White Sox

Miguel Gonzalez tosses seven scoreless to lead White Sox to win over Yankees

Miguel Gonzalez tosses seven scoreless to lead White Sox to win over Yankees

White Sox starting pitchers have been much more consistent in July, and Miguel Gonzalez continued that trend on Wednesday night.

The right-hander delivered seven scoreless innings, and the White Sox closed out their fifth straight series victory with a 5-0 win over the New York Yankees in front of 21,144 at U.S. Cellular Field. Gonzalez made his best White Sox start to date as he and two relievers combined on an eight-hit shutout. Tim Anderson doubled in two runs.

“The pitching's been great,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “We scuffled for a little while. But I think when you're looking at it and we're trying to figure out where we're at heading into the break, I think we've been on a pretty good run. These guys have gathered it back together, and they're strong right now.”

They haven’t been picture-perfect as evidenced by Carlos Rodon’s struggles on Tuesday night. But after a long June, White Sox starters have shown signs of rebounding over the last six games. Starting with Gonzalez’s previous turn Friday in Houston, White Sox starters have a 3.00 ERA in 39 innings.

The team’s starters went 6-11 with a 5.97 ERA in 26 starts in June. They averaged 5 2/3 innings in the month and only completed seven innings six times. Four of the team’s last six starting efforts have gone at least seven innings.

“Every guy that goes out there, as a team you get a sense that you have a chance to go out there and win a series and win every night,” Ventura said.

Early on that sentiment seemed unclear as Gonzalez, who brought a 7.84 home ERA in four starts into Wednesday, struggled. He put two runners on base in the first, including a two-out walk of Brian McCann. But Gonzalez, who allowed two earned runs in seven innings on Friday, struck out Mark Teixeira with a 2-2 fastball to escape the jam. The strikeout began a span in which Gonzalez retired nine of 11 hitters.

One key for Gonzalez was strong defense.

Adam Eaton, who picked up his major league leading 13th assist when he cut down Jacoby Ellsbury stretching a leadoff single into a double in the third, Anderson and Jose Abreu all turned in nice plays.

“Gonzo pitched a heck of a game tonight, kept them off balance the whole game, hit his spots well and good defense behind him,” Eaton said. “When there’s good defense played behind Gonzo, he’ll throw good for you. He threw really well, and we’re really happy with that.”

Gonzalez, who lowered his ERA to 4.39, didn’t run into trouble again until the fifth inning. Didi Gregorious singled to start the fifth and went from first to third on Chase Headley’s grounder as third was left uncovered by a defensive shift. But Gonzalez induced a pop up off Aaron Hicks’ bat, and Ellsbury grounded out. Gonzalez retired nine of the last 10 batters he faced.

He allowed five hits, walked one and struck out three.

The White Sox did the bulk of their damage against Michael Pineda in the second inning, all with two outs.

Avisail Garcia broke a scoreless tie with a two-out RBI single to score Brett Lawrie, who started the rally with a single. J.B. Shuck’s ground-rule double produced a run. Anderson then made it a 4-0 game with a two-run double past the dive of Headley.

Lawrie’s RBI fielder’s choice in the sixth made it a five-run lead.

“We came out, played some really good defense,” Gonzalez said. “Our offense was there. I kept them in the ballgame, did a really good job changing speeds. (Dioner) Navarro did an awesome job back there.

“We have won five series in a row. ... Guys are loose right now and getting after it.”

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

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AP

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

GLENDALE, Ariz. — On a day when Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada took live batting practice for the first time this spring, off in the distance was a lanky White Sox prospect standing in the outfield grass.

But Alec Hansen was doing more than shagging flies. He was watching both hitters very closely.

“I was looking to see how much pop they had,” Hansen said of Abreu and Moncada. “I kind of look at that to see the difference in power between minor league ball and the major leagues. It’s nice to see it’s not a huge difference. That makes me feel a bit more comfortable.”

At 6-foot-8 — actually 6-foot-8-and-a-half, according to his spring training physical — Hansen is a big man with big plans for his baseball career. He might be quiet on the outside, but he has booming expectations for himself on the inside.

“I want to be the best,” Hansen said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago.

The best? The very best?

That’s what Hansen aspires to become, though later in our conversation, he did dial back a notch, settling for becoming “one of the best.”

Either is fine with manager Ricky Renteria, who is overseeing these uber-confident White Sox prospects and accepts their lofty expectations.

“I think their mindset is where it’s supposed to be,” Renteria said. “None of these kids are concerned or consumed with the possibility of failure. Much more they’re consuming themselves with the understanding that they might hit some stumbling blocks, but they’re going to have a way to avoid overcoming them and push forward and be the best that they can be.”

In his first full season in the White Sox organization, Hansen led the minor leagues with 191 strikeouts. He’s proud of that accomplishment but admitted something: He’s not that impressed because he didn’t do it where it really matters — in the major leagues.

When you watch Hansen pitch, it’s easy to see that the talent is there. His coaches and teammates rave about his ability. With his enormous size and power arm, he is loaded with strengths.  

Though there is one weakness that Hansen acknowledges he needs to work on.

“Sometimes I have a tendency to think too much and worry. I think worrying is the worst thing that I do just because I want to be perfect,” Hansen said. “I think everyone wants to be perfect, some more than others, and I worry about things getting in the way of achieving perfection.”

To Hansen, that doesn’t mean throwing a perfect game. He actually takes it one step further.

He wants to strikeout every single hitter he faces.

“I love striking people out,” Hansen said. “Not having to rely on anyone else and just getting the job done myself and knowing that the hitter can’t get a hit off me. That’s a great feeling. That they can’t put it in play. Like a line drive out. That’s terrible.”

At some point, Hansen will have to lower these impossible expectations for himself. This is an imperfect game. There’s no place for nine-inning, 27-strikeout performances. Players end up in the Hall of Fame because they learn how to succeed with failure.

In the meantime, Hansen is here in big league camp watching and learning anything and everything.

“I’m a good observer. I listen. I don’t really talk too much. I’m a pretty quiet guy. I like to sit back and observe and see how these guys go about their business. Just trying to be at their level, hopefully one day surpass them.”

Surpass?

“It’s kind of hard to surpass some of these guys. I mean, they’re at the tip-top, like the pinnacle of the sport,” Hansen said. “I guess you could say, to get on that level and then be one of the best in the league.”

He might be on his way.

White Sox free up spot on 40-man roster by outrighting Dylan Covey

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USA TODAY

White Sox free up spot on 40-man roster by outrighting Dylan Covey

The White Sox freed up a spot on their 40-man roster Sunday, outrighting pitcher Dylan Covey to Triple-A Charlotte.

Covey pitched in 18 games last season, making 12 starts for the South Siders. Things did not go well, with Covey turning in an 0-7 record and a 7.71 ERA in 70 innings.

While there was an outside chance that Covey could have provided at least some starting-pitching depth heading into the 2018 season, the team's recent additions of Miguel Gonzalez and Hector Santiago — not to mention Covey's results from last season — wiped out that idea.

At the moment, the White Sox starting rotation figures to look like this by Opening Day: James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Gonzalez and Carson Fulmer, with Santiago seeming like a good option to provide depth as the long man in the bullpen.