White Sox

Sox fall to Twins in Youkilis' debut


Sox fall to Twins in Youkilis' debut

MINNEAPOLIS -- Even the addition of Kevin Youkilis couldnt help the White Sox solve their troubles against left-handed pitchers on Monday night.Yet another opposing southpaw kept the White Sox quiet as Minnesotas Francisco Liriano outpitched Jake Peavy in a 4-1 contest in front of 35,659 at Target Field. Youkilis, who was acquired from the Boston Red Sox on Sunday in part because of his success against southpaws, went 1-for-4 in his debut as the White Sox record against left-handed starters fell to 8-13.The White Sox maintained their half-game lead in the American League Central over Cleveland, a 7-1 loser to the New York Yankees.Pitching one day after his former coach Darrel Akerfelds passed away after a 19-month battle with pancreatic cancer, Peavy (6-4) honored his friend with an AK inscription on his hat.The right-hander wasnt fooling Twins hitters early. The first two Minnesota hitters of the game reached base and Joe Mauer hit sacrifice fly before Peavy induced an inning-ending double play from Josh Willingham. The Twins took a 3-0 lead in the second inning as they combined three singles with an Alex Rios throwing error. Minnesota nearly went ahead 5-0, but Denard Spans second double of the game fell a foot shy of becoming a two-run homer.Peavy did eventually settle down even though he allowed five more men to reach in his final four innings.Peavy yielded three earned runs, 10 hits, walked one and struck out seven in six innings.Workmanlike as they were, Peavys numbers couldnt match those of Liriano (2-7).He came out firing and retired nine of the first 10 White Sox hitters he faced.Liriano continued a trend by White Six hitters when he only allowed six men on in seven strong innings and didnt allow a run until the seventh. The White Sox are hitting .239 against left-handed pitching this year and .259 against righties.The White Sox did cut into a 3-0 deficit in the seventh. Rios became the first leadoff hitter to reach when he doubled in the seventh. He advanced to third on a wild pitch and later scored on Alexei Ramirezs sacrifice fly.Youkilis -- who hits 17 points higher against left-handers in his career (.299 vs. .282) singled in his fourth at-bat with one out in the eighth inning against Minnesotas Glen Perkins.White Sox pitchers combined to allow 20 men to reach base in eight innings. The Twins stranded 13 runners, including with the bases loaded in the eighth and ninth innings.

Lucas Giolito relieved to be able to shed No. 1 pitching prospect label

Lucas Giolito relieved to be able to shed No. 1 pitching prospect label

GLENDALE, AZ — You don’t need a scale to see that Lucas Giolito lost some weight in the offseason. As he walks around Camelback Ranch, he just seems lighter. These pounds were shedded thanks to a certain label that has been detached from his name and his being.

“Lucas Giolito, number-one pitching prospect in baseball” is no more.

“Definitely. Big time relief. I carried that title for a while,” Giolito told NBC Sports Chicago. “It was kind of up and down. I was (ranked) 1 at one point. I dropped. I always paid attention to it a little bit moving through the minor leagues.”

Which for any young hurler is risky business. The “best pitching prospect” designation can mess with a pitcher’s psyche and derail a promising career. Giolito was walking a mental tightrope reading those rankings, but after making it back to the majors last season with the White Sox and succeeding, the moniker that seemed to follow him wherever he went has now vanished.

“Looking back on it, that stuff is pretty cool," Giolito said. "It can pump you up and make you feel good about yourself, but in the end the question is, what are you going to do at the big league level? Can you contribute to a team? I’m glad that I finally have the opportunity to do that and all that other stuff is in the rear view."

This wasn’t the case when the White Sox acquired Giolito from the Washington Nationals in the Adam Eaton trade in December 2016. When he arrived at spring training last year, he was carrying around tons of extra baggage in his brain that was weighing him down. Questions about his ability and makeup weren’t helping as he tried living up to such high expectations.

“Yeah, I’d say especially with the trade coming off 2016 where I didn’t perform well at all that year," Giolito said. "I got traded over to a new organization, I still have this label on me of being a top pitching prospect while I’m going to a new place, I’m trying to impress people but at the same time I had a lot of things off mechanically I was trying to fix. Mentally, I was not in the best place as far as pitching went. It definitely added some extra pressure that I didn’t deal with well for a while."

How bad was it for Giolito? Here are some of the thoughts that were scrambling his brain during spring training and beyond last season.

“I saw I wasn’t throwing as hard. I was like, ’Where did my velocity go?’ Oh, it’s my mechanics. My mechanics are bad. I need to fix those,” Giolito said. “Then I’m trying to make adjustments. Why can’t I make this adjustment? It compounds. It just builds and builds and builds and can weigh on you a ton. I was 22 turning 23 later in the year. I didn’t handle it very well. I put a lot of pressure on myself to fix all these different things about my performance, my pitching and trying to do it all in one go instead of just relaxing and remembering, ‘Hey, what am I here for? Why do I play the game?’”

Still, pitching coach Don Cooper wanted to see what he had in his young prospect. So last February, he scheduled him to make his White Sox debut against the Cubs in front of a packed house in Mesa.

“It was kind of like a challenge," Giolito said. "They fill the stadium over there. I’m like, ‘Alright here we go."

Giolito gave up one run, three hits, walked one and struck out two in two innings against the Cubs that day.

“I pitched OK," he said. "I think I gave up a home run to Addison Russell. At the same time, I remember that game like I was forcing things. I might have pitched okay, but I was forcing the ball over the plate instead of relaxing, trusting and letting it happen which is kind of my mantra now. I’m saying that all the time, just having confidence in yourself and letting it go.”

A conversation in midseason with Charlotte Knights pitching coach Steve McCatty, suggested by Cooper, helped turn Giolito’s season around. The lesson for Giolito: whatever you have on the day you take the mound is what you have. Don’t force what isn’t there.

Fortunately for Giolito he has extra pitches in his arsenal, so if the curveball isn’t working (which it rarely did when he came up to the majors last season) he can go to his change-up, fastball, slider, etc.

It’s all part of the learning process, both on the mound and off it. Setbacks are coming. Giolito has already had his share. More will be on the way.

“You want to set expectations for yourself. You want to try and achieve great goals,” he said. “At the same time, it is a game of failure. There’s so much that you have to learn through experience whether that be success or failure. Especially going through the minor leagues. There’s so much that you have to learn and a lot of it is about development. It’s a crazy ride for sure.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Rick Hahn gives an update on the state of the White Sox rebuild


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Rick Hahn gives an update on the state of the White Sox rebuild

In this episode of the SportsTalk Live Podcast, Danny Parkins (670 The Score), Chris Bleck (ESPN 1000) and Scott King (WGN Radio) join David Kaplan on the panel.

Ryan Pace’s offseason begins. Josh Sitton and Jerrell Freeman are gone, but what will he do with Kyle Fuller?

Plus, Rick Hahn joins Kap from Glendale, Ariz., to discuss the state of the White Sox rebuild, how tough it is to keep their best prospects in the minors and why Jose Abreu is so important for his young team?

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: