White Sox

John Danks on hot streak after Dioner Navarro's tip on tipping pitches

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John Danks on hot streak after Dioner Navarro's tip on tipping pitches

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Dioner Navarro was asked if the way John Danks has been tipping his pitches was pretty obvious to him.

“I’m 9-for-18 in my career off him,” Navarro said with a smile.

Danks continued a nice stretch with six scoreless innings Wednesday, two starts after the veteran catcher suggested a pre-delivery movement allowed hitters to know what was coming. Avisail Garcia homered and singled in a run of support for Danks, who struck out six in a 6-1 White Sox victory over the San Diego Padres.

Danks has pitched 12 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings since Navarro tipped him off that he might be tipping.

“I was getting ready to roll an L screen out there,” Danks said. “Dioner has been around. He’s seen me. He’s faced me. If he identifies something, I don’t need to go look at it. I trust him. He told me exactly what I was doing. We fixed it, and it hasn’t been an issue since.”

Navarro believes the issue was how Danks positioned his glove against his stomach before certain pitches. Navarro — who is actually 11-for-26 with three doubles, three homers and five RBIs against Danks — informed his teammate what he thought he saw after Danks allowed eight runs between the second and third innings of his March 13 start against Arizona.

Danks has kept his glove still ever since. He closed the Arizona start with 1 1/3 scoreless frames and hasn’t been scored upon since he made the change. He also has struck out 13 batters in 11 innings in his past two starts.

“I just noticed it the last start he had,” Navarro said. “That’s my job.

“It kinda makes me a little proud that he kinda took notice and worked on it.”

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That’s not the only reason for Danks’ recent success.

He has grown more comfortable with the mechanical adjustments that he and pitching coach Don Cooper have worked on, which includes stressing better arm-side command, something Danks has identified as a past weakness.

“He’s getting ahead,” Navarro said. “That’s the No. 1 thing. Obviously, everyone knows he’s not an overpower guy, he’s a paint guy. So if he gets ahead, he’s got a great shot. If he falls behind, it’s going to be a little bit harder. But we still gotta do what we gotta do.”

Danks thinks he knows what he has to do to once again find success after a handful of rough seasons. He likes how he has been able to throw the ball where he wants it of late. He knows he needs to rely on better command to get by, and that’s why he has tried to improve throwing the ball inside to left-handers and away to righties.

“Lot of focus on arm side,” Danks said. “The goal is to put myself to be in a position that is as consistent as possible, and it starts with the mechanics and I think we’re definitely comfortable with it at this point. It’s something we’re going to harp on all summer I’m sure.”

If this success carries over he’ll probably owe Navarro a dinner or two, too. Danks said he has convinced himself that’s why Arizona put up the crooked numbers against him and feels good with his work. He also appreciates that Navarro told him when he did.

“I might still be pitching against Arizona if he didn’t tell me that,” Danks said.

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.”