White Sox

Todd Frazier already feeling right at home with White Sox

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Todd Frazier already feeling right at home with White Sox

GLENDALE, Arizona -- Todd Frazier has yet to play a regular season game for the White Sox, but the team’s new third baseman already feels like he’s home.

I mean, really home.

If it was up to him, Frazier says he’d play for the White Sox for the rest of his career.

“Just talking to the guys, talking to Rick (Hahn), Robin (Ventura), the atmosphere. It’s just a different vibe,” Frazier said. “I can just tell it’s going to be a good fit for me.”

So if Rick Hahn came to you and offered a lifetime contract, you’d sign it?

“Sure. Most definitely.”

Frazier might have grown up in New Jersey, but he relates to the backseat sentiment of many White Sox fans who live in the shadow of the more popular Cubs.

In fact, he thrives on it.

“I went to a high school where we were the low high school,” Frazier explained. “There are three Toms River High Schools and we were always the one they put aside, and we’d come out and bring out the broomsticks and take care of business. I like that a lot.”

After facing the White Sox twice during spring training, San Francisco Giants (and former White Sox) pitcher Jake Peavy delivered a message to Chicago after Sunday’s game, saying, “Don’t sleep on that South Side team.”

Frazier agrees.

“We want to be those guys that nobody talks about. and the next thing you know - boom, here we come. I think we have that team,” Frazier said. “We have to prove ourselves, of course. The Chicago Cubs the last couple years I’ve been playing against them every two to three weeks. I know them really well. They’ve been playing great. They have a good caliber of guys coming up. Good for them, but don’t sleep on us, and we take that seriously. We’re going to work our tails off and we’re gonna wake some people up and hopefully when that rivalry (with the Cubs) comes around, it’s meaningful this year.”

[MORE: Jimmy Rollins named White Sox Opening Day starter]

As you can probably tell, Frazier is a straight-talking quote machine.

He’s also got the bat and glove to back it up.

His 35 home runs last year with the Reds would have led the White Sox. It was 11 more than all White Sox third basemen hit the last two seasons combined.

No wonder Hahn traded away three of their top prospects to get him.

But as you’ll find with Frazier, he’s not just thinking about himself when he takes the field. And he’s not just thinking about his teammates.

Be on the lookout when you come to a game, because he might be thinking and playing for you.

“Why not go out there everyday and say to a kid in the stands, maybe that’s his first time watching a game. Why not perform for him? Give him something to remember,” he said.

[MORE: Cooper says White Sox need more from Mat Latos]

Reds fans will always remember Frazier’s walk-up songs in Cincinnati. Growing up an hour south of Frank Sinatra’s hometown of Hoboken, New Jersey, Frazier picked Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon” and “Come Fly with Me” to be belted over the loudspeakers whenever he came to the plate.

He still hasn’t finalized which song or songs he’ll use at U.S. Cellular Field.

“I was going back and forth," he said. "I’ll start listening to music and I’ll figure it out. It’s coming along.”

You mean you’re not going to use “My Kind of Town (Chicago is)?” It seems like a perfect fit.

“I’m not sure. I’m up in the air right now.”

It would probably be a big hit.

“I think it would, too. It’s up there on the list.”

Will it be something Sinatra?

“Most likely.”

Come to think of it, “Summer Wind” wouldn’t be bad when the weather heats up.

If Frazier is on a hot streak, he can deliver a message to the opposition with “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.”

But come to think of it, if there’s one Frank Sinatra song that White Sox fans have been waiting for and can really get behind, it’s this:

“The Best is Yet to Come.”

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

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USA TODAY

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: