White Sox

John Danks' shutout propels White Sox to 6-0 victory

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John Danks' shutout propels White Sox to 6-0 victory

HOUSTON — It won’t always work this way for John Danks, but it looks pretty spectacular when it does.

With a Sunday gameplan that called for keeping the ball down, throwing strikes and utilizing his defense, Danks accomplished something no White Sox pitcher has done in 41-plus years when he pitched a complete-game shutout despite giving up at least 10 hits.

Backed by a strong defensive effort, Danks became the first White Sox pitcher since Stan Bahnsen on June 21, 1973, to complete the feat as the left-hander led the White Sox to a 6-0 victory over the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.

Danks, who made his longest start in 53 weeks, also became the club’s first pitcher since Chris Sale on May 12, 2013, to throw a complete-game shutout as the White Sox evened their record on the road trip at 4-4. The White Sox, who went 9-9 in 18 games played over 17 straight days, are off Monday.

“That’s how you draw it up,” said catcher Tyler Flowers, one of five White Sox hitters to drive in a run. “We got ahead of the majority of guys, executed some pitches, two out of the first three for strikes, put the pressure on them to put something in play. Towards the later innings (Danks) started leaving some pitches up ... kind of hurt us a little bit. But we did a good job getting out of jams.”

[MORE WHITE SOX: Houston trip jars Don Cooper's World Series memories]

Danks didn’t shy away from contact against a team that leads the major leagues with 68 home runs.

He induced three double-play balls and got 13 outs on the ground, including the final two with the shutout on the line.

White Sox manager Robin Ventura briefly visited Danks with one out in the ninth to give him a breather after a one-out double by Evan Gattis and a Chris Carter walk. Two pitches later, Danks got Luis Valbuena to swing at a 0-1 cutter that resulted in a nicely turned 4-3 double play by Carlos Sanchez.

Sanchez also stabbed a Jose Altuve liner with the bases loaded and one out in the third inning to start a 4-6-3 double play that ended with a spectacular diving stop by first baseman Adam LaRoche. And Gordon Beckham, who made three great plays at third, started a 5-4-3 double play off Gattis’ bat to end the sixth.

“I feel like I didn’t give in at any point,” Danks said. “I was able to throw pitches for strikes any time. Kept the ball in the ballpark. That’s a big thing for me this season: walks and home runs. Limited both, and it worked out.”

[MORE WHITE SOX: Jose Abreu optimistic, eyes Tuesday return to White Sox]

Danks also had some good fortune, too.

With his team trailing 4-0 and no outs in the fifth, Houston’s Jonathan Villar tripled over Adam Eaton, who broke in, only to be thrown out at home trying to stretch it into an inside-the-park-home run. In the seventh, Villar overran third as Sanchez kept Jason Castro’s single from leaving the infield, which led to an inning-ending rundown.

“We played good defense today behind him,” Ventura said. “You get (Beckham) over there, and we have a little more range when he’s over there, and even Sanchy, some of the plays. We turned a double play with the bases loaded. Rochie over there with the nice pick, keeping his foot on the bag. That’s just limiting the other team to do that.”

All of it added up to a much-needed victory for Danks, who has recently struggled. After a pair of strong starts earlier this month, Danks had allowed 11 earned runs in his last 10 1/3 innings. The victory in front of 15 to 20 friends and family members is also the first for Danks in five starts against the Astros. It also marked Danks’ first shutout since Aug. 27, 2011.

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A Jose Abreu-less offense put him in good position to beat Houston.

Flowers’ two-out RBI single in the second put the White Sox ahead for good. Conor Gillaspie singled in two in the third inning, and Alexei Ramirez made it 4-0 with an RBI fielder’s choice.

Sanchez had a two-out RBI single in the sixth, and LaRoche homered in the seventh inning.

“I’ve been saying for the last five days that I need a good one,” Danks said. “It’s just the last couple I’ve struggled. Hopefully, this will jumpstart a nice little run. That’s the goal every time out. Go as deep as possible and give us a chance to win. These guys scored plenty of runs, enough to kind of let us relax.”

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.”