White Sox

Sale superb, victorious in first career start


Sale superb, victorious in first career start

CLEVELAND -- Chris Sale won his first career start, limiting Cleveland to one run in 6 2-3 innings and leading the Chicago White Sox to a 4-2 win over the Indians on Monday night.Sale pitched out of Chicago's bullpen the past two seasons but moved into the rotation after ace Mark Buehrle left as a free agent this winter. The left-hander, who had made 79 relief appearances, took a one-hit shutout into the sixth. In his longest outing, Sale allowed three hits and struck out five.The 23-year-old had little trouble with a Cleveland team that came in batting .153.Rookie Hector Santiago gave up Jose Lopez's leadoff homer in the ninth before getting his second save.A.J. Pierzynski hit a two-run homer in the first, four batters after Alejandro De Aza homered leading off against Josh Tomlin (0-1).Indians manager Manny Acta rested some of his left-handed regulars after a long season-opening series with Toronto and because of how tough Sale can be on lefties.It didn't do much good.Sale handled Cleveland's right-handed hitters, too.When the White Sox selected Sale in the first round in 2010, the team's immediate need was for a reliever and he had been reliable in that role. But Buehrle's departure left open a spot in the rotation and the White Sox decided to convert Sale. If his first start is any indication, he seems to be in the right spot.Sale coasted into the seventh before giving up a leadoff single to Shelley Duncan. He came back and got Jason Kipnis to hit into a double play, but manager Robin Ventura, who said before the game that Sale was not on a strict pitch count, decided 100 was enough and pulled his young lefty.As he stepped into Chicago's dugout, Sale was warmly greeted by high-fives from his teammates.The White Sox needed just five batters to double their home run total for the season in the first.De Aza connected on Tomlin's fourth pitch for Chicago's first leadoff homer since Oct. 2, 2009. Paul Konerko hit a grounder up the middle that shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera caught up to but didn't field cleanly. Pierzynski followed by rocketing a 2-0 pitch into the lower seats in right to make it 3-0.The three runs matched the entire amount allowed by Cleveland starters Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez and Derek Lowe in 22 innings.Tomlin dusted himself off after the rough beginning and recorded his seventh strikeout in the fifth before De Aza doubled with two outs and scored when Brent Morel lined an RBI single off first baseman Lopez's glove.Sale allowed only Aaron Cunningham's two-out single in the second and carried a 4-0 lead into the sixth before the Indians finally scored.With two outs, Sale hit Shin-Soo Choo on the left hand, sending Cleveland's right fielder sprawling in the dirt near home plate. Last season, Choo missed eight weeks after his left thumb was broken by San Francisco's Jonathan Sanchez and needed surgery. Choo stayed in and promptly stole second before Carlos Santana brought him home with a single to right.Chicago's bullpen had not allowed an earned run in 8 2-3 innings before Lopez connected in the ninth, hammering a 2-2 pitch off the foul pole in left.Notes
White Sox RF Alex Rios had a Little League-like error in the seventh when he dropped a routine fly that bounced embarrassingly off his glove. ... Acta remains confident RHP Roberto Hernnandez, formerly known as Fausto Carmona, will rejoin the Indians at some point this season. Acta spoke to Hernandez on Sunday and reported the 31-year-old, who has been pitching at the team's academy in the Dominican Republic to stay in shape, is "a little antsy." Acta was asked if he will call Hernandez "Roberto" or "Fausto" when he returns. "I never called him Fausto," Acta said. "I always called him Grande' (big)." ... Konerko, who needs four homers to reach 400 for his career, tied Hall of Famer Luke Appling for second place in club history with 3,528 total bases. ... The White Sox plan to tour the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Tuesday. ... Pierzynski is the only catcher in baseball to record 1,000 or more innings caught in each of the last 10 seasons. He's three shy of 1,500 career games.
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White Sox name James Shields as Opening Day starter


White Sox name James Shields as Opening Day starter

The White Sox have announced who will toe the rubber when the season begins later this month.

As expected, James Shields will be the team's Opening Day starting pitcher when the White Sox kick off the 2018 campaign against the Kansas City Royals on March 29 at Kauffman Stadium.

The starting rotation's elder statesman at 36, Shields seemed the logical pick for the first start of the season.

It's been a rough go for the one-time All Star since he came to the South Side in a trade with the San Diego Padres in the summer of 2016. In two seasons with the White Sox, he's got a 5.99 ERA with 181 strikeouts and 58 home runs allowed in 231.1 innings. Last season, he made 21 starts, finishing with a 5.23 ERA and 103 strikeouts and 27 home runs allowed in 117 innings.

While that trade still smarts considering the player the White Sox gave up, Fernando Tatis Jr., is currently ranked as the No. 8 prospect in baseball, Shields brings plenty of value to the 2018 rotation as a veteran mentor for young major leaguers like Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, as well as pitchers making their way to the big leagues like Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen and Dylan Cease.

If Shields could rediscover some of the magic that made him a great pitcher during his best years with the Tampa Bay Rays and the aforementioned Royals, with whom he made World Series trips in 2008 and 2014, respectively, and have a strong couple months out of the chute, he could provide Rick Hahn's front office with a midseason trade piece, someone who could potentially fetch a prospect or two that could help advance the franchise's rebuilding efforts.

The Royals have announced that it will be Danny Duffy opposing Shields on Opening Day.

White Sox opposition research: What's there to know about the Houston Astros?


White Sox opposition research: What's there to know about the Houston Astros?

What’s there to know about the Houston Astros?

They’re the best, that’s what there is to know.

The Astros are the defending world champions for a multitude of reasons, and it’s all those and more that will have them as a favorite to repeat in 2018. Yes, the Cubs and New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers and Cleveland Indians will all have something to say about that. But right now, no team is better on paper than the team the just won the big enchilada not five months ago.

The best 1-2 starting-pitching in combo in baseball? It belongs to the Astros. Justin Verlander was sensational for them after coming over in a late-summer trade with the Detroit Tigers. All he did was post a 1.06 ERA in five regular-season starts and a 2.21 ERA in six postseason outings. Justin Verlander. Again. And then there’s his running mate Dallas Keuchel — who doesn’t like the Cubs very much, apparently — has been just as good. He had a 2.90 ERA last year and won the American League Cy Young in 2015 with a 2.48 ERA and 20 wins.

Get past those guys and you’ll have to face the new guy. Gerrit Cole is now an Astro, as well, the reigning champs bolstering their already excellent rotation by importing one of the National League’s best pitchers. Cole saw his numbers jump last year (4.26 ERA) but still almost had 200 strikeouts and now has a much better roster around him than the one he left in Pittsburgh.

Charlie Morton? He threw four one-run innings in Game 7 of the World Series. Lance McCullers? He had 2.1 shutout innings in Game 7 of the World Series. This rotation is a force that could mow down the AL. There are questions, sure, but this five is entering 2018 as the best collection of arms in the Junior Circuit.

And we haven’t even gotten to the hitting. Oh, the hitting! The Astros scored 34 runs in seven World Series games. They banged out 56 hits. They hit 15 home runs. This after they were baseball’s best offense during the regular season.

The names are obvious to anyone who watched the postseason. Jose Altuve, surely tired of all the short jokes, is arguably the best player in baseball, and he won the AL MVP last season with a ridiculous .346/.410/.547 slash line. Carlos Correa, perhaps baseball’s best young shortstop, had a .315/.391/.550 slash line. George Springer, your World Series MVP, hit 34 regular-season home runs and got on base at a .367 clip before hitting five homers and slashing .379/.471/.1.000 in the Fall Classic.

Then there’s Alex Bregman and Josh Reddick and Marwin Gonzalez, who were all very good to great in 2017. They shouldn’t all be expected to do what they did last season — you need look no further than the Cubs to see what a deep World Series run can do to a team, especially early. But is there a better lineup than this in the AL? Anyone? Bueller?

It’s hard to repeat, and “hard” is becoming one heck of an understatement considering no one’s repeated in almost two decades. The Yankees last did it when they beat the broken-bat-throwing Mike Piazza and the New York Mets in the 2000 World Series. Since then, no one’s done it twice in a row.

Last year, most of us looked at the Cubs and said, “They have the best team, they are favorites to do it again.” And then they were not even in first place in the NL Central at the All-Star break. A similar fate could await the Astros. But right now, they look like the best team the AL has to offer.

Houston, you are clear for takeoff ... again.

2017 record: 101-61, first place in AL West, World Series champions

Offseason additions: Gerrit Cole, , Joe Smith, Hector Rondon

Offseason departures: Carlos Beltran, Cameron Maybin, Mike Fiers, Tyler Clippard, Luke Gregerson, Francisco Liriano

X-factor: The Astros now count one-time Cubs closer Hector Rondon among their relievers now, but the X-factor pick here is Bregman. After a fine but nothing special first half, he was one of baseball's best after the All-Star break last year, slashing .315/.367/.536 with 11 homers and 44 RBIs in 71 games in the second half.

Projected lineup:

1. George Springer, CF
2. Alex Bregman, 3B
3. Jose Altuve, 2B
4. Carlos Correa, SS
5. Josh Reddick, RF
6. Marwin Gonzalez, 1B
7. Brian McCann, C
8. Evan Gattis, DH
9. Derek Fisher, LF

Projected rotation:

1. Justin Verlander
2. Dallas Keuchel
3. Gerrit Cole
4. Lance McCullers
5. Charlie Morton

Prediction: First place in AL West

Catch up on the AL:

Oakland Athletics
Texas Rangers
Seattle Mariners
Los Angeles Angels
Houston Astros

Catch up on the NL:

San Diego Padres
Colorado Rockies
Arizona Diamondbacks
San Francisco Giants