White Sox

Jeff Samardzija, White Sox rebound to beat Twins, snap skid

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Jeff Samardzija, White Sox rebound to beat Twins, snap skid

It was about halfway through batting practice on Friday night when J.B. Shuck found out he’d start in place of Avisail Garcia.

Shortly after, Shuck headed to the clubhouse to watch film and five hours later his sacrifice fly made the difference in a 3-2 White Sox victory over the Minnesota Twins in front of 21,067 at U.S. Cellular Field.

Shuck went 2-for-3 in support of Jeff Samardzija, who was nearly unhittable over his final seven innings and finished with nine strikeouts. David Robertson saved his team’s third win in 20 tries when they score three or fewer run as the White Sox snapped a three-game losing streak.

“I’m just trying to get something up, hopefully something I can drive into the outfield, and be ready from the first pitch,” Shuck said. “When I found out is when you really start to prepare. …

“Being at home, you still have time after to come in, watch film and get ready. So I had plenty of time.”

[MORE: Garcia being cautious with right knee inflammation]

Shuck’s sacrifice fly off Twins reliever Michael Tonkin arrived just in time to earn Samardzija (4-2) a well-deserved victory. Gordon Beckham drew a one-out walk off Aaron Thompson (0-1) in the eighth inning and Alexei Ramirez moved him over to third with his third single of the night. Shuck hit Tonkin’s first pitch to deep center to easily score Beckham for the one-run lead.

Robertson needed only nine pitches as he struck out two in a 1-2-3 inning for his ninth save in 10 tries.

“This is part of having a guy (Shuck) that knows how to play the game and competes,” manager Robin Ventura said. “He had a great game tonight. The last minute you put him in there, he knows how to play. That last at-bat can go a couple different ways. With him, you can bunt him in, hit and run, but a sac fly, he just gives you a professional at-bat.”

[SHOP: Buy a Jeff Samardzija jersey]

Though the early boo birds may have thought different, Samardzija gave the White Sox a fantastic effort.

In the first he allowed a one-out single to Torii Hunter, who was running when Joe Mauer doubled a 3-2 pitch to left-center field to put Minnesota ahead 1-0. Mauer stole third with ease off Samardzija, who has a 9.00 ERA in the first and second innings this season. Trevor Plouffe made it 2-0 with a sac fly.

But that was all Samardzija would allow.

He pitched around a leadoff walk in the second inning and once again got stronger as the game went on. Samardzija retired 17 straight starting in the second inning and cut down 23 of the last 25 men he faced. Flashing a fastball that touched 96 mph on his 118th and final pitch, Samardzija overpowered the Twins and looked every bit the pitcher the White Sox thought they were getting when they acquired him in a six-player deal from Oakland in December. He struck out five of six batters in the fifth and sixth innings.

Samardzija allowed three hits, two earned runs, a walk over eight innings. He’s 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 21 innings in his past three home starts.

[ALSO: Noesi to get the start on Monday against Blue Jay as Rodon pushed back]

“That's what you kind of start to expect out of him,” Ventura said. “As the game goes along, he just seemed to be locating better, throwing harder, sharper stuff. You feel pretty comfortable, even with him up around 100 pitches, you're still feeling really good about him. I think he handled the lineup and kind of getting through it, it was a great performance.”

It took the White Sox offense time to break through against Minnesota starter Phil Hughes. He struck out Jose Abreu -- who later singled off the left-field fence to extend his hitting streak to 17 games -- and Adam LaRoche with a man on in the first. Hughes then set down Geovany Soto and got a spectacular diving grab from center fielder Aaron Hicks with runners on the corners to rob Carlos Sanchez and end the second. But Soto tied it in the fourth with a two-out, two-run double just inside third base.

The White Sox now have 13 comeback victories.

“I have always known as long as I’ve been pitching you gotta get that first inning and get out of there unscathed,” Samardzija said. “Those things happen. They had a couple hits, found some grass and we got out of it with two and went from there. With this offense we have I know I have to battle every inning and we’re gonna have a chance to win.”

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.