White Sox

Preaching fundamentals, White Sox gaining momentum as All-Star break nears

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Preaching fundamentals, White Sox gaining momentum as All-Star break nears

Another hitter or two would be good but the White Sox have discovered that playing fundamental baseball could possibly help them back into the mix.

Winners in nine of their last 11 games, the White Sox will head into the All-Star break no worse than four games under .500 after Saturday’s 5-1 victory over the Cubs in front of 41,596 at Wrigley Field.

As it is, the White Sox are back to three under .500 for the first time since June 12 after Chris Sale delivered yet another gem, the defense turned in both sterling and routine plays and the offense cashed in on its limited opportunities. The White Sox --- who are still 5 1/2 back in the wild-card race behind eight teams --- send Jose Quintana to the mound Sunday in search of a series sweep of the Cubs.

“That’s the way we’re going to have to play,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said, noting his club has put itself in this position. “We have to play good, clean baseball and I think the way our infield is starting to shape up, the way we’re playing defensively and the way our guys are pitching … you find that inning when you can push one across. We got fortunate on the play with the ground ball (in the seventh) and we cashed in on it.”

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The team’s seventh inning rally is one of the aspects they’ve struggled with all season -- the knockout blow.

The White Sox held a 2-0 advantage with a man on first and no outs when Kris Bryant offered a gift with a two-base error on Avisail Garcia’s weak grounder. Bryant’s throw wound up in the visiting dugout and the White Sox made it count. Alexei Ramirez singled on a 3-0 pitch from Jon Lester for his first RBI since June 21 -- a span of 62 plate appearances -- and Tyler Flowers followed with a booming, two-run double to center.

Given that Sale -- who allowed a run and six hits while striking out 10 over seven-plus innings -- was already at 100 pitches the timing couldn’t have been better.

“That makes some decisions easier for Robin,” Flowers said.

An epic run by the pitching staff over the team’s last 11 games hasn’t hurt, either. During the stretch, White Sox pitchers have a 1.75 ERA with 107 strikeouts in 103 innings, including 30 straight scoreless frames, the team’s longest stretch since 1986. White Sox starters have a 1.99 ERA with 80 strikeouts and have averaged seven innings per start over 11 games.

[MORE: Sale's pitching making case for All-Star start]

“Everybody is doing what they are capable,” Flowers said. “I guess you can say we are kind of hot, but I wouldn’t even say that. I think we are just executing gameplans, focusing on each pitch, executing that pitch and that puts us in a better spot for the next one.”

Ventura applauded the team’s players for their professional attitude in tough times. Despite an offense that has sucked the life out of the club all season long, Sale and other pitchers have made a point not to point fingers. General manager Rick Hahn said earlier this week one player emphasized those in the clubhouse are intent upon showing him the team needs more time instead of being broken up into trade pieces.

Sale has enjoyed the atmosphere and wants to see it continue in the second half.

“It’s fun,” Sale said. “You’re coming in here laughing, joking, hearing some music playing. It’s always a good time. You get on rolls like this, you’ve just got to keep going. Been through a bump in the road. You look at it as that and keep going.

[ALSO: Saladino's first MLB hit: About as cool as it gets]

“I’m not a stat guy or anything, but if we keep winning games we’re going to put ourselves in a pretty darn good position.”

A big reason they’re still even within striking distance has been an improved defense.

Whereas they’ve struggled up the middle most of the season, the White Sox, who still rank 29th in Defensive Runs Saved with minus-47 according to fangraphs.com, have received better play from shortstop Alexei Ramirez and, even to a degree, second baseman Carlos Sanchez. Gordon Beckham continues to produce as has rookie Tyler Saladino, who has looked smooth in two games at third base. Outfielder Avisail Garcia has made two nice catches in victories over the Cubs.

Over the past 11 games, the White Sox have committed six errors with four coming in a 9-1 loss to Baltimore last Sunday.

Ventura believes his team has started to discover its identity after an eight-game losing streak sent them to 10 under and had many pundits in town calling for the fourth-year manager’s head.

Now the question is can they maintain it, something they haven’t been able to do all season. Ventura wants his players to continue to stay grounded and not focus too much on the big picture.

“Playing the way we were and losing games, morale can get down,” Ventura said. “But you continue to come back and we have some professional guys in here who continue to grind away. You don’t look too far down the line or think too much in the past -- you just play today. They’re starting to feel that.”

Would potential bargains like Mike Moustakas or Carlos Gonzalez make sense for White Sox?

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USA TODAY

Would potential bargains like Mike Moustakas or Carlos Gonzalez make sense for White Sox?

The 2017-18 baseball offseason continues to be, well, the 2017-18 baseball offseason, even with spring training games being played in Arizona and Florida.

A bunch of names remain on the free-agent market, including All-Star players who thought they would be in for big multi-year contracts. But as teams continue to deny the wishes of guys who expected to get big deals, the suggestion that those players might end up needing to take one-year offers if they want to play during the 2018 season is becoming a more common talking point.

So with potential bargains to be had for some pretty big-name players, do the White Sox jump into the waters and try to lock up a potential future piece on the cheap? Though they aren’t expected to contend this season, the White Sox have been mentioned in a pair of recent reports surrounding a pair of All-Star position players: Mike Moustakas and Carlos Gonzalez.

MLB.com's Jon Morosi wrote last week that the White Sox are a potential fit for Moustakas, who has sat and watched as former Kansas City Royals teammate Eric Hosmer received a huge contract from the San Diego Padres. Moustakas set a new Royals record last season with 38 home runs but has yet to find a team.

The White Sox, connected to Baltimore Orioles star Manny Machado earlier this offseason, seem to have a current big leaguer or highly ranked prospect locked into almost every position on the diamond for the foreseeable future, but third base isn't necessarily one of them. Jake Burger was last year’s top draft pick, though there’s speculation he could slide over to first base. The team still envisions him as a big league third baseman, for what it’s worth.

Moustakas is 29 and already has seven big league seasons under his belt, including a pair of All-Star appearances and a pair of trips to the World Series, including the Crowns’ championship back in 2015. His 38 homers and 85 RBIs in 2017 were both career highs. He slashed .272/.314/.521, the final of those three numbers the best mark of his career.

Moustakas has rarely hit for average or reached base at too high a clip, though those recent power numbers would be intriguing at a hitter-friendly park like Guaranteed Rate Field, where he has 10 career dingers, 26 career RBIs and a .249/.308/.456 career slash line as a visitor.

Certainly Moustakas would be a buzz-worthy addition, and if the White Sox could get him for a good value thanks to this slow-moving market, that adds incentive to bring him aboard. A short contract would have even more incentive for the rebuilding White Sox, who would have the option to either sign him to a long-term deal or deal him away in a deadline deal depending on his immediate production levels.

But for fans hoping the White Sox will spend big on a third baseman in one of the next two offseasons — Machado is a free agent next winter, and Colorado Rockies star Nolan Arenado is set to hit the market the winter after next — slotting in an outside addition at the hot corner now could impact those plans.

Gonzalez is a completely different story, a three-time All Star during his 10-year big league career who is just three seasons removed from a 40-homer campaign in 2015. The 32-year-old Gonzalez also has a trio of Gold Gloves to go along with his 215 career home runs. FanRag’s Jon Heyman listed the White Sox as a possible landing spot for CarGo this weekend.

But his walk year in Colorado was not a very good one by his standards. In 136 games for a Rockies team that ended up in the playoffs, he slashed .262/.339/.423, all those averages way down from his usual level of production. And his power numbers plummeted to 14 homers and 57 RBIs after he combined for 65 homers and 197 RBIs in 2015 and 2016.

The good news for the White Sox is that down year makes Gonzalez far more affordable. Should he command only a one-year contract, the White Sox could take a flier, stick him in the outfield — which still has an unresolved spot with few strong offensive options for center field — and trade him should he bounce back in a big way. Or, at 32, perhaps he’s a guy the White Sox could opt to keep around should he prove valuable and the rebuild continues to move along ahead of schedule.

Gonzalez seems the less risky move at this point, as Moustakas could still be looking for a multi-year contract. But the White Sox have plenty of financial flexibility and flexibility in their decision-making should they add either guy and he proves worthy of a midseason deal or a long-term look.

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.