White Sox

Robin Ventura: You 'always' review tough White Sox losses

Robin Ventura: You 'always' review tough White Sox losses

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — He’s ready to move forward Saturday, but Robin Ventura spent part of Friday night replaying a tough White Sox loss, his role included.

In great position to make a strong statement at the start of a three-city road trip, the White Sox coughed up a four-run lead on Friday night and lost to the Kansas City Royals 7-5. It was another blow for a team in the midst of a long slump, their 12th loss in 16 games.

The bullpen was the real culprit as it combined with starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez to yield four runs in the bottom of the seventh and allow the Royals to go ahead for good. But Ventura’s bullpen management in the seventh inning — when he used four relievers — left him open for scrutiny, too.

Should Ventura have turned to his bullpen to start the seventh inning clean instead of bringing back Gonzalez, who allowed a one-out double? Did he consider intentionally walking the Royals’ best hitter, Eric Hosmer, with first base open and two outs? How would they have handled it had the game gone to extras with so much of the bullpen used?

“There are plenty of games when you do that, especially when it doesn’t go the way you want it to,” Ventura said. “You always do that. You talk it through. (Don Cooper) and I will talk it through. Rick (Hahn) and I will do the same thing. And when you get back here, you’re back at it getting ready to go for that day.”

The White Sox bullpen was outstanding in April. The group posted a 1.69 ERA that month and the team was 20-0 when leading after seven innings.

But this isn’t April.

The bullpen has struggled mightily since Texas and Friday was no different. White Sox relievers have a 4.05 ERA in May. With a man on second and one out, Dan Jennings immediately fell behind Jarrod Dyson and walked him, bringing the tying run to the plate. Matt Albers took over and Alcides Escobar reached on an infield single to load the bases. Whit Merrifield found a hole against Albers for a two-run single to make it a one-run game. Albers struck out Lorenzo Cain but not before a wild pitch moved Escobar and Merrifield into scoring position.

“You can’t go to Nate every single time in the seventh inning and have him throw the seventh and eighth, or (David Robertson) in the middle of the eighth and ninth,” Ventura said. “We have to get some guys that can get outs and those are the guys you use in that situation.”

At that point, Ventura opted for Duke to face Hosmer with Nate Jones warming in the bullpen.

The numbers favored his choice -- Hosmer had a .580 OPS against lefties while on-deck hitter Salvador Perez had an .862 OPS against righties. But, Hosmer was in the midst of a good game at the plate with an RBI groundout in the first and an opposite-field homer off Gonzalez in the sixth.

“You consider it,” Ventura said. “I mean you load it up, you don’t give (Jones) much to work with there. (Duke) has had some good numbers against Hosmer.”

Duke got ahead of Hosmer with a first-pitch fastball inside for a strike. Though Duke’s next offering, a slider, was outside, Hosmer got enough of it to flip the ball into left field for a two-run, go-ahead single. Kansas City’s bullpen took over from there and the White Sox suffered a cruel defeat.

“When it doesn’t work you’re bringing a guy in and immediately it might not work,” Ventura said. “But it is a long year and you’ve seen what they can do and you want to get back to that. We also went through a stretch where we were using them a lot. Then they get a little rest, and you look at a game like last night where it doesn’t work and doesn’t fit and it always looks different. You can second guess anything at that point.”

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.”