White Sox

Jeff Samardzija's shutout lifts White Sox to 2-0 victory

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Jeff Samardzija's shutout lifts White Sox to 2-0 victory

Jeff Samardzija did nothing to diminish his trade value on Thursday afternoon nor did he hurt the White Sox slim postseason chances.

The White Sox right-hander looked very much like an ace as he bested one of the teams believed to be most interested in his services in a 2-0 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays in front of 23,298 at U.S. Cellular Field. Pitching in front of at least a dozen scouts, Samardzija hurled a four-hit shutout and Melky Cabrera homered as the White Sox won for the seventh time in nine games.

“I’d hope they know what I am by now anyway,” Samardzija said. “They have been scouting me for what, 2 1/2 years now. I think they have the book on me. It’s just going out and keep trying, especially for this team right now, where we’re at. We need to keep playing well and hopefully let them know we’re here and we need a whole year.”

Samardzija’s 2015 season has definitely improved with age.

The White Sox hold out hope theirs can, too.

Samardzija -- pitching at home for his childhood team --- said he pressed early on but has found a groove over the past six starts. Just likeSaturday against Baltimore, Samardzija took a no-hitter into the sixth inning in the finale against Toronto.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

He gave up a pair of hits that inning but induced a double play off Josh Donaldson’s bat to end the sixth.

Then his “amazing defense” kicked in led by Gordon Beckham and Carlos Sanchez. Samardzija applauded a diving effort by Beckham, who was at short in place of injured Alexei Ramirez, to end the eighth and Sanchez had a gem in the second. Those two also combined on a critical double play in the ninth as Donaldson bounced into a 4-6-3 when Beckham made a nice turn despite a hardslide by Devon Travis. Samardzija got Jose Bautista to chase a 3-2 slider to end the game.

Samardzija -- who walked one and struck out five -- has a 2.40 ERA in 45 innings over his last six starts.

While his improved pitching has helped boost the White Sox, they’re also aware it’s increasing his trade value. The Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles are two teams said to have some of the strongest interest in Samardzija andToronto GM Alex Anthropolus attended Thursday’s game.

“He was sharp, he was aggressive in the zone, his split was great,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “His competiveness is always there. I think that's probably the biggest thing that sticks when you just watch him pitch, emotionally and everything else. He kept it all together.

“You know he's a good pitcher. Everybody knows that. For us to lose a frontline a pitcher, it would be tough, absolutely.”

[MORE: White Sox in wait-and-see mode as trade deadline looms]

It has mostly been an uphill battle for the White Sox offense this season and Thursday was no different until they scored twice in the sixth inning.

They stranded a runner in scoring position in the fourth inning asR.A. Dickey retired Cabrera and Adam LaRoche. An inning later, the White Sox had runners on the corners and only one out. But Dickey retired Sanchez on a pop out to shallow center and struck out Beckham.

But Adam Eaton started the sixth inning with a triple to right-center field and he scored on a passed ball to give the White Sox a 1-0 lead. Cabrera then launched his fourth home run to right to make it a two-run game.

Given their seven recent victories have come against St. Louis, Baltimore and Toronto, the White Sox, who are 39-44, hope they can retain Samardzija and other key players long enough to try and erase a 32-42 start.

“We’re aware of what’s going on but if we play better baseball like we should we should have the team here,” Eaton said. “I truly believe we have the talent to win in this clubhouse. I said at beginning of spring training and I still believe it. We’re not even at the All-Star break yet.

“There’s no reason we cant play good enough baseball to get back into this thing.”

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.