White Sox

Perfect night for Paulie as Sox make statement

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Perfect night for Paulie as Sox make statement

Friday, Aug. 20, 2010
Updated 12:22 AM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

MINNEAPOLIS It was an uncommonly contemplative Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen who held court for the microphones prior to Thursdays series finale vs. the Minnesota Twins.

A loss is a loss, no matter how you lost, he said. Baseball is about a clickone thing clicks for them, one thing doesnt click for us. Wednesday night when Alex Rios hit that game-ending groundout, it almost went through. Maybe two weeks ago, it would. Its not an excusethe Twins play good against usbut we didnt come here and got our butts kicked. We played good, we fought.

Zen Guillen was rewarded for his calm and faith on Thursday, as the White Sox erupted for 15 hits off of Minnesota starter Carl Pavano alone and coasted to an 11-0, 21-hit drubbing of first-place Minnesota. The rout creeps Chicago within four games of first place.

We could have dug a deeper hole here, but I feel very, very good about how the team showed up and played, Guillen said postgame. We swung the bat very well and took advantage of Pavano, one of the best pitchers in the American League this year.

It started right away, first baseman Paul Konerko said. Juan Pierre led off the game and went down 0-2 and got on.

Chicagos drubbing of the Twins ace most decidedly did not qualify as Minnesota Nice, although the White Sox were kind enough to submit 11 of their 15 hits off Pavano as singles, paced overall by Nos. 4-5 hitters Konerko (5-for-5 with a homer and a double, tying his career high for single-game hits and raising his average eight points in one night) and Mark Teahen (3-for-4 with a triple).

Besides five hits, one thing Konerko did in the game was most important for me, but the single to right scoring Rios in the seventh, Konerkos fourth hit, knocking out Pavano, wasnt greedy or selfish, Guillen said. He just tried to do his job of moving a runner over. As a coach, I like that.

I was looking to drive to right, not just to make an out, but if I made a mistake I wanted it to be to the right side, Konerko said. It was 5-0 at the time, and the way games have gone here, you can never have enough runs. But I dont have to be told to play the game the right way. I dont even give that a second thought.

As for Teahen, Guillen said of course hed be in the lineup in his return to Kansas City Friday night: I just have to figure out where. You hit, youll be in the lineup.

Pierre added three hits and reached base four times, giving him eight hits for the series and running his latest hitting streak to eight games. He had two singles in the first two innings, and stole his major league-leading 48th base in the second. Pierre was spiked on the play by shortstop Nick Punto, and while blood gushed down Pierres right arm, he was in motion toward third on a steal attempt on the very next pitch.

I looked up at the scoreboard and saw Juan hitting .270 now .277 and I was surprised, Guillen said. Thats a very nice rise, especially when we needed it most. Hes consistent, getting on base, and playing the game right.

Omar Vizquel and Alexei Ramirez also contributed three hits apiece to the Chicago assault, with Ramirez chiming in with a double and finishing up the scoring with a two-run homer in the eighth.

The White Sox were so locked in on Pavano that the righthander threw only four of 87 pitches for swinging strikes.

I couldnt put my finger on it, Konerko said of pummeling Pavano. I got a couple of good fastballs to hit, and he may have grabbed some more plate than usual on some pitches. We were aggressive. Weve been swinging the bats pretty well, and guys were still feeling good up there.

On the other hand, Mark Buehrle shackled the Twins over seven innings, allowing just five hits and one walk against four strikeouts.

I was just kind of glad I didnt give up any runs in the second inning, Buehrle joked, in reference to Minnesotas propensity to score early in the series. You get a lead, you just want to throw as many zeros as you can. You just cant give runs back up.

We needed a win, it was good to get some runs early, Konerko said. When you do that, Buehrle usually doesnt give it back.

J.J. Putz came on in the eighth and retired only two batters, struggling with his velocity and eventually leaving with a right knee injury after facing just four Twins (Putz said the injury wasnt major and is considered day-to-day). Bobby Jenks came on for a perfect ninth, re-establishing his role as White Sox closer.

While mildly scolding Putz for staying in the game too long when feeling less than 100 percent, Guillen praised Jenks for his effort on returning from a back injury.

Bobby threw the ball good today, Guillen said. I never want Bobby pitching in the sixth or seventh, I want him in the ninth. With what we saw tonight we have the confidence to get him back in his role.

Konerko is forever this White Sox teams heartbeat and barometer, and its been his quiet confidence that has helped to keep the clubhouse at a proper temperature, through good and bad. Its appropriate that his five-hit game helped spur a must-win game, yes. But to Konerko, theres much more at stake ahead.

Yeah, theres a different ring to being four back vs. six back in the standings, he said. Weve dug a hole here again, but theres still time to dig out of it. We cant be happy walking out of here losing two of three, but we have to focus on coming back and working hard tomorrow.

And while Guillen is about as pensive as his team captain is manic, the skipper is savoring the 2010 pennant race, and he shared that sentiment with his team on Thursday.

I told the guys going out to the field, Lets enjoy this moment. We could be another team, in last place, out of it. You never know when youll be fighting for the pennant ever again.

As for the Twins, Guillen said, Give me a shot against them late in the season. I predict this thing goes all the way to the wire. If we stay healthy, were going to compete. We will fight to the end. Were going to fight like a champ, till we cant anymore.

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

After baseball punishes Braves, one ranker says White Sox have game's best farm system

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USA TODAY

After baseball punishes Braves, one ranker says White Sox have game's best farm system

The White Sox farm system is baseball's best, according to one of the people making those rankings.

In the wake of Major League Baseball's punishment of the Atlanta Braves for breaking rules regarding the signing of international players — which included the removal of 12 illegally signed prospects from the Braves' organization — MLB.com's Jim Callis tweeted out his updated top 10, and the White Sox are back in first place.

Now obviously there are circumstances that weakened the Braves' system, allowing the White Sox to look stronger by comparison. But this is still an impressive thing considering that three of the White Sox highest-rated prospects from the past year are now full-time big leaguers.

Yoan Moncada used to be baseball's No. 1 prospect, and pitchers Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez weren't too far behind. That trio helped bolster the highly ranked White Sox system. Without them, despite plenty of other highly touted prospects, common sense would say that the White Sox would slide down the rankings.

But the White Sox still being capable of having baseball's top-ranked system is a testament to the organizational depth Rick Hahn has built in such a short period of time.

While prospect rankings are sure to be refreshed throughout the offseason, here's how MLB Pipeline's rankings look right now in regards to the White Sox:

4. Eloy Jimenez
9. Michael Kopech
22. Luis Robert
39. Blake Rutherford
57. Dylan Cease
90. Alec Hansen

The youngest coach in baseball manages some of the White Sox top minor leaguers

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MiLB.com

The youngest coach in baseball manages some of the White Sox top minor leaguers

Most minor league managers have graying sideburns, wrinkled skin and a birth date well before 1980.

They’ve been through the battles of baseball and life, placed in rural dugouts across the country to teach the younger generation how to play the game.

But in a town outside Charlotte, North Carolina, the White Sox are bucking this trend with a fresh-faced millennial who one day could be sitting in a major league manager’s office with his name on it.

Justin Jirschele is the manager of the Kannapolis Intimidators, the White Sox Class-A affiliate.  At 27 years old, he is the youngest manager in all of professional baseball.  

Jirschele (pronounced JIRSH-ah-lee) goes by “Jirsh” to those who know him and who play for him, which last season included top prospects like Jake Burger, Alec Hansen, Dane Dunning and Dylan Cease.

When Jirschele played the game, he was a guy every team would have wanted.

Not for his speed: He never stole more than four bases in a season during his minor league career. Not for his power: He didn't hit a single home run in 622 career at-bats.

But because he treated every game like it could be his last.

“I never took a play off. I never took an at-bat off,” he said.

This was his mindset even in his very last minor league at-bat for the Birmingham Barons in 2015.

“I remember walking up and I said out loud to myself, ‘This is it. Do something.’ I’m getting the chills right now thinking about it.”

Jirschele knew his playing days were over. So did the White Sox. They signed him out of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in 2012 as an undrafted free agent. Nobody else wanted him. Over the next four seasons, he played for five White Sox minor league teams. The results on the field were overwhelmingly average.

Then one day, Nick Capra, then the White Sox Director of Player Development, came to Jirschele with an idea and an offer that would change his life.

“He asked, ‘Are you ready to start coaching yet?’ Jirschele recalled. ‘And I looked at him and went, ‘What do you mean?’”

The White Sox offered Jirschele a job to be the hitting coach for the Grand Falls Voyagers, the team’s rookie league affiliate.

“I was in shock. It was the end of May, the season was still young. I was at three different levels. I started at Winston-Salem, went to Charlotte and came back to Birmingham. It was a whirlwind. When he first said it, my first feeling was excitement. That kind of told me right there that it was the right time to do it.”

So Jirschele took the job.

He was 25 years old.

Then he went out and took that final minor league at-bat for Birmingham, which turned out to be a fitting conclusion to his playing career.  

“I think it was the second pitch, right down the middle and I was tardy, hit it off my fist, a dribbler to the shortstop and I bet you I ran as hard as I had in my entire life. It wasn’t that I was fast, but I was running as hard as I possibly could to first and I don’t think there even was a throw I hit it so soft, perfectly past the pitcher.  I just said to myself, that’s it right there.”

An infield dribbler for a base hit to close his playing career.

Coaching made sense for Jirschele. His father, Mike, is the third base coach for the Kansas City Royals. He won a World Series in 2015. His older brother, Jeremy, is the head baseball coach back at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

Pretty soon, the younger Jirschele would be leading a team of his own.  

In 2017, the White Sox gave him the managerial job with Kannapolis. Sure, some of his players would be around the same age, but the White Sox looked past the birth date on his driver’s license and recognized a person who was wise beyond his years.

“It was identified early on that he has the leadership qualities we look for in a manager regardless of his age,” said Chris Getz, White Sox Director of Player Development. “He has good baseball knowledge, good communication skills, a willingness to learn and adapt, and carries out a consistent message. We feel lucky to have him and think he has a bright future ahead.”

Although the ages of the Intimidators players ranged from 19 to 25 years old, it didn’t matter that their manager was slighty older than them.

“Never once had an issue with the age thing,” Jirschele said about his players. “I think from Day 1 when I showed them the respect like I’m not going to be the guy that’s two years older than you hammering things down your throat, I’m going to have that respect and you’re going to show it back.”  

While the White Sox prospects spent the season developing their playing skills, Jirschele was honing his managing skills, which go beyond what happens on the field. A big part of the job is handling issues that arise off of it.  

“It’s a long grind season and there are so many things that are going to come up non-baseball related to where you might be in that clubhouse and you might feel alone,” Jirschele explained. “You might feel like you’re on an island all by yourself even if you’ve got three best friends that are going to stand up in your wedding one day, you might not feel comfortable talking to those guys about that.  Come on in, we’ll talk about it at 12:30 in the afternoon or 7:30 at night or midnight. I tell the guys you’ve got my phone number.  Call or text no matter what time if you need to talk.”

Following his thirst for managing knowledge, Jirschele often reaches out to his dad for late-night phone calls, rehashing the game that night. He’ll even text an opposing manager, like Patrick Anderson, a friend who has managed the Hagerstown Suns, the Nationals Class-A affiliate for the last four seasons.

“He’s a guy I could pick his brain about things," he said. "Once the series was over I’d send him a text and ask, ‘Why did you do this?’ At the end of the day we’re all in it together and first and foremost it’s all for these players and making them better each and every day and doing whatever we can to get them to the top. But at the same time we’re developing ourselves as well along the way.

“I’m sure I annoy a lot of people of asking questions but that’s how you learn. I was brought up that way.”

Jirschele’s impressions of some White Sox top prospects he managed last season:

Alec Hansen: “When he takes the ball, you feel like you have one of the best chances in the country to get a win that night in minor league baseball.  His stuff is just off the charts.”

Dane Dunning: “It would be the 8th inning, he wanted that complete game and he wouldn’t be too pleased with me coming out there to take him out, but you want that.  You want that out of a competitor on the mound every 5 days. He’s definitely a guy you want in the foxhole with you, no doubt.”

Micker Adolfo: “He has a special, special arm.  I don’t know if there’s a better one right now.”

Jake Burger: “Looking forward, the ceiling is unbelievably high for him. 100 percent no doubt in my mind, someday he will be a captain in the big leagues.”

Like many of his players, Jirschele left an impression with the White Sox in his first season as manager. He helped lead the Intimidators to their first playoff berth since 2009 and their first trip to the South Atlantic League championship since 2005.

Earlier this month, the White Sox named him their Minor League Coach of the Year.

“First and foremost, it means we had good players this year. It’s those guys between the lines,” he said. “As coaches, we can’t go out there and pitch. We were fortunate to have a great group of guys. We came up a little short (winning the championship), but we got there and it was fun.”

Once upon a time, Jirschele’s dream was to make it to the majors. That dream still exists.  Just now instead of having his own baseball card, he wants to get to the big leagues holding a lineup card.

“I think I’d be lying to you if I said it wasn’t a goal, but at the same time I don’t worry about it. I know I’m 27 years old," he said. "I’m just fortunate to have the job I do right now with the White Sox. I go out and do my job every single day and the rest will just take care of itself.”