White Sox

Long day ends on a sweet and sore note for Sox

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Long day ends on a sweet and sore note for Sox

Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011
Posted: 9:27 p.m. Updated: 11:08 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com White Sox InsiderFollow @CSNChi_Beatnik
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White Sox fall in Game 1

CLEVELAND The Chicago White Sox were pleased to escape with a doubleheader split as precious time to do so slipped away, storming back to knock off the Cleveland Indians in Tuesdays nightcap, 5-4.

But even in doing so, the sweet note turned sour, as three White Sox batters were pelted by Wahoos pitches, with nonexistent retaliation. The White Sox put more effort and aggression into criticizing one anothers clothing and style than offering opponents chin music or a slide spikes-high.

Paul Konerkohe of a month away from first base after taking a ball directly on a leg nerve in Julywas the first to be belted, with a 93 mph fastball, in what appeared to be a fairly sensitive spot. PK cussed his way to first base, but come bottom frame, Matt Thornton had nothing to say about it.

In the ninth, Indians reliever Josh Judy lost complete control, hitting everything in sight. First it was Gordon Beckham, drilled squarely below the numbers, shot in the back with an 89 mph fastball. Juan Pierre, who has already been hit by his share of baseballsseven so far in 2011escaped harm with an ever ready sac buntAll-In for the little fellas.

But then Alexei Ramirez took a shot up and in, off his shoulder. Ever dramatic, Alexei spun and hopped, hopped and spun. No, it wasnt his shot dead trick done sprawled on the ground, an act that makes even prankster jefe Ozzie Guillen giggle, but it was dramatic.

Perhaps, then, with two bruised and sore baserunners on first and second, revenge would be wreaked on the basepaths?

Opportunity arose, in the form of PK back at the plate. But Konerko grounded to short, and Ramirez did his best El Caballo (Carlos Lee) imitation with a slide that stopped some six feet short of second. Yes, legs were outstretched, but no second sacker would be spiked on this playnudged, brushed, peed on, perhaps. But spiked in retaliation, no. The slide was something you might see stealing a base in a father-son game.

Still, there was one more shot at redemption, with hard-throwing, wacky motioned, wicked movemented Chris Sale on the mound for the ninth. But no, it was just a mere, four-batter save. No harm, no foul. Pack it up and start tomorrow back at 1 behind the Wahoos for second place in a Central once preordained them.

Postgame, Konerko was so bruised he was unavailable, the Capn typically apologetic and promising time on Wednesday, when any sensitive swelling might not be so intrusive. Bacon was available, packed in ice like the fish to flop he was made out to be by his pitching staff. And Ramirez was also wrapped tightly around his left shoulder, muled down with enough ice to margarita the entire clubhouse.

Beckham spoke, and he really didnt have much to say vis a vis vitriol.

I feel fine. It just knocked the wind out of me a little bit. No worries, said the second baseman, stiff upper lipped. I dont ever take a HBP as intentional.

The young grinder, unfortunately having to answer for HBPs in advance of chatting on the breakout offensive game he finally experienced after a 150-game wait, seemed reluctant to dismiss the charges against Judy. Or, maybe he wasnt.

If it was intentionalit wasnt intentional, Beckham convinced himself. Judy didnt have control, and he let it slip on a couple. But after you see Paul get hit and Alexei earlier in the day and then two more, obviously it wasnt intentional. There was just a lot of hit batsmen today.

In advanced mathematics, we call this solving the proof, Gordon. The only problem is, you and the remainder of the clubhouse crew seem to have the solution twisted.

There wasnt a lot of guidance from the top, no matter how much grit and spit and grindiness espoused by the teams general.

Obviously, I was upset, but I dont think they were throwing at us, manager Ozzie Guillen said. Its a bunch of kids coming from the minor leagues, and you cant do nothing about it. Just run to first base and go get the trainer, thats all you can do. I doubt they threw at us.

Ozzie, forgive the snickers from your audience. They know not of this modern baseball you are forced to manage, when minor leaguers hit with impunity your millionaire, long-term superstars, guys who you feel will have statues at U.S. Cellular Field and even one day plaques in Cooperstown. They do not understand your powerlessness against the minimum-wagers of the sport.

Guillen was more interested in talking of the sweet than the sore, anyway.

You make a long day a little bit nicer by winning the nightcap, Guillen said. We got to feel both sideswe lose and we win. It was tough in the nightcap because were down 4-0 or 4-1 right away, and I thought this whole day is going to be very long. But we fought back and won the game.

Beckham has learned well at the foot of the master: Bark brusquely, but shy at the sign of a bite.

It would have been a really long night if we had lost the nightcap, but we were able to come through, he said. We really played a good game, so Im happy for us.

Alejandro De Aza, often unable to repeat starts in spite of his blistering .926 OPS in his short time in Chicago, was certainly happy; he had two hits, drove in two, and saved at least one with a customary sprawling play in center field.

Omar Vizquel, nearly two decades De Azas senior, likewise chipped in two hits as an adoring Cleveland Indians fanbase roared; he was all grins. And even Beckhams kidney punch came after a career-high three doubles; doubtlessly he sleeps more sweetly tonight, albeit on his stomach.

But smiles aside, the Chisox managed to show the true colors that embody this All In-turned-Well Were Here season on Tuesday night, making even a turnabout of 4-0, dead-dugout deficit into a colorless 5-4 comebacker anesthetized by anticlimax.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.

Robinson Cano sees superstar potential in Yoan Moncada

Robinson Cano sees superstar potential in Yoan Moncada

The greats know greatness.

Looking across the field this week at Yoan Moncada, 8-time All-Star Robinson Cano not only saw a lot of himself in the White Sox second baseman, he believes he was witnessing a future baseball star. 

“I can see a guy who’s going to be a superstar in this game,” Cano said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago on the White Sox Talk Podcast. “He can field, he can throw, he can hit. In the first game against us, he was a hit away from the cycle. He can hit right now. Imagine when he’s in the league two or three years and is facing the same guys for the last couple years. Then you have a different approach. The guy that I see, you just got to give it time and keep working hard because I think he’ll be a superstar.”

Cano had heard the comparisons between himself and Moncada, but until this week, he had never seen his protege play baseball in person.

The two of them hadn’t even met until Monday when they encountered each other at of all places—second base. Moncada had just doubled for his second hit of the night. That gave Cano a close look at the swing that happens to be identical to his.

“I was watching that the other day on second base and I was like, ‘Wow, it’s the same swing,’” Cano said.

Growing up in Cuba, Moncada idolized Cano. He didn’t just play the same position and copy his swing, he wore Cano’s jersey number and even named his son after him.

“It’s something you can’t describe because as a player it’s the first time that’s happened where you see a player name their kid after you,” Cano said.

Despite their similarities, Cano admits there are some differences that favor the young Moncada.

Who hits the ball harder?

“I would say him. He’s stronger.”

And speed?

“He’s got something I never have. He can run. I was slow, always.”

Moncada’s biggest problem right now is strikeouts. He has 38 this season, second most in baseball. Cano, who has only 14, provided some advice for Moncada.

“The only thing I can give him for that is making the game simple and try not to swing so hard,” Cano explained. "The thing is when we swing too hard and try to hit a homer, we chase pitches. When you try to stay simple, try to make contact and use the whole field that’s when you can minimize the strikeout.”

Cano was 22 in his rookie season. Moncada is currently 23. A player’s first few seasons in the majors is mainly about learning and maturing, which Moncada is essentially doing every time he comes to the plate. Often times his talent just takes over like it did on Wednesday when he homered in the first pitch he saw against Felix Hernandez. After that, he struck out three times.

Moncada’s offensive game has so far been quite boom or bust. Over time that should level out. When it does, look out. 

In the meantime, more wisdom from Cano:

“Sometimes as a kid, you want to go out and all you think is about putting out numbers compared to playing the game that you know how to play. You need to let the numbers come to themselves, not try to get a hit every time, or I’ve got to hit a homer or want to swing hard. Just go out and try to win a game.”

Cano didn’t learn this on his own. It helped having former Yankees teammates like Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield show him not just how to play, but how to win.

“When you have someone who can help you in this game, that’s the best thing to happen to a player,” Cano said. “When someone can be there for you and say, “In this situation I think you’re wrong.’ Someone who can tell you something you don’t want to hear.”

For Moncada, one of those players right now is Jose Abreu.

“Having a guy like (Abreu) who can help is good especially since they’re from the same country.”

At one point during Wednesday’s game, Moncada and Cano crossed paths between innings. They smiled at each other before going their separate ways. Cano to second base where the 35 year-old is in the twilight of his career. Moncada to the White Sox dugout where most of his career awaits.

“He’s going to be great in this game,” Cano said about Moncada. “He just needs to stay healthy and keep working hard. People don’t realize that this game is more about time.”

That was Cano's way of saying: be patient White Sox fans. A "superstar" is here. His time will come.

White Sox record isn't pretty, but Yoan Moncada has provided a shiny silver lining of late

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USA TODAY

White Sox record isn't pretty, but Yoan Moncada has provided a shiny silver lining of late

The silver linings aren’t always a joy to find during this rebuilding season. “Well, at least …” can become a somewhat tired refrain as the White Sox sit at 5-16.

But that’s the reality for the rebuilding White Sox, for whom brighter days surely lie ahead. The stocked farm system keeps delivering news of prospect achievements, and the young players at the major league level are providing their own positive signs for the years that are coming.

The South Siders wrapped a 1-5 homestand Wednesday afternoon with their second straight one-run defeat to the visiting Seattle Mariners. They only had one hit after the third and saw the last 13 hitters go down in order. James Shields walked four more guys to bring his season total to 17 in six appearances. The White Sox starting staff leads the majors with 65 free passes issued.

Well, at least … 

Wednesday, it was Yoan Moncada’s leadoff homer in the bottom of the first, a ball that was absolutely crushed into the right-field seats. The distance and power were strong signs for a player expected to be at the center of all that future success. But perhaps of greater note to those who have watched his still-nascent big league career was the fact that the homer came on the first pitch Felix Hernandez threw, a departure from the long at-bats Moncada has been famous for working in his first two seasons on the South Side.

But perhaps it’s just as strong a showing of his hitter’s eye that he was able to do what he did with that first pitch.

“I was trying to be aggressive in that at-bat, swing at the first pitch,” Moncada said. “It was a good pitch for me, and I put the barrel on the ball and made good contact. That was it.”

Moncada, to add luster to this silver lining, has been mashing of late. In the last nine games, Moncada is slashing .333/.421/.848 with eight extra-base hits, four home runs, eight RBIs and eight runs scored. His five home runs rank second on the team, behind only Jose Abreu. And he's just two days removed from coming a single short of the cycle in Monday's win. Yes, he’s also struck out 14 times in the nine-game span, a constant concern for a guy who’s right around the major league lead in punch outs. But he’s also drawn five walks and stolen four bases.

Yes, the White Sox went 1-8 in those contests. But if the 2018 campaign is about developing the players who will power future contenders, then this recent surge by Moncada, one of the rebuild’s biggest stars, ought to please the front office and fans alike who have bought in to the rebuild but remain eager for the strategy to translate into big league success.

“As experience and time give him more opportunity to gain more knowledge of himself and the opponent, and what he’s capable of doing, he’s barely scratching the surface of who he is,” manager Rick Renteria said. “There’s no way that any of us believe in any way, shape or form that he’s a finished product. He continues to develop his skill set, continues to learn, make adjustments as do most players, but one as young as he is, with the skill set he brings to the table, you hope that it ultimately winds up playing really big dividends, which I believe we expect that in the near future.”

“I agree with Ricky,” Moncada said. “I also think that I’m just in the learning process. It’s step by step. I think that I have a lot of talent and I can be a much better player overall. I agree with him. It’s just a process. I try to improve and get better every day.”

An interesting question might be how many leadoff home runs Moncada will have a chance to hit when the oft-projected 2020 lineup takes full shape. Moncada was seemingly entrenched in the leadoff spot when this season began, though Renteria has already moved him out of that spot against left-handers, opting instead to put Tim Anderson at the top of the lineup. Moncada’s got just one hit in only four at-bats outside the leadoff spot, more an indication of his struggles against lefties, against whom he’s batting .130 with 12 strikeouts in 23 at-bats.

Though with his increased power display in the last week and a half, it sparks curiosities of Moncada being more of a middle-of-the-order bat than one that is parked at the top for the remainder of his career.

“He has an extremely good eye,” Renteria said. “Right now, as you see, we’ve mixed and matched him with Timmy now the last two or three days maybe to give him the best chance to have the most positive outcomes possible. We know that right now against righties, he’s very, very good. And right now he’s working on improving his approaches against left-handed pitchers. Seems to me the last couple of days he’s shown some pretty good signs against lefties in his at-bats, contact, swings, approach, and so we’re going to try to continue to develop whatever we need to do in order to maximize the confidence he can gain and the opportunities he gets in any situation.

“And then at some point, I’m sure it will be defined as to what he is ultimately from both sides of the plate and if he’s going to be ultimately a leadoff hitter from both sides of the plate against anybody. His eye says to me that he’s capable of doing that. But sometimes you want to give him the best matchup and you also want to, within the construct of the lineup that you have and the guys that you have, maximize what those guys are capable of doing.”

Moncada and the White Sox both have a long way to go until they transform from 5-16 to the planned contender this rebuilding effort is supposed to yield. But if this season is about anything at the big league level, it’s about Moncada’s development. It’s a small sample size, yes, but of late, Moncada has shown some signs of a guy who could be one of the reasons the South Siders are contending one day.