White Sox

Spring training storylines: Sale's repertoire

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Spring training storylines: Sale's repertoire

Moving Chris Sale to the starting rotation absolutely is the right move for the White Sox. If Sale enjoys even moderate success as a starter, he'll provide a whole lot more value to the team than if he remained a dominant reliever.

But Sale still has to prove he can pitch as a starter. He doesn't have any professional experience as one, so a few things need to be monitored closely this spring to give us an early idea of whether or not he'll be successful.

Sale's slider is filthy, that much we know. He'll continue to terrorize left-handers with it, and it's not an easy pitch for righties to hit, either. But Sale leaned heavily on his slider in 2011, throwing it 36.4 percent of the time. Only one starter -- converted Texas reliever Alexi Ogando -- threw a higher rate of sliders last season.

It's possible Sale can keep throwing his slider at such a high rate, but expect him to use it with a little less frequency than he did in 2011.

He'll also have to dial his fastball back a bit velocity-wise, since he won't be able to go max-effort on every pitch as he was able to do out of the bullpen. That means he won't be able to blow hitters away as easily with his fastball, so he'll need to show good command of it in the low-to-mid 90's. There's a whole lot more room for error when you can whip a fastball in around 97 miles per hour.

Sale won't need a Mark Buehrle-level of command to succeed, but he'll have to be able to place his fastball inside and outside. There may be some bumps along the way, and perhaps Sale will allow a few home runs in spring training, but he should have a good opportunity to work out the kinks in March.

His changeup is the next key. Sale threw that pitch 11 percent of the time in 2011, using it more often early in counts -- although he would occasionally show it with two strikes.

It's not like Sale completely scrapped the pitch as a reliever, which is good. And according to Fangraphs' pitch values, it's been a very successful pitch when he's used it since coming to the majors.

Sale doesn't have to use his changeup more as a starter, but it couldn't hurt, especially against right-handed heavy lineups.

So when Sale's first spring outing rolls around, keep an eye on these four things: His fastball command, fastball velocity, slider use and changeup effectiveness. If all those factors mesh together, Sale has a chance to be an ace.

After last season's personal tragedy, Tim Anderson ready to unleash real self

After last season's personal tragedy, Tim Anderson ready to unleash real self

GLENDALE, AZ --  There’s a different Tim Anderson at White Sox spring training this year.

You can see it on his face  You can hear it in his voice.

“I’m busting out of the shell. I’m talking more,” he said as he sat down for an interview with NBC Sports Chicago (in the video above).

It’s not the new Tim Anderson. It turns out, it’s the real one that’s been there all along.

“This is me. It’s always been me. I never knew how to express myself. I feel like I’m being a lot more open,” Anderson explained. “That’s what I want to give to fans. Let them know the real me. You’re cheering for me. Why not know me? I’m being open and kind of let fans into my life.”

The White Sox shortstop has learned a lot about life in the past year. It all started in May when the White Sox were in Baltimore to play the Orioles. Anderson received a phone call at 4 a.m. It was news from back home.

It was the worst phone call of his life.

His best friend Branden Moss had been murdered in the parking lot of a Tuscaloosa, Ala., bar after helping the victim of a fight.  

The two were like brothers. Anderson is the godfather to Moss’s young daughter. Moss was the godfather to Anderson’s 2-year-old daughter.

“It was heartbreaking,” Anderson said.

While Anderson grieved, playing baseball seemed like it would be a perfect escape for his pain. Only it wasn’t. Far from it.  Baseball might have made things even worse.

In fast-paced sports like football and hockey, players don’t have much time to think. It’s react, react, react. Whatever might be happening off the field feels like a million miles away.

Not in baseball.

The game moves at a much slower speed. There’s plenty of time for your mind to wander. Thoughts kept going back to Anderson’s lost friend, taken from him in an instant.

At 23, he didn’t have the tools to deal with the emotional pain and excel at baseball at the same time.

“The year was rough. I wasn’t having fun in between the lines. I was making the game harder than it was. I was thinking too much. I was feeling sorry for myself and the list can go on. When my friend died it definitely took a lot out of me. I had a dark moment,” Anderson said. “Some days I didn’t feel comfortable coming to the ballpark because I knew it was going to be a bad day.”

Making matters worse, there were many nights when Anderson didn’t sleep. Not a wink. Still, he dragged himself to the ballpark and somehow tried to play.

The results weren’t pretty. On June 22, Anderson already had 16 errors at shortstop, most in the majors. At the plate, he was hitting .256/.284/.374 with six home runs and 19 RBIs.

He knew he was better than that. He also knew something else: He needed help.

In July, Anderson started meeting with a therapist who was able to unlock the pent up thoughts and emotions that he was burying inside him.

The therapist would write down everything that Anderson was feeling on paper and then read it back to him.

“Just going in and talking and pouring everything out of you. It lets you hear what you’ve been going through,“ Anderson said. “When she did it, it was a lot. I took what she read to me, balled it up and threw it away. I got lighter. It was a brightening. Those counseling sessions definitely helped me.”

Soon, Anderson was back to being himself both on and off the field.

In the month of August, he had 8 doubles, 5 home runs and 16 RBI.

“Woof. I was hot,” he said after hearing those stats. “That’s Tim. That’s more Tim that we need to see.”

In September, he batted .327 with 3 home runs and 9 stolen bases.

“We need a lot of that this year. That’s the way I want to go. That’s the way I want to go about it. Get back to what got me here.”

There was still an issue with his plate discipline. He had 32 strikeouts and only 1 walk in September.

“We play a tough sport as it is. They’re going to come,” Anderson said about the walks. “I mean, when I walk more, what are you going to tell me? ‘Start swinging more?’ It’s one of those things. It’s a give and take. We’ll see what happens.”

In 2017, Anderson received a crash course in adversity. What did he learn from all that pain and misery?

“Tough times happen, but they don’t last forever.”

Now that he’s survived the personal storm from last season, he wants “another shot at it. I feel like last year went left. This is new season.”

So, what does he envision for himself in 2018?

“Having fun, smiling a lot, picking up my teammates, hugging on the coaches and players. A lot of love, more so than stats,” Anderson said. “I’m fired up. I’m excited. I feel like I’m ready to lead this pack. We got a great group of guys. We’ve got a chance to do something special.”

White Sox Talk Podcast: Michael Kopech tells all about his past, present and future

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Michael Kopech tells all about his past, present and future

The White Sox top pitching prospect sits down with Chuck Garfien for a revealing interview at spring training. Kopech says he almost quit the game after he got into a fight with a Red Sox minor league teammate in 2016. He goes in-depth about his desire to be great, why meditating makes him a better pitcher, his failed PED test in 2015, comparisons to Justin Verlander, possibly becoming the future ace of the White Sox and much more.