our conversation, he did dial back a notch, settling for becoming “one of the best.”

Either is fine with manager Ricky Renteria, who is overseeing these uber-confident White Sox prospects and accepts their lofty expectations.

“I think their mindset is where it’s supposed to be,” Renteria said. “None of these kids are concerned or consumed with the possibility of failure. Much more they’re consuming themselves with the understanding that they might hit some stumbling blocks, but they’re going to have a way to avoid overcoming them and push forward and be the best that they can be.”

In his first full season in the White Sox organization, Hansen led the minor leagues with 191 strikeouts. He’s proud of that accomplishment but admitted something: He’s not that impressed because he didn’t do it where it really matters — in the major leagues.

When you watch Hansen pitch, it’s easy to see that the talent is there. His coaches and teammates rave about his ability. With his enormous size and power arm, he is loaded with strengths.  

Though there is one weakness that Hansen acknowledges he needs to work on.

“Sometimes I have a tendency to think too much and worry. I think worrying is the worst thing that I do just because I want to be perfect,” Hansen said. “I think everyone wants to be perfect, some more than others, and I worry about things getting in the way of achieving perfection.”

To Hansen, that doesn’t mean throwing a perfect game. He actually takes it one step further.

He wants to strikeout every single hitter he faces.

“I love striking people out,” Hansen said. “Not having to rely on anyone else and just getting the job done myself and knowing that the hitter can’t get a hit off me. That’s a great feeling. That they can’t put it in play. Like a line drive out. That’s terrible.”

At some point, Hansen will have to lower these impossible expectations for himself. This is an imperfect game. There’s no place for nine-inning, 27-strikeout performances. Players end up in the Hall of Fame because they learn how to succeed with failure.

In the meantime, Hansen is here in big league camp watching and learning anything and everything.

“I’m a good observer. I listen. I don’t really talk too much. I’m a pretty quiet guy. I like to sit back and observe and see how these guys go about their business. Just trying to be at their level, hopefully one day surpass them.”

Surpass?

“It’s kind of hard to surpass some of these guys. I mean, they’re at the tip-top, like the pinnacle of the sport,” Hansen said. “I guess you could say, to get on that level and then be one of the best in the league.”

He might be on his way.

White Sox free up spot on 40-man roster by outrighting Dylan Covey

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USA TODAY

White Sox free up spot on 40-man roster by outrighting Dylan Covey

The White Sox freed up a spot on their 40-man roster Sunday, outrighting pitcher Dylan Covey to Triple-A Charlotte.

Covey pitched in 18 games last season, making 12 starts for the South Siders. Things did not go well, with Covey turning in an 0-7 record and a 7.71 ERA in 70 innings.

While there was an outside chance that Covey could have provided at least some starting-pitching depth heading into the 2018 season, the team's recent additions of Miguel Gonzalez and Hector Santiago — not to mention Covey's results from last season — wiped out that idea.

At the moment, the White Sox starting rotation figures to look like this by Opening Day: James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Gonzalez and Carson Fulmer, with Santiago seeming like a good option to provide depth as the long man in the bullpen.