White Sox

Orioles rout White Sox in historic game

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Orioles rout White Sox in historic game

BALTIMORE — Jeff Samardzija and the White Sox defense got off to a rough start and Wednesday afternoon’s historic game was effectively over in quick fashion.

Without a soul in attendance other than scouts and media members, the Baltimore Orioles scored six times in the first inning and rolled to an 8-2 win over the White Sox at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

After citywide unrest Monday resulted in the cancellation of the first two games of the series, Samardzija took the loss Wednesday at the first game in Major League Baseball history to be closed to the public. Samardzija allowed eight runs (seven earned) and 10 hits in five innings while Ubaldo Jimenez pitched seven dominant innings for the Orioles.

“This was a weird day,” Samardzija said. “I’m not going to put too much into how we played today. It was an awkward situation where we sat around for a few days so we have to get back into a little rhythm and play some games in a row and keep going, keep working.”

With about 50-75 fans cheering and chanting from beyond the gates in left-center field and another dozen on hotel balconies across the way, the White Sox and Orioles finally played after games on Monday and Tuesday were cancelled in the aftermath of Monday’s riots. In deference to law enforcement efforts, the Orioles and White Sox agreed to play in front of an empty stadium.

[MORE WHITE SOX: White Sox, Orioles have mixed emotions about making MLB history]

After Jimenez struck out two batters in a scoreless first inning, the Orioles offense picked up the energy. Coming off an 18-run outburst on Sunday, the Orioles took advantage of several freebies in the first.

Samardzija issued a leadoff walk to Alejandro De Aza but appeared to get a double play-ball off the bat of Jimmy Paredes only to have Jose Abreu throw high to second base. Chris Davis followed a Delmon Young single and an Adam Jones’ RBI sacrifice fly with a three-run home run on to Eutaw Street — only the 80th ball to ever reach the street beyond right field.

As Davis’ shot traveled out of the park, Orioles’ play-by-play man Gary Thorne could be heard yelling his home run call with no crowd to drown out the noise.

Everth Cabrera later doubled in a run and Caleb Joseph had an RBI single for the Orioles, who grabbed a 6-0 lead.

“Today started off bad and got worse,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “It was just right from the beginning. You give them opportunities. They take advantage of it. I don’t think we were all that selective offensively either. It was just a weird day. You move on and get ready for the next one.”

Pitching with a cushion against an aggressive offense, Jimenez was extremely efficient. He faced the minimum in six of seven innings and only got into trouble once after his defense struggled in the fifth inning.

[RELATED: Baltimore unrest puts things in perspective for White Sox]

That’s when the White Sox were able to break through for a pair of runs. Machado, who homered in the fifth inning and finished a triple shy of the cycle, made a throwing error that allowed Adam LaRoche to score. Geovany Soto also had an RBI groundout as the White Sox got within 7-2 in the fifth.

But Samardzija gave up one last run on Machado’s homer in the bottom of the fifth and the White Sox offense only sent 13 batters to the plate over the final four innings.

“I tried to do too much,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “Sometimes you have bad games like this and you have to move on. It was a very awful game for me on offense and defense but that kind of thing happens.

“(The atmosphere) was kind of weird, but you can’t blame that on the crowd.”

Nothing could have truly prepared both teams’ players for what they would face. Each team hit the field in the 30 minutes leading up to first pitch with pregame music blaring over the sound system.

But once the game began, an eerie vibe dominated the scene as the two teams took the field at 2:05 p.m. EST in front of 45,971 empty seats. A prerecorded National Anthem was played and so was the Seventh Inning Stretch. Walkup music accompanied each player to the plate.

[NBC SHOP: Get the latest White Sox gear here]

But in between, players could hear everything on the field from the opposing dugouts to normal chatter to Hawk Harrelson and Thorne calling the game from the broadcast booth above.

Fans outside the stadium did their best to support the Orioles, chanting “Manny, Manny” when Machado homered and a number of “Let’s Go O’s.” Foul balls banged off empty seats and the occasional police and news choppers hovered overhead.

But perhaps it wasn’t what they heard that offered the strangest comparison — the crowd.

Whereas Machado’s fifth-inning homer into the left-center field bullpen normally would have been accompanied by a roar, the only sound was the delayed cheers of fans beyond the gate and a few claps from the Orioles.

“You hear some of the announcing when you got up there,” second baseman Micah Johnson said. “That’s how quiet it was. You hear fans outside the stadium, literally everything. I’m sure you heard me like ‘No!’ on strike three. It’s weird. I said  ‘My bad’ out loud.”

“There’s no comparison.”

 

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.”