White Sox

Sox defense shines in spring training opener


Sox defense shines in spring training opener

If the White Sox first spring training game of the year was any indication, they're going to have some fantastic infield defense this season.

That's not groundbreaking -- Alexei Ramirez should have won a Gold Glove or two by now, while Gordon Beckham and Brent Morel are promising young defenders as second and third base, respectively. And the sure hands of Paul Konerko don't hurt over at first base, either.

But Monday, the Sox put on a defensive showcase, with Beckham making more than a few strong plays, showing off good range and instincts as well as a strong arm. He threw out Dodgers speedburner Dee Gordon on a slow grounder to second (a play Gordon often beats out) and gunned down James Loney at the plate with a strong relay throw from the outfield.

The good defense didn't stop when Robin Ventura inserted the reserves, as Jim Gallagher made an outstanding over-the-shoulder diving catch at first base and Eduardo Escobar showed off some plus range at shortstop.

As good as Beckham was defensively, though, he looked just as lost offensively. It's the first game of the spring, so any concerns may not be warranted -- but he struck out twice, neither of which were good. He was late on a fastball in his first trip to the plate and was fooled by a breaking ball his second time up, with Bill Melton going so far as to mention that Beckham looked like he was in his own head. For someone who spoke all offseason about clearing his head, it wasn't a good start -- although, again, two at-bats is really no reason to be worried yet.

In better news, Jared Mitchell looked impressive in his first at-bat of the spring. He ripped a line drive up the middle that caromed off the second base bag, which he legged out for a double. Hopefully that's a good sign for the former first-round pick: He certainly didn't look hampered by the ankle that has bothered him for nearly two years now.

Dan Johnson made an early mark on his longshot case to join the White Sox bench, drilling a two-run homer in the ninth to account for half of the team's runs.

On the pitching side of things, Nestor Molina was knocked around, allowing five runs on seven hits, one of which was a long home run off the bat of Andy Van Slyke's kid. But he didn't walk anyone, and this early in the spring, that's cause enough to temper any freakouts.

And finally, Addison Reed had a nice battle with Matt Kemp in the fourth inning, ultimately striking out star outfielder with a pretty filthy slider. He missed with a few sliders in the sequence, but Kemp had no chance on the two he threw for strikes.

White Sox opposition research: What's there to know about the New York Yankees?


White Sox opposition research: What's there to know about the New York Yankees?

As the 2018 season nears and the White Sox get ready to take on the rest of the American League, we're taking a team-by-team look at all 14 of their opponents.

What’s there to know about the New York Yankees?

You know how everybody always (usually jokingly) refers to “stacked” lineups as the ‘27 Yankees? Well, it might be time to change that to the ‘18 Yankees.

The Bronx Bombers did their nickname justice this winter, adding reigning National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton and teaming him with Aaron Judge to form a power-hitting combo perhaps unseen since the Ruth-Gehrig glory days.

Now that’s not to suggest that Stanton and Judge are going to become two of the greatest baseball players in history. But it is to suggest that they’re going to strike fear into opposing pitchers, with plenty of prognosticators predicting a combined 100 homers for the duo. That’s not crazy, either, considering Stanton led baseball with 59 bombs a season ago, the highest single-season total in almost two decades, and in a runaway Rookie of the Year campaign, Judge crushed 52 homers to lead the American League.

So, you know, 59 plus 52. That’s more than 100.

And while Stanton and Judge take all the attention, the Yankees’ lineup is pretty darn good outside of those two guys, too. Gary Sanchez is one of baseball’s best offensive catchers and hit an only shabby-by-comparison 33 homers last season. Didi Gregorius has plenty of pop for a shortstop, and he smacked 25 homers last season. Brett Gardner had a strong 2017. And even two late-in-the-offseason additions to the infield, Neil Walker and Brandon Drury, form a better 8-9 combo than most teams in the AL.

There’s no need to start spreading the news, it’s already been spread: The Yankees have one of the best, most fearsome offenses in the game.

As for the pitching, well that ain’t half bad either. Luis Severino had a 2.98 ERA and 230 strikeouts last season. CC Sabathia had a 3.69 ERA in 27 starts. Midseason acquisition Sonny Gray had a 3.55 ERA on the year. Masahiro Tanaka almost hit the 200-strikeout plateau.

And that bullpen is outstanding. Aroldis Chapman, David Robertson, Dellin Betances, Chad Green, Tommy Kahnle and Adam Warren formed as good a relief corps as you were likely to find in baseball last year.

Even with the division-rival Red Sox looking pretty good — and coming off a 93-win season — the Yanks will enter 2018 as the favorite in the always-competitive AL East. The question is how close they’ll come to being the favorite in the AL overall. The defending-champion Houston Astros still seem a hair ahead after besting the Yankees in last year’s ALCS. But the Bombers might have the preseason edge over the Cleveland Indians, especially after beating them in the playoffs last year.

Bottom line: The Yankees are really, really good. And don’t be surprised if you hear a lot of Billy Joel during the Fall Classic. "Some folks like to get away, take a holiday from the neighborhood ..."

2017 record: 91-71, second place in AL East, lost in ALCS

Offseason additions: Giancarlo Stanton, Neil Walker, Brandon Drury

Offseason departures: Todd Frazier, Jaime Garcia, Michael Pineda, Starlin Castro

X-factor: White Sox fans know how good Robertson and Kahnle were last season. Chapman and Betances are now household names as elite relief pitchers. But the best reliever of this whole group at the end of last season was Green, who finished the year with a 1.83 ERA and 103 strikeouts in 69 innings. Over his final 30 games, 47 innings, he had an even lower 1.53 ERA and 77 strikeouts. He allowed one run in September. And though he was roughed up a bit in his lone appearance against the Indians in the ALDS, he allowed just one unearned run in 6.1 innings against the Astros in the ALCS.

Projected lineup:

1. Brett Gardner, LF
2. Aaron Judge, RF
3. Giancarlo Stanton, DH
4. Gary Sanchez, C
5. Didi Gregorius, SS
6. Aaron Hicks, CF
7. Greg Bird, 1B
8. Neil Walker, 2B
9. Brandon Drury, 3B

Projected rotation:

1. Luis Severino
2. Masahiro Tanaka
3. CC Sabathia
4. Sonny Gray
5. Jordan Montgomery

Prediction: First place in AL East

Catch up on the AL:

Oakland Athletics
Texas Rangers
Seattle Mariners
Los Angeles Angels
Houston Astros
Tampa Bay Rays
Toronto Blue Jays
Baltimore Orioles
Boston Red Sox
New York Yankees

Catch up on the NL:

San Diego Padres
Colorado Rockies
Arizona Diamondbacks
San Francisco Giants
Los Angeles Dodgers
Miami Marlins
Philadelphia Phillies

Ryan Cordell goes to Triple-A as White Sox seemingly figure out center field situation


Ryan Cordell goes to Triple-A as White Sox seemingly figure out center field situation

The White Sox center field situation seems to have a solution.

Ryan Cordell was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte, the team announced Thursday, bringing his bid to make the Opening Day roster to an end.

Cordell had a nice spring in his first action since joining the White Sox organization in last summer's trade that sent reliever Anthony Swarzak to the Milwaukee Brewers. Cordell was injured after playing 68 games at Triple-A Colorado Springs last season, but he got some love from general manager Rick Hahn at this winter's SoxFest, with Hahn saying three teams had called the White Sox inquiring about the 25-year-old outfielder.

In 17 Cactus League games, Cordell slashed an impressive .317/.417/.512 with six extra-base hits, eight runs scored, eight RBIs, seven walks and only six strikeouts. That performance brought on the idea that Cordell could not only make the team out of camp but perhaps be the Opening Day center fielder, potentially beating out an improved Adam Engel for the job after Engel hit just .166 last season.

But Engel's spring numbers are even better than Cordell's. He's got a .364/.429/.682 slash line with four homers, 11 runs scored, eight RBIs and four walks. Plus, he's already well known as a strong defender in center after last season's impressive glove work. Spring stats don't mean much, but it's a good sign considering how ineffective Engel was at the plate last season.

With Thursday's news and Engel's impressive spring, it seems the White Sox have things figured out in center to start the season. Engel will likely be the starting center fielder, with utility man Leury Garcia an option there in a reserve role. Cordell and Charlie Tilson, who was sent to Charlotte earlier this spring, are sure get plenty of at-bats in the minors and could be called up should Engel struggle.

Both Engel and Cordell fall into the "see what you've got" category for the rebuilding White Sox. The future of the position figures to belong to highly touted prospect Luis Robert, who was reassigned to minor league camp along with pitchers Rob Scahill and Chris Volstad on Thursday, bringing the White Sox to 32 players in big league camp. But with the team not expected to contend in 2018, Engel has an extended opportunity to figure things out at the big league level. Should he struggle, someone like Cordell or Tilson could have a similar opportunity.