White Sox

Tim Raines on Hall of Fame: 'It's getting a little nerve-wracking'

Tim Raines on Hall of Fame: 'It's getting a little nerve-wracking'

Tim Raines likes to classify himself as one of those “weird guys” who never really got nervous during his 23-year major league career. But his case to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame — which is in its 10th and final year — just might be changing that personality trait. 

“Coming now to this point, being my last year on the ballot and being so close, it’s getting a little nerve-wracking,” Raines said. “I think those nerves are starting to set in. I just can’t wait until it’s over now.”

Raines’ Hall of Fame credentials at one point were a battleground for the old school vs. new school battle that's raged in baseball circles ever since the "Moneyball" days of the early 2000s. But his .294 batting average, .385 on base percentage, 808 stolen bases, 364 more walks than strikeouts and 69.1 WAR have been viewed in an increasingly favorable light by Hall of Fame voters in recent years. 

“Rock” Raines received 69.8 percent of the vote in 2016, falling just 23 votes shy of the 75 percent to earn induction into the Hall of Fame. This year’s mark is significantly up from 55 percent in 2015, 46.1 percent in 2013, 52.2 percent in 2012, 48.7 percent in 2011 and 37.5 percent in 2010. No player who has received 68 percent of the Hall of Fame vote has failed to be inducted.

“This is probably the first year out of the nine years that I’ve been on the ballot that I really, really feel like I have a chance,” Raines said. 

Raines is back on Chicago’s South Side for the White Sox “Homecoming Weekend,” along with former teammates Jack McDowell, Lance Johnson and Roberto Hernandez. Raines only spent five seasons with the White Sox (1991-1995), but he made a major impact on those teams — four of which finished over .500. His best year in Chicago came in 1993, when his .306/.401/.480 slash line helped push the White Sox to an American League West title. 

“He was one of the guys that, once we had our core group, you bring a guy like that in and it bumps us up to contention level,” McDowell said. 

Added Johnson: “He was already a Hall of Famer when he came to us.”

Raines seems likely to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2017, along with former Houston Astros first baseman Jeff Bagwell, who received 71.6 percent of the vote in 2016, and perhaps former San Diego Padres closer Trevor Hoffman. Ivan Rodriguez and Vladimir Guerrero will debut on the ballot next year but aren’t locks to be first-ballot inductees, so making up those 23 votes may not be too difficult. 

Even though the numbers point to Raines making it, the nerves will only continue to build until the balloting results are announced in January 2017. 

“For those 23 that wanna vote for me next year, please,” Raines smiled. “I’ll be grateful.”

But with or without the Hall of Fame, Raines is proud of what he accomplished in baseball and how he went about doing it. 

“I had a really great career, I know it personally, I wouldn’t change a thing,” Raines said. “I loved every minute of playing the game. It’s just a situation now where I have an opportunity to close that chapter of my career. Hopefully it’s getting in. If I don’t, it’s not the end of the world. 

“But I just know the things that I did on the field, I enjoyed doing it and I’m sure the fans that cheered for me and cheered against me enjoyed seeing me and doing the things that I did. I would love for it to happen. It would be something that I never really thought of when I first started playing the game, or even when I finished playing the game. That never was a thought in my mind that Hall of Fame would even be a chance.”

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.”