White Sox

Sox Drawer: In Jenks you trust?

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Sox Drawer: In Jenks you trust?

Friday, July 23, 2010
4:25 PM

By Chuck Garfien
CSNChicago.com

You swim in confidence, you drown in negativity.

Those were the deep thoughts coming from Don Cooper back on June 2 as he strolled through the White Sox dugout amid a torrential downpour of criticism that had the Sox sinking in the AL Central standings.

Lifeboats were standing by, not to mention a casket, a coroner, and the cast from the TV show Six Feet Under.

Ive seen it so many times. Confidence is the ingredient, Cooper said. Everyone has tough times. Tough moments.

And while the White Sox have magically changed the trajectory of their season since those dark, spring days, the team's pitching coach doesnt have to look far down his roster of arms to see a pitcher currently submerged in that same negativity, flooded by criticism that he can no longer be trusted to do his job.

Bobby Jenks.

In the hypersensitive world of modern day sports, one bad game is considered terrible, a second is downright appalling, while a third equates to the death of the players first born.

Maybe thats an overstatement, but often the reality is that when youre a struggling athlete not meeting a citys expectations, the heat you feel isnt the sun on your face, but a burning fireball of disgust and distrust by a countless stream of fans who have invested their hearts and souls into the uniform youre wearing, and if you continue to let them down, those same fans will no longer see flesh inside that uniform, but a skeleton.

Youre officially dead to them.

Thats sports. And right now there are many of you holding onto your shovels, ready to bury Bobby.

My advice would be to chill out! But I know better.

Its easy to roast your closer after he gives up four runs in the 9th inning in a heartbreaking loss to the Twins, especially when he follows it up by losing another game three days later with two runs in the 11th against the Mariners.

Its easy to condemn him because his name is not Mariano Rivera, and hell occasionally blow a save or two in a week, bringing your world to a crashing halt. Its painful. I know. Imagine having to talk about it live on television moments after it happens without using a single word of profanity.

Been there.

Its tougher to recall and appreciate what your closer did before the mess, converting 15 straight saves during the Sox torrid hot streak. Remember how downright filthy Bobby was for those few weeks?

Okay, maybe you dont.

Look, Im no dummy. Neither is Ozzie Guillen. Jenks is struggling.

Something has to be done right now, which is why the Sox will turn to Matt Thornton, J.J. Putz, or even Sergio Santos in closing situations in the near future.

But what happens if or when one of those saviors takes the mound and blows a save or two. Then what? Bring back Shingo Takatsu?

I agree with Ozzie that the Sox are a better team with Jenks as their closer, and with the set-up guys lined up in front of him. But right now, they cant go there. The boat has a hole in it.

Speaking by phone on Friday before the White Sox took on the As in Oakland, Cooper did not dance around Jenks problems. He went right at it, with a fastball down the middle.

The bottom line is this, Bobby has struggled his last two outings, Cooper said. The nature of being a closer is youre on the line, and when you dont save the game, youre kind of the goat. What were going to do is simply keep our options open with the other guys that are throwing the ball well. Wed be nuts not to keep our options open. In the meantime, well try to get Bobby throwing like he did during that streak again, and I think its going to happen.

After Wednesdays extra-inning loss in Seattle, Guillen expressed concern over Jenks fading velocity. But as the pitching coach, Cooper has a much different take.

I dont look at (velocity) to tell you the truth. When Im watching the game, I dont look up at the board and say, Oh, thats 93 (miles per hour), thats 97. I just look at, Does he have enough out there in his hand that day? You take the ball 70 times during a season, there are going to be times when you have your A stuff. There are going to be times when youll have your B stuff. You might even have your C stuff. You still got enough to get it done. The bottom line is, (Jenks) hasnt gotten it done. But theres enough coming out of his hand to get major league hitters out.

So for the moment, Cooper continues to swim in confidence, while watching Jenks as he dog paddles in negativity. The water in Lake Michigan can be murky. The same with our local media.

When you fail, unfortunately the best story in Chicago is not a guy whos soaring, its what kind of crash hes going to make when things are not going well.

Jenks has fallen. Hell eventually get up. The question is, do you have his back, or an arrow pointed directly at it?

Chuck Garfien hosts White Sox Pregame and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet with former Sox slugger Bill Melton. Follow Chuck @ChuckGarfien on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox news and views.

Yo-Yo and the Big Elephant: Now this is the show South Side fans have been waiting for

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AP

Yo-Yo and the Big Elephant: Now this is the show South Side fans have been waiting for

Yo-Yo and the Big Elephant sound like characters from your kid’s favorite show (or your favorite show, if you happen to be a kid).

But instead they’re the duo South Side baseball fans have been waiting for.

You might know them better as the Cuban Connection, an alliterative and far less confusing nickname that describes Yoan Moncada and Jose Abreu, who in Monday night’s 10-4 win over the visiting Seattle Mariners combined for seven hits, three home runs, a double, a triple, six runs scored and four RBIs.

It was a welcome sight after the White Sox offense slumbered through a weekend series with the Houston Astros in which they mustered just two runs. Heck, this offense has been hard to find during the entire month of April. Entering Monday, it’d produced just 16 runs in its last seven games (with 11 of those coming in a single contest).

But then came Monday’s show, in which Abreu launched a pair of homers and Moncada came a single short of hitting for the cycle. That had to be a proud moment for Abreu, who’s taken his countryman under his wing since Moncada arrived in the majors last summer.

“I’m really mad at him because he had two chances to do it and he couldn’t,” Abreu joked with the help of a translator. “Seriously, I’m really happy for him. I know today was a special game for him. I know he couldn’t hit for the cycle today. But he’s going to have more chances in the future. He’s going to be good.”

This is what White Sox fans have been hoping for. It’s what they’re still waiting for, considering much of that oft-discussed team of the future is still developing in the minor leagues. But Moncada is the story of 2018 at the major league level, how development will continue for the player White Sox fans drooled over at this time last year, when he was ranked as baseball’s top prospect.

Moncada got a lot of early attention for his high strikeout total, and with another punch out Monday he’s now got 34 on the season, still one of the highest totals in the league. But his numbers are looking good in many other facets. He raised his batting average .026 points Monday alone, and he’s now slashing .240/.345/.493 on the still-young season.

Abreu, of course, is the White Sox best hitter and has been ever since he arrived from Cuba before the 2014 season. For a team in such an offensive rut, Abreu’s four-hit night Monday raised his batting average up over .300, to .308. He’s now got six homers on the season, the most on the team and one of the higher totals in the American League. While Moncada and others will spend 2018 showing the White Sox what they will be in the future, this was expected from a guy who’s been one of baseball’s most consistent hitters in the last half decade.

But the future comes into play with Abreu, too, whose consistency at the plate and his presence in the clubhouse as a mentor to Moncada and other young players make him as believable a part of those planned future contenders as any of the organization’s highly rated prospects. A contract decision will need to be made at some point, obviously, but the White Sox will tell you any day of the week how much they value Abreu, who knows exactly where this franchise is and is excited as anyone about where it’s going.

“Everybody knows we are in the process, and everybody knows what this process is about,” Abreu said. “We have a lot of young talent, a lot of young players. They are going to hit some bumps and have some struggles as a team. But I think we all know how we have to play this game. (Manager Rick Renteria) has taught us how to play this game, how to play this game representing the White Sox organization and how they play this game.

“I feel really happy. We prove today that we are able to play a good game and to show the rest how we win games. That is the way we like to play.”

Monday was a bright spot in what’s been an otherwise very tough start to the 2018 campaign. But for a team where the future is what matters most, this is what fans have been waiting to see. A game like this might not be commonplace as the summer rolls on on the South Side. But for those dreaming about Moncada and Abreu teaming to lead those contenders of the future, this was one heck of a glimpse into the crystal ball.

“That’s our goal to have big games together for this team,” Moncada said. “Having the opportunity to play with Abreu — ‘The Big Elephant’ as we call him in Cuba — it’s good for me. It’s a big honor. I feel really happy when we have these kinds of games.”

Yoan Moncada nearly hits for the cycle, Jose Abreu hits two homers and the White Sox finally break out the bats

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AP

Yoan Moncada nearly hits for the cycle, Jose Abreu hits two homers and the White Sox finally break out the bats

So, anyone out there still worried about Yoan Moncada?

The White Sox second baseman, who at this time last year was the top-ranked prospect in baseball, was the subject of much social-media frustration through the season's first few weeks. But it's safe to say he's "redeemed" himself in the eyes of fretting fans.

Monday night, he led the White Sox offensive eruption with a three-hit night that brought him just a single shy of the cycle in a 10-4 win over the visiting Seattle Mariners.

Moncada started the offensive outburst with a leadoff triple in the bottom of the first inning. He doubled to start the bottom of the second and launched a solo homer to begin the bottom of the fourth. He scored all three times.

Moncada entered the game with a .214/.329/.400 slash line, though he's been hot of late. In the last seven games, he's got nine hits, six extra-base hits and three homers. He still has 34 strikeouts on the season, one of the highest totals in the majors, but he's putting up some good numbers elsewhere.

Abreu also had a red-hot Monday night, picking up four hits with a couple of homers, the 12th time he's bashed multiple long balls in a single game.

It was quite the performance for a White Sox offense that has mostly been quiet so far in 2018. They scored just two total runs in three straight blowout losses against the Houston Astros over the weekend. And while they plated 11 in that 14-inning marathon in Oakland, the three road games prior to that featured a grand total of three runs.

Monday night that all changed with the White Sox banging out 18 hits, including seven straight to start the bottom of the first, the first time that happened in the big leagues in four years.