White Sox

Three years after claim, Rios proving his value to White Sox

774606.png

Three years after claim, Rios proving his value to White Sox

Exactly three years after he was claimed off waivers by the White Sox, Alex Rios was hitting fourth against the Oakland As on Friday night.

Rios, who most teammates believe was an All-Star snub in July, takes the place in the lineup of team captain Paul Konerko, who was placed on the seven-day disabled list with a concussion.

Its the first time this season the former Toronto Blue Jays outfielder will hit cleanup and Robin Venturas selection of Rios to replace Konerko is more validation a risky move made by the White Sox front office has paid off.

When the White Sox claimed him on Aug. 10, 2009, Rios -- who is signed through 2014 and has a 13.5 million club option for 2015 -- was owed roughly 60 million in guaranteed money, the entirety of which was picked up by the club. Rios had struggled with the Blue Jays and continued after his arrival, hitting .199 over the final two months of the 2009 season.

This season, Rios is hitting a team-high .318 with 18 homers and 67 RBIs and has often been mentioned by teammates and coaches as a player critical to the teams success because of his all-around play.

This is the player we were hopeful we were getting, assistant general manager Rick Hahn said Friday.

Rios admits he never saw the move coming.

An All-Star for the Blue Jays in 2006 and 2007, Rios signed a seven-year deal worth 69.835 million only four days into the 2008 season. He believed he would remain with Toronto well into the future.

But in 2009, Rios OPS slipped to .744 with the Jays, more than 100 points below his All-Star performance in 2007.

I didnt expect it, Rios said. I had thought I was going to spend the whole time there.

The White Sox had spoken to the Blue Jays about Rios prior to the July 31, 2009 non-waiver trade deadline, a team source said. The sides explored numerous trade scenarios with Toronto eating some salary in exchange for prospects or the White Sox footing the entire bill with no players going back.

When Rios was placed on waivers, the White Sox had an idea the Blue Jays would allow him to walk and already had the approval of owner Jerry Reinsdorf to add the contract.

We hoped when we made the move was he was going to be a long-term answer for us at one of our outfield positions, Hahn said.

Rios was asked to play center field when he first joined the White Sox and responded well. He hit .284 with 21 homers and 88 RBIs in 2010 and provided above-average defense in center.

Rios overall production slipped in 2011 both in the field and at the plate as the White Sox endured a disappointing 79-83 campaign.

This season, a move to right field has re-energized Rios. He has again provided good defense and is on pace to reach career-high totals in average, home runs, RBIs, runs and slugging percentage.

He's come in motivated and has been the same every day, Ventura said. He comes in and he does a lot of different stuff for us. First, he's really good in right field, made a lot of great defensive plays for us. Offensively, he just always seems to be having great at-bats. Steals bases, he does a lot of different things for us that are positive. Anybody would want a guy like him on your team, because he's been that good this year.

Rios hopes his invitation to play for the White Sox lasts through 2014 and perhaps even 2015. He also knows the waiver claim was just part of the business of baseball.

(The waiver) is part of the game, part of the job, Rios said. I have had a great time here and hopefully I can keep enjoying the rest of my contract here.

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

mickeradolfo.jpg
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?

0223-rick-renteria-rick-hahn.jpg
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.”