White Sox

Opposites attract: Vizquel, Sale set marks in win

Opposites attract: Vizquel, Sale set marks in win

Monday, Sept. 6, 2010
7:40 PM
By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

DETROIT Chris Sale was born on March 30, 1989. Four days later, Omar Vizquel made his major-league debut at shortstop for the Seattle Mariners.

Both players, now members of the Chicago White Sox, set distinctive marks in Mondays 10-inning, 5-4 win in Detroit over the Tigers.

Vizquel played in his 2,832nd game, breaking a tie with Rafael Palmeiro for most games played among players born outside of the United Statesthe rest of the top five are Tony Perez (2,777), Luis Aparicio (2,601) and Julio Franco (2,527).

Its hard to believe through all these years and talking about playing so many games, I look back on my career and it feels like I just started playing five years ago, Vizquel said. All of a sudden you find yourself with a lot of games on you, a lot of hits, a lot of records. Im feeling very proud because I never thought Id be in the big leagues for this long. And its been a very great road for me. Each year was a different challenge.

I take pride because you never know what could happen to you, an injury where you cant rebound and play again. It takes a lot of hours and experience to know your body to be in the place that I am today.

And to think that before the game, no one knew that Vizquelnot even the 43-year-old himselfwas on the verge of such a major milestone.

Well, thats not quite trueit was surprise baseball historian Miguel Cabrera (moonlighting as Detroits first baseman) who approached White Sox first-base coach Omer Munoz with the news. Munoz told Vizquel in the dugout before the game, whereupon Vizquel, surprised, put the record out of his mind for the rest of the game.

But the record that no Chicagoan knew of could have been meant to be broken on Monday. How else can it be explained that Vizquel, an 11-time Gold Glove winner at shortstop who had started just five games there this season, got the call to spell starter Alexei Ramirez?

Theres not many shortstops that get to play that position at 43, Vizquel said. Im happy that Im still able to do that. Even though I have two knee surgeries, Im still able to come back out of that and keep myself in shape to play this year.

All the talk about the record postgame didnt mean that Vizquel still wasnt somewhat surprised by it.

Omer told me when I was sitting on the bench, Vizquel said. I didnt really have an idea and I said, Really, whos the leader? He said he thought Palmeiro was. I never thought Palmeiro played in that many games. People also think the same way about me, which is kind of weird.

Sale, just 21, has flown up the White Soxs depth chart to the extent that he is now spelling 2010 All-Star lefty fireballer Matt Thornton in the pen. In 12 major-league appearances, Sale has logged a 0.66 ERA and 1.39 strikeouts per inning.

Though brimming with confidence, Sale himself has been wowed by his rapid ascendance.

This is far beyond where I thought I was going to be right now, Sale said postgame, appearing fully dried from the traditional beer shower that accompanies a first major-league win. I figured I would get a few chances, up five, down five, stuff like that. Its been awesome. I thank them for how much trust they put and have in me. Its very gratifying.

Sale threw 2 23 innings, his longest professional outing.

I felt fine, Sale said. I didnt throw too much in his last outing, one inning vs. the Boston Red Sox last Saturday. I had a great rest. I felt good today. The first inning, I didnt feel 100 percent but as the game went on, I loosened up a little bit more. I felt like this is one of my better outings.

The southpaw also has earned the respect of the guy who is charged with catching his whip-smart fastball, wicked slider and plus-change.

Hes good, catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. Considering he was in college three months ago, for him to be able to do what hes done is pretty darned amazing. You dont see too many guys that are able to do that, especially right out of college, come into the middle of a pennant race and go out and dominate big-league hitters the way he has. Hes got a chance to be pretty special. You can see why he was drafted as high as he was.

More than just his livewire arm, the veteran Pierzynski is impressed with how the wide-eyed rook has carried himselfsomething just as important for a young players long-term prospects.

Sale has been great, Pierzynski said. Hes done everything right since hes been here. Hes gone about everything the right way. So far, so good.

Sale is a very pleasant surprise, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. I loved the way he was throwing. If we couldnt use him again tomorrow I thought why not use him another inning?

Sales guileless pitching has lit up the stat charts and his teammates eyes. And the rookie has done a good job of considering himself one of the very players he had so long admired.

They are all just people, Sale said. They come up and speak with me. They dont treat me like the rookie but like a regular person. Its a lot easier when you speak with them. Its just like a normal conversation. Its a lot easier when you arent thinking, Thats Buehrle, or Thats Manny.

Especially once the kids of today start whispering, Thats Sale.

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

Yo-Yo and the Big Elephant: Now this is the show South Side fans have been waiting for

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AP

Yo-Yo and the Big Elephant: Now this is the show South Side fans have been waiting for

Yo-Yo and the Big Elephant sound like characters from your kid’s favorite show (or your favorite show, if you happen to be a kid).

But instead they’re the duo South Side baseball fans have been waiting for.

You might know them better as the Cuban Connection, an alliterative and far less confusing nickname that describes Yoan Moncada and Jose Abreu, who in Monday night’s 10-4 win over the visiting Seattle Mariners combined for seven hits, three home runs, a double, a triple, six runs scored and four RBIs.

It was a welcome sight after the White Sox offense slumbered through a weekend series with the Houston Astros in which they mustered just two runs. Heck, this offense has been hard to find during the entire month of April. Entering Monday, it’d produced just 16 runs in its last seven games (with 11 of those coming in a single contest).

But then came Monday’s show, in which Abreu launched a pair of homers and Moncada came a single short of hitting for the cycle. That had to be a proud moment for Abreu, who’s taken his countryman under his wing since Moncada arrived in the majors last summer.

“I’m really mad at him because he had two chances to do it and he couldn’t,” Abreu joked with the help of a translator. “Seriously, I’m really happy for him. I know today was a special game for him. I know he couldn’t hit for the cycle today. But he’s going to have more chances in the future. He’s going to be good.”

This is what White Sox fans have been hoping for. It’s what they’re still waiting for, considering much of that oft-discussed team of the future is still developing in the minor leagues. But Moncada is the story of 2018 at the major league level, how development will continue for the player White Sox fans drooled over at this time last year, when he was ranked as baseball’s top prospect.

Moncada got a lot of early attention for his high strikeout total, and with another punch out Monday he’s now got 34 on the season, still one of the highest totals in the league. But his numbers are looking good in many other facets. He raised his batting average .026 points Monday alone, and he’s now slashing .240/.345/.493 on the still-young season.

Abreu, of course, is the White Sox best hitter and has been ever since he arrived from Cuba before the 2014 season. For a team in such an offensive rut, Abreu’s four-hit night Monday raised his batting average up over .300, to .308. He’s now got six homers on the season, the most on the team and one of the higher totals in the American League. While Moncada and others will spend 2018 showing the White Sox what they will be in the future, this was expected from a guy who’s been one of baseball’s most consistent hitters in the last half decade.

But the future comes into play with Abreu, too, whose consistency at the plate and his presence in the clubhouse as a mentor to Moncada and other young players make him as believable a part of those planned future contenders as any of the organization’s highly rated prospects. A contract decision will need to be made at some point, obviously, but the White Sox will tell you any day of the week how much they value Abreu, who knows exactly where this franchise is and is excited as anyone about where it’s going.

“Everybody knows we are in the process, and everybody knows what this process is about,” Abreu said. “We have a lot of young talent, a lot of young players. They are going to hit some bumps and have some struggles as a team. But I think we all know how we have to play this game. (Manager Rick Renteria) has taught us how to play this game, how to play this game representing the White Sox organization and how they play this game.

“I feel really happy. We prove today that we are able to play a good game and to show the rest how we win games. That is the way we like to play.”

Monday was a bright spot in what’s been an otherwise very tough start to the 2018 campaign. But for a team where the future is what matters most, this is what fans have been waiting to see. A game like this might not be commonplace as the summer rolls on on the South Side. But for those dreaming about Moncada and Abreu teaming to lead those contenders of the future, this was one heck of a glimpse into the crystal ball.

“That’s our goal to have big games together for this team,” Moncada said. “Having the opportunity to play with Abreu — ‘The Big Elephant’ as we call him in Cuba — it’s good for me. It’s a big honor. I feel really happy when we have these kinds of games.”

Yoan Moncada nearly hits for the cycle, Jose Abreu hits two homers and the White Sox finally break out the bats

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AP

Yoan Moncada nearly hits for the cycle, Jose Abreu hits two homers and the White Sox finally break out the bats

So, anyone out there still worried about Yoan Moncada?

The White Sox second baseman, who at this time last year was the top-ranked prospect in baseball, was the subject of much social-media frustration through the season's first few weeks. But it's safe to say he's "redeemed" himself in the eyes of fretting fans.

Monday night, he led the White Sox offensive eruption with a three-hit night that brought him just a single shy of the cycle in a 10-4 win over the visiting Seattle Mariners.

Moncada started the offensive outburst with a leadoff triple in the bottom of the first inning. He doubled to start the bottom of the second and launched a solo homer to begin the bottom of the fourth. He scored all three times.

Moncada entered the game with a .214/.329/.400 slash line, though he's been hot of late. In the last seven games, he's got nine hits, six extra-base hits and three homers. He still has 34 strikeouts on the season, one of the highest totals in the majors, but he's putting up some good numbers elsewhere.

Abreu also had a red-hot Monday night, picking up four hits with a couple of homers, the 12th time he's bashed multiple long balls in a single game.

It was quite the performance for a White Sox offense that has mostly been quiet so far in 2018. They scored just two total runs in three straight blowout losses against the Houston Astros over the weekend. And while they plated 11 in that 14-inning marathon in Oakland, the three road games prior to that featured a grand total of three runs.

Monday night that all changed with the White Sox banging out 18 hits, including seven straight to start the bottom of the first, the first time that happened in the big leagues in four years.