White Sox

Jose Quintana keeps on going

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Jose Quintana keeps on going

There's still no stopping Jose Quintana.

The 23-year-old rookie's success very well could've come to a screeching halt Thursday afternoon against Texas. Last week, Quintana allowed six runs in six innings against the Yankees, his first start since coming to the majors that wasn't good. Of course, it came against the second-best lineup in the majors (by wOBA).

On Thursday, Quintana faced the best lineup in the major leagues and held them to two hits and one run over eight innings. He only walked one and struck out eight. Given the opponent and level of success, it was arguably Quintana's best start of the season.

With the start, Quintana's ERA dipped to 2.04 on the season. While it's tough to expect him -- or anyone -- to maintain an ERA that low for the rest of the season, his 3.04 FIP gives us a pretty decent indication that he'll keep up some level of success.

The biggest worry about Quintana is how he'll adjust when the league gets the book on him, so to speak. But we're already seeing Quintana make adjustments, and succeed with those adjustments.

Quintana threw 113 pitches on Thursday: 54 fastballs, 34 sliders, 20 curveballs and five changeups, according to Brooks Baseball's pitch fx tool. His breaking stuff was outstanding, generating 11 swings and misses, and he threw both his curveball and slider at a higher rate than in his previous nine appearances.

His changeup is still very much a work in progress, and down the road, he'll probably need that pitch to sustain success. But for now, his ability to change speeds on his curveball -- which had about a 4-5 mph range and was generally about 10-15 mph slower than his fastball -- has been good enough. His hard slider has kept opponents honest on his fastball, which maxes out in the low 90's.

But perhaps most importantly, Quintana appears mentally mature beyond his years. Plenty of young pitchers, from the most hyped prospect to the off-the-scrap-heap fill-in, struggle to throw strikes on baseball's biggest stage. Quintana hasn't had that problem -- he's only averaging 1.57 walks per nine innings.

He's made it easy to forget that he still has yet to pitch a game at the Triple-A level. Quintana was released by the Yankees' organization after pitching in Single-A last year. He certainly doesn't have the profile of someone who should be dominating the best lineup in baseball.

But on Thursday, Quintana did just that. And perhaps the most surprising thing is that it wasn't really a surprise at all.

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.