White Sox

Ozzie's sweep remedy: Erase season, start over

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Ozzie's sweep remedy: Erase season, start over

Sunday, April 24, 2011
Posted: 2:30 p.m. Updated: 3:40 p.m.
By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com
DETROITSigns abound in the Chicago clubhouse that White Sox havent given up on the season and are still enjoying the game theyre paid to play.

And yes, that goes beyond the potboiler quotes about fighting hard, taking one day at a time, and the team inevitably catching fire again.

Adam Dunn remains calm in the face of an OPS careening down dangerously close to his body weight. Omar Vizquel celebrates his 44th birthday with a cake and a dance around the clubhouse. Lefty compadres John Danks and Mark Buehrle are teasing one another over any volume of minutiae.

But after reaching their worst start in 10 years (8-14) after another spiritless loss to the Detroit Tigers, 3-0, its getting harder to believe theres a break in the clouds that threaten, in just April, to blot out Chicagos season.

Nothing works, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. I continue to plug those guys in the lineup. Hopefully they come out of this. The only way you come out of this is playing otherwise theres nothing you can do about it. It seems like every day a rerun, seeing the same at-bats and it seems like everybody we face is pretty nasty. But you have to get ready for the next day because you cant control what happened today, only tomorrow. My faith and hope is still very high and Im still very optimistic about this ballclub; we know were going to hit. As a group were not very strong right now. We try to figure out what we try to do about it but nothing is going well for us.

I couldnt tell you what is wrong, said Matt Thornton, who threw a scoreless eighth to keep Chicagos recent strong bullpen run going. There are numerous aspects of the game that go on, from defense to starting pitching to bullpen to hitting to situational hitting and theyve all been missing in the past few days. At least one major one is always missing in each game. Thats why were dropping so many. But were way too talented: Look at guys track records on this team, and we have a lot of guys with a lot of success in major league baseball. Its a matter of getting everyone on a roll and going.

The White Sox were again no-hit for the first three innings, something thats happened in all three games in Motown. Bengals starter Max Scherzer climbed to 4-0 by keeping the Chisox hitless through four and by surrendering just four through eight innings, racking up seven Ks against three walks in an efficient 103 pitches.

Danks stopped a streak of subpar starts from Chicago, although he was just a step past mediocre by allowing 11 baserunners over six innings. The Chicago ace remains winless through his first five starts.

We lost, Danks said in response to a question about hurling a stronger game this time out. It was a battle, no doubt. I found myself in some pretty tight jams, in the fourth inning, especially, when Im just thinking damage control at that point. Its one of those games where you go out and battle the best you can and give us a chance to win. Unfortunately, Scherzer is pretty darn good. You just have to move on.

We arent going to dwell on it. We know its early. We arent helping ourselves digging ourselves a hole. At the same time, theres plenty of time and plenty of talent on this team to think we are out of it just yet. We are going to battle and try to win every game we can and go from there.

The White Sox are suffering through a deep freeze that gets worse by the day. In Detroit this weekend, they mustered just three runs. With runners on base, the White Sox were 2-26, including an 0-9 series with runners in scoring position. Chicago has been held scoreless for 20 straight innings.

After the game, Guillen joked about the meaninglessness of a pep talk at this juncture of the season: What am I going to tell them? But it was a comment that came before the game that might be a strong statement of support, and one he has already shared with the likes of Alex Rios and Gordon Beckham.

I worry about them mentally, yes, he said. Players, in general, when they see the beginning of the season and look up at the scoreboard, they have 40 at-bats and see .090, they start to panic. I dont care how strong you are mentally or how much you care or not, you will think about it. The only thing you can do is former White Sox hitting coach Walt Hriniak told me: Erase the season and start over.

Peavy lightens the load

Dont take Jake Peavys temporary detour into journalism as a sign that his rehabilitation took a bad turn in the Comerica Park bullpen on Sunday.

Peavy, who hid behind a crowd of reporters to ask Danks, What about those two walks?got a nonplussed response from the chill Texas lefty.

One was intentional, he answered. That doesnt count.

I was just trying to lighten the mood, Peavy smiled, moments later. John pitched hard. It could have been worse or better. Scherzer was a little bit better today. We are going to grind through this and win or lose together.

Of course, the main focus with Peavy postgame was how his 40-pitch bullpen session went. And by all accountsgrunts, snorts, and allthe intensity was quite a bit higher than any bullpen Ill ever throw, and went very well.

I felt good, he said. Im excited to move forward. Ill throw another bullpen in Yankee Stadium and go ahead and go out on assignment on Friday to Charlotte. I felt nice and free today, nothing painful that I felt the other night. Thats exciting.

As for the scar tissue around his reattached latissimus dorsi muscle that caused him to snap his prior start on April 18 some 75 pitches short, Peavy was all smiles.

The intensity was high today, Peavy said. I needed to find out if I turned the ball loose, if I was going to feel what I felt. I cant say Im going to start without giving it a test run. We certainly did that today and the scar tissue checked out OK.

Peavy feels particularly helpless these days, unable to help the Chisox snap out of a funk that threatens to scuttle their season before May.

READ: Peavy throws side session, on track for next rehabilitation start.

Im excited to get back out and just obviously feel bad sitting here talking to you guys about this when team is going the way its going, he said. I just try to keep the boys as positive as we can and be a cheerleader for next couple of days, and go out and rehab and get back here and help as soon as I can.

Oddly enough, after talking to teammates like Jesse Crain and Will Ohman, who have also had significant arm surgeries, Peavy is starting to believe that the serious surgery he suffered last July could have a sunny effect overall.

We had to take it for a test run and find out if the irritation and scar tissue was still an issue, he said. We might have freed the tissue up a little bit Maybe this thing will work beneficially in the long run.

For now, Peavy is dealing with shifting his focus from a sort of homecoming start in Chicago later this week to another round of rehab in Charlotte. Peavy is all smiles and trying to play it cool, but inside hes ready to jump out of his stirrups.

Hopefully setbacks are behind us, he said. I look forward to getting back out to Charlotte once again. Hopefully, its one of the last times.

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

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.

Now that Ronald Acuna has reached the majors, taking a look at Michael Kopech's timetable

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AP

Now that Ronald Acuna has reached the majors, taking a look at Michael Kopech's timetable

Michael Kopech blew up White Sox Twitter again Wednesday morning, adding eight more strikeouts to his impressive 2018 total and turning in another strong outing down at Triple-A Charlotte.

Couple that with news that Ronald Acuna, the No. 2 prospect in baseball, is set to make his major league debut with the Atlanta Braves, and the already loud “are we there yet?” style chorus wondering when Kopech will arrive on the South Side grew even louder.

It’s that time of year, when highly rated prospects get called up now that they’re no longer in danger of racking up a year of big league service time, pushing their free-agent clocks back another year. It’s a somewhat confusing situation, even for Chicago baseball fans and observers who went through this not too long ago with Kris Bryant and the Cubs.

The deal is this: The rulebook states a player will accrue a year of major league service time if he spends 172 days on a major league roster in a given year. That’s a lot when you consider that the 2018 season is only 187 days long. So pretty much after two weeks of the season elapse, prospects can get called up, spend the rest of the season on the roster and still not log a year of service time. It’s a handy ploy for teams to squeeze an extra year of team control out of a player.

So what’s all this have to do with Kopech?

Well, if you think the White Sox are simply waiting to bring him up to the majors so they can get an extra year of him down the road — which would be a smart thing to do considering the White Sox aren’t attempting to use Kopech’s services to win this season but rather a year or two from now and then far into the future — you might expect him to be called up soon.

There is this thing called “Super Two” that, were the White Sox sole goal just to delay his arrival to get another year of team control, would need to be taken into consideration. If a player is in the top 22 percent in his class in service time, along with some other stipulations, he could qualify for arbitration a year early. So there’s that to remember, too.

But, of course, there’s the logical notion that the White Sox just aren’t necessarily ready for Kopech to hit the majors just yet. General manager Rick Hahn said repeatedly during the offseason that the needs of the big league team and Kopech’s readiness for the majors will be independent of one another. For example, the White Sox need to figure out who’s going to start one half of Saturday’s doubleheader in Kansas City. It’s highly unlikely the team would rush Kopech to the bigs just because they need a spot starter in an April game against the Royals.

Hahn has stressed that there is no rush to get Kopech — or any other of the team’s highly rated prospects — to the majors. And that makes complete sense. The White Sox are not expected to contend for a championship this season, and if the results of the team’s first 20 games are any indication, they look as though they won’t be. So why give any of these young players anything less than ample amount of time to finish their development at a given level?

It makes sense why fans are so eager. This impressive collection of minor league talent has given this team a bright future. And while the losses keep coming at the big league level, it’s understandable why folks want that future to start as soon as possible.

But Kopech has made just seven starts at the Triple-A level. Eloy Jimenez has played in 24 games at the Double-A level. Many of the organization’s highest-rated prospects are still at the Class A level. The daily reports from the minor leagues are encouraging and exciting. And when Kopech does something like strike out 29 batters in four starts, it might seem like a readymade alternative to a starting staff at the big league level that’s walked 61 batters in 20 games.

But minor league success doesn’t always mean major league readiness. Look just a year ago at Yoan Moncada, then ranked as the No. 1 prospect in baseball. He didn’t make his first appearance in a White Sox uniform until mid-July. That was after he proved that he could dominate Triple-A over the course of 80 games. Kopech looks dominant, yes, but is four starts enough? Hahn said this offseason that using Moncada as an indicator for how the team would handle its other highly touted prospects might be a good way to think.

Kopech figures to be up to the majors this season. Jimenez, who’s spring training was limited by an injury and who didn’t start the regular season right on time because of a different injury, might be a bit further behind. But just because fans don’t see those players right away doesn’t mean they’re not doing exactly what the White Sox want them to do: develop into stars who can make this team a perennial contender. That, of course, takes time.