White Sox

Thornton earns title of 'Grandpa' among teammates

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Thornton earns title of 'Grandpa' among teammates

Hes but 35 years old and his daughter is three, but that hasnt stopped Matt Thorntons manager nor his young teammates from calling him Grandpa.

With several veteran relievers currently injured or recently released, Thornton is the senior statesmen in a White Sox bullpen loaded with rookies. His seven-plus years of service time dwarfs the 51 days combined owned by the White Sox five rookie relievers when the season began. While the moniker is part playful, its also a sign of respect the rookies have for their elder. So despite the absurdity of it all, Thornton not only indulges manager Robin Ventura and the rookies, he has actually begun to embrace his nickname.

Im the only one with any kind of time out there, Thornton said with a laugh. (Being a grandpa) is a long, long, long ways away for me. (Ventura) is just picking on me and having fun. I guess him and Kenny Williams were joking around about it.

A rookie himself, Ventura is asked almost daily about the makeup of the teams bullpen and how they will fare in a pennant race.

Closer Addison Reed is 23. Hector Santiago is 24. Nate Jones and Leyson Septimo are 26 and Brian Omogrosso is 27. Septimo made his major league debut on Friday and Omogrosso is still waiting for his chance.

And then theres Thornton, who made his major league debut on June 27, 2004 and has 510 big league appearances to his credit. This season, Thornton is 2-5 with a 3.24 ERA in 38 games.

Besides the grandpa out there, its a pretty young group, Ventura said. But theres energy that comes with that. Theres excitement and a lot of good things that come with it. Some people view it as a negative. Im looking more at the positives.

One positive influence Thornton has is the example he sets for his teammates. Both Thornton and pitching coach Don Cooper said the left-hander isnt one for being a vocal presence. And thats not what Cooper wants from Thornton, nor what Thornton wants. Cooper just wants a good performance.

Its much more important to get the job done on the field and to lead the way that way and he has done a great job for us all the years he has been with us, Cooper said. The work on the field is what really matters (in the pennant race) and thats where Id like him to lead the way.

Still, Thornton picks his spots to offer advice. When Santiago was removed from the closers role earlier this season, Thornton didnt take long to make sure he was OK.

He came up to me, hes like Youre giving up home runs. When I first came up I was walking the bases loaded and trying to pitch out of it and giving up home runs. Right now youre on a better path than I was going and look where Im at, Im seven years in the big leagues, Santiago said. Hes great to pick his mind. He picks you up for sure.

Were 23 and 24 and then weve got Grandpa Thornton, Reed said. Its pretty funny. Hes out there kind of holding us down. We dont need that guy in here trying to pumping us up with words. Everybody goes out there and plays and thats enough to fuel everybody else.

Thornton is definitely okay with the ribbing. He knows his teammates are inexperienced, but he likes the signs he sees. He loves Reeds demeanor during a tight situation and after a bad game. Hes impressed by how Santiago handled a rough period early in his career. He likes how Jones has overcome some of the control issues that dogged him in the minors and attacks the strike zone.

Most of all, Thornton likes the work ethic his teammates display and how they believe in their abilities.

We have a great group of kids out there. They go about things the right way. They continue to work hard, to continue to improve their craft. (The nickname) is okay, Thornton said with a laugh. Theyre all doing good. They all do things right. They just need to keep going out there and attack the strike zone. Thats all I tell those guys is Just go after it.

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

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USA TODAY

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

PHOENIX, Ariz. — One of the White Sox prized prospects will be on the shelf for a little while.

Outfielder Micker Adolfo has a sprained UCL in his right elbow and a strained flexor tendon that could require surgery. He could avoid surgery, though he could be sidelined for at least six weeks.

Though he hasn’t received the same high rankings and media attention as fellow outfield prospects Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert, Adolfo is considered a part of the White Sox promising future. He’s said to have the best outfield arm in the White Sox system.

Adolfo had a breakout season in 2017, slashing .264/.331/.453 with 16 homers and 68 RBIs in 112 games with Class A Kannapolis.

Adolfo, along with Jimenez and Robert, has been generating buzz at White Sox camp in Glendale, with a crowd forming whenever the trio takes batting practice. Earlier this week, the three described their conversation dreaming about playing together in the same outfield for a contending White Sox team in the future.

As Cactus League play begins, how many spots are actually up for grabs on the White Sox roster?

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AP

As Cactus League play begins, how many spots are actually up for grabs on the White Sox roster?

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Some teams have it easy, with their 25-man rosters seemingly locked into place before spring training games even start.

The White Sox actually have a lot more locked-down spots than you might think for a rebuilding team, but this spring remains pretty important for a few guys.

The starting rotation figures to be set, with James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Miguel Gonzalez and Carson Fulmer the starting five. Carlos Rodon, of course, owns one of those spots once he returns from injury. But the date of that return remains a mystery.

From this observer’s viewpoint, eight of the everyday nine position players seem to be figured out, too: Welington Castillo behind the plate, Jose Abreu at first base, Yoan Moncada at second base, Tim Anderson at shortstop, Yolmer Sanchez at third base, Nicky Delmonico in left field, Avisail Garcia in right field and Matt Davidson as the designated hitter. More on the omission of a starting center fielder in a bit.

Omar Narvaez would be a logical pick to back up Castillo at catcher, and Tyler Saladino is really the lone reserve infielder with big league experience, not to mention he’s a versatile player that can play anywhere on the infield.

Leury Garcia also figures to be a lock for this 25-man roster. But will he be the everyday center fielder, as he was for a spell last season? He played 51 games in center in 2017 but battled injuries throughout the year. I think Leury Garcia will end up the starting center fielder when the season begins because of his bat. His .270/.316/.423 slash line isn’t going to make anyone do cartwheels, but it’s better than the offensive struggles of Adam Engel, who started 91 games in center in 2017 and slashed .166/.235/.282. Engel would still be a solid inclusion on the bench because of his superb defense, but to create that big a hole in the everyday lineup is tough.

How could that position-player group change? Keep your eyes in center field, where there are a couple other guys who could force their way into a roster spot this spring: Charlie Tilson and Ryan Cordell. Tilson has had a tremendous amount of trouble staying on the field since coming over to the White Sox in a 2016 deadline deal, but that hasn’t dampened the White Sox hopes for him. And Cordell got name-dropped by general manager Rick Hahn during SoxFest, when the GM said he’s received multiple calls about Cordell since acquiring him last summer. Cordell put up good numbers at the Triple-A level prior to a significant injury last year.

But the main battles figure to be in the bullpen. At times this winter, as the White Sox kept adding players to that relief corps mix, that the whole thing seemed wide open. But when you think about it, maybe there are only one or two open spots.

You’d have to think these guys are pretty safe bets to make the team: Juan Minaya, Gregory Infante, Nate Jones, Joakim Soria and Luis Avilan. Though Hector Santiago was just recently acquired on a minor league deal, he’s really the only long man of the group, and he could sub in if there’s an injury to a starting pitcher. That leaves two spots between the group of Aaron Bummer, Danny Farquhar, Jace Fry, Jose Ruiz and Thyago Vieira — not to mention guys signed to minor league deals like Xavier Cedeno, Jeanmar Gomez and Bruce Rondon.

Bummer had a 4.50 ERA in 30 big league games last year. Farquhar had a 4.40 ERA in 15 games. Vieira has gotten attention as a flame-thrower, but he’s got just one big league game under his belt, something that might or might not matter to the rebuilding White Sox. Guys like Gomez, who has 40 career saves including 37 just two years ago, and Rondon, who had multiple shots at the Detroit Tigers’ closing job in the past, could vault themselves into the mix as potential midseason trade candidates.

Then there's the question of which of those guys will be Rick Renteria's closer. Minaya had closing duties after most of the bullpen was traded away last summer. He picked up nine saves and posted a 4.11 ERA in his final 17 appearances of the campaign. Look to Soria, though, a veteran with plenty of closing experience from his days with the Kansas City Royals. If he's given the opportunity to close and succeeds, he could fetch an intriguing return package in a potential deadline deal.

But now it's game time in Arizona.

“The fun part of playing the game of baseball is playing the game of baseball," Renteria said earlier this week. "We prepare. I think they all enjoy what they’re doing in terms of their preparation. They take it seriously, they focus. But ultimately like everything that we do in life, I guess it’s a test. And the games are a test for us on a daily basis. And how we are able to evaluate them and take advantage of the opportunities that we have to see them in a real game situation is certainly helpful for us.”