White Sox

Mat Latos cruises again, White Sox bats show up late in win over Angels

Mat Latos cruises again, White Sox bats show up late in win over Angels

Mat Latos wasn’t getting the low strike called, and it resulted in a high pitch count early on Tuesday night.

But the White Sox right-hander never deviated from the game plan, and it paid off.

Just like his offense, Latos overcame a slow start and continued an outstanding run to begin his White Sox career. Latos pitched 6 1/3 scoreless innings, and Todd Frazier and Jose Abreu homered for the White Sox, who broke it open late in a 5-0 win over the Los Angeles Angels in front of 12,093 at U.S. Cellular Field. Latos allowed two hits, struck out five and lowered his earned-run average to 0.49 as the White Sox snapped a three-game losing streak.

Nate Jones pitched two scoreless innings for his first career save.

“Perfect,” catcher Dioner Navarro said. “(Latos) did a great job. He did exactly what we needed him to do, especially us using the ‘pen the way we did (on Monday). We needed Matty to go long after yesterday, and he did an outstanding job.”

The White Sox were desperate for Latos to go deep after Carlos Rodon only recorded one out in Monday’s loss. The front end of the bullpen was off limits after it recorded 26 outs a night earlier. Erik Johnson was called up from Triple-A Charlotte for emergency use only.

But it didn’t look as if Latos would last long.

With home-plate umpire Chris Conroy not rewarding Latos the low strike, his pitch count soared. He pitched around first-inning walks of Mike Trout and Albert Pujols but had thrown 48 pitches after two scoreless frames.

One pitch aside, Latos didn’t give into frustration and abandon the plan.

“(Navarro) does call a really good game,” Latos said. “I shook him off again and got yelled at. “One of these days I'll learn my lesson.”

Navarro thinks Latos already has and it's starting to show.

Starting with the final out of the second inning, Latos retired 14 of 15 batters, including eight in a row. He worked down and on the edges yet again with the fastball and kept Los Angeles hitters off balance with a nasty slider.

“He’s getting to the point where he gets it — he doesn’t have to be as fine because of the way he throws,” Navarro said. “He’s just got to get ahead and get to work after that.”

Latos, who only allowed one hit in his first start at Oakland, didn’t yield one Tuesday until Carlos Perez singled with one out in the fifth inning. He worked around that and came back strong in the sixth inning to retire Rafael Ortega, Trout and Pujols on 13 pitches.

“He’s just commanding the strike zone, up and down, in and out,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “He’s able to spin one in there when he needs to. It would be one thing if it was four innings, but he’s done it over a period of a few games here. It has been great.

“His confidence has been building with that.”

Ventura lifted Latos after he yielded a one-out double to Andrelton Simmons in the seventh inning. Matt Albers got out of the jam with the help of an outfield assist by Adam Eaton, who nailed Simmons at the plate on C.J. Cron’s one-out single.

Albers retired Perez to extend his scoreless streak to 30 innings over 27 games — the longest scoreless streak by a White Sox pitcher since Wilson Alvarez posted 31 innings in 1993.

Led by Frazier, the White Sox offense finally broke through. Frazier — who was 2-for-23 over six games — ripped a 2-2 fastball from Matt Shoemaker out for a solo homer to left in the second inning to put the White Sox ahead 1-0.

Two innings later, Abreu got one out to center just over Trout’s glove for another solo shot and a 2-0 White Sox lead. Abreu entered the game in a 3-for-25 slump.

But the White Sox couldn’t break it open in the fourth. Frazier, Melky Cabrera and Austin Jackson singled with one out to load the bases. But Shoemaker retired Avisail Garcia and Navarro to escape the jam.

The White Sox finally broke through in the eighth.

Jimmy Rollins doubled to left off Jose Alvarez and moved to third on Abreu’s grounder. Frazier was intentionally walked and Cabrera, batting right-handed, crushed a two-run triple to right-center field to put the White Sox up four. Brett Lawrie added an RBI single to make it 5-0.

The White Sox have scored 21 of their 44 runs this season after the sixth inning.

“We can score late,” Ventura said. “We’ve done that a few times. Our bullpen does a nice job of holding them in check and we grind out some more at-bats and get that insurance run or padding that you need.”

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.”