White Sox

Torres can't climb out of early hole; Sox split

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Torres can't climb out of early hole; Sox split

Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2010
Updated: 11:10 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

DETROIT- The wildness that had haunted Chicago White Sox rookie Carlos Torres in prior major league efforts reared up again on Tuesday night. By the time Torres was pitching his best, it was too late.

The Detroit Tigers cruised after pounding out five runs in the first two innings against Torres, setting back the Sox, 7-1, to salvage a split of their doubleheader.

"Everybody is stepping up on the mound for us right now, so the expectation is to win games," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said, nonetheless seeing a silver lining in Torres' performance. "The worst scenario almost came true in the first two innings, Torres had 60-something pitches, and I was worried because I didnt want to bring my bullpen in so early."

While just one of Torres' five free passes in the game came around to score, his initial wildness-walking the first two Tiger batters in the first-forced him to play catch-up and work from a disadvantage.

"I know how to give the team innings, but no matter how you look at it, I needed to get deeper in the ballgame than the second inning because that can actually cash out a bullpen quite a bit," Torres said.

Torres barely did escape the second, which was the scene of the major damage, to the tune of four runs. Ryan Raburn led off with a single and with two outs was doubled home by Alex Avila. The string kept going from there, as Will Rhymes singled home Avila, Johnny Damon doubled home Rhymes and Brennan Boesch doubled home Damon.

"I've never seen that before, in the first inning three walks and next inning five hits, no unintentional walks," Guillen said. "It was kind of a weird combination. In the first inning he looked like a minor league pitcher but after that he threw the ball well and gave us what we needed. He turned it around."

The sole Chisox score came on a Paul Konerko bomb in the seventh, breaking up Jeremy Bonderman's shutout. The Tigers veteran was terrific, pitching 6.2 innings and surrendering just five hits, mitigated by five strikeouts.

"To come in here and sweep is not easy," Guillen said. "Bonderman was one pitch away from us getting to him. He threw a couple of good pitches and got two double-play balls that killed rallies."

Detroit picked up two more insurance runs in the eighth, when Ramon Santiago led off with a single and Austin Jackson's sacrifice bunt that turned into a hit and run-scoring play when White Sox reliever Tony Pena fielded the bunt and threw the ball far past Chicago first sacker Mark Kotsay. A Rhymes groundout pushed Jackson to third, where he scored on a Damon groundout.

The fact that Chicago's game two effort was so flat yet the White Sox remained in first place and could ponder ephemera the possibility of lefty phenom Chris Sale being called up for his possible major league debut Wednesday says it all about the state of Guillen's team.

"Right now all my players only have to worry about winning games, not anything else," he said. "Thats easy: Every time we go to the field, we expect to win these must-win games, no matter who we play, when we play, where we play. Just win games, and dont worry about the people behind us. Thats the easy part of being in first place: You dont have to worry about scoreboard watching."

For those White Sox not watching the scoreboard, their split coupled with Minnesota's loss dropped the Twins 1.5 games behind Chicago.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.

White Sox record isn't pretty, but Yoan Moncada has provided a shiny silver lining of late

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USA TODAY

White Sox record isn't pretty, but Yoan Moncada has provided a shiny silver lining of late

The silver linings aren’t always a joy to find during this rebuilding season. “Well, at least …” can become a somewhat tired refrain as the White Sox sit at 5-16.

But that’s the reality for the rebuilding White Sox, for whom brighter days surely lie ahead. The stocked farm system keeps delivering news of prospect achievements, and the young players at the major league level are providing their own positive signs for the years that are coming.

The South Siders wrapped a 1-5 homestand Wednesday afternoon with their second straight one-run defeat to the visiting Seattle Mariners. They only had one hit after the third and saw the last 13 hitters go down in order. James Shields walked four more guys to bring his season total to 17 in six appearances. The White Sox starting staff leads the majors with 65 free passes issued.

Well, at least … 

Wednesday, it was Yoan Moncada’s leadoff homer in the bottom of the first, a ball that was absolutely crushed into the right-field seats. The distance and power were strong signs for a player expected to be at the center of all that future success. But perhaps of greater note to those who have watched his still-nascent big league career was the fact that the homer came on the first pitch Felix Hernandez threw, a departure from the long at-bats Moncada has been famous for working in his first two seasons on the South Side.

But perhaps it’s just as strong a showing of his hitter’s eye that he was able to do what he did with that first pitch.

“I was trying to be aggressive in that at-bat, swing at the first pitch,” Moncada said. “It was a good pitch for me, and I put the barrel on the ball and made good contact. That was it.”

Moncada, to add luster to this silver lining, has been mashing of late. In the last nine games, Moncada is slashing .333/.421/.848 with eight extra-base hits, four home runs, eight RBIs and eight runs scored. His five home runs rank second on the team, behind only Jose Abreu. And he's just two days removed from coming a single short of the cycle in Monday's win. Yes, he’s also struck out 14 times in the nine-game span, a constant concern for a guy who’s right around the major league lead in punch outs. But he’s also drawn five walks and stolen four bases.

Yes, the White Sox went 1-8 in those contests. But if the 2018 campaign is about developing the players who will power future contenders, then this recent surge by Moncada, one of the rebuild’s biggest stars, ought to please the front office and fans alike who have bought in to the rebuild but remain eager for the strategy to translate into big league success.

“As experience and time give him more opportunity to gain more knowledge of himself and the opponent, and what he’s capable of doing, he’s barely scratching the surface of who he is,” manager Rick Renteria said. “There’s no way that any of us believe in any way, shape or form that he’s a finished product. He continues to develop his skill set, continues to learn, make adjustments as do most players, but one as young as he is, with the skill set he brings to the table, you hope that it ultimately winds up playing really big dividends, which I believe we expect that in the near future.”

“I agree with Ricky,” Moncada said. “I also think that I’m just in the learning process. It’s step by step. I think that I have a lot of talent and I can be a much better player overall. I agree with him. It’s just a process. I try to improve and get better every day.”

An interesting question might be how many leadoff home runs Moncada will have a chance to hit when the oft-projected 2020 lineup takes full shape. Moncada was seemingly entrenched in the leadoff spot when this season began, though Renteria has already moved him out of that spot against left-handers, opting instead to put Tim Anderson at the top of the lineup. Moncada’s got just one hit in only four at-bats outside the leadoff spot, more an indication of his struggles against lefties, against whom he’s batting .130 with 12 strikeouts in 23 at-bats.

Though with his increased power display in the last week and a half, it sparks curiosities of Moncada being more of a middle-of-the-order bat than one that is parked at the top for the remainder of his career.

“He has an extremely good eye,” Renteria said. “Right now, as you see, we’ve mixed and matched him with Timmy now the last two or three days maybe to give him the best chance to have the most positive outcomes possible. We know that right now against righties, he’s very, very good. And right now he’s working on improving his approaches against left-handed pitchers. Seems to me the last couple of days he’s shown some pretty good signs against lefties in his at-bats, contact, swings, approach, and so we’re going to try to continue to develop whatever we need to do in order to maximize the confidence he can gain and the opportunities he gets in any situation.

“And then at some point, I’m sure it will be defined as to what he is ultimately from both sides of the plate and if he’s going to be ultimately a leadoff hitter from both sides of the plate against anybody. His eye says to me that he’s capable of doing that. But sometimes you want to give him the best matchup and you also want to, within the construct of the lineup that you have and the guys that you have, maximize what those guys are capable of doing.”

Moncada and the White Sox both have a long way to go until they transform from 5-16 to the planned contender this rebuilding effort is supposed to yield. But if this season is about anything at the big league level, it’s about Moncada’s development. It’s a small sample size, yes, but of late, Moncada has shown some signs of a guy who could be one of the reasons the South Siders are contending one day.

Now that Ronald Acuna has reached the majors, taking a look at Michael Kopech's timetable

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AP

Now that Ronald Acuna has reached the majors, taking a look at Michael Kopech's timetable

Michael Kopech blew up White Sox Twitter again Wednesday morning, adding eight more strikeouts to his impressive 2018 total and turning in another strong outing down at Triple-A Charlotte.

Couple that with news that Ronald Acuna, the No. 2 prospect in baseball, is set to make his major league debut with the Atlanta Braves, and the already loud “are we there yet?” style chorus wondering when Kopech will arrive on the South Side grew even louder.

It’s that time of year, when highly rated prospects get called up now that they’re no longer in danger of racking up a year of big league service time, pushing their free-agent clocks back another year. It’s a somewhat confusing situation, even for Chicago baseball fans and observers who went through this not too long ago with Kris Bryant and the Cubs.

The deal is this: The rulebook states a player will accrue a year of major league service time if he spends 172 days on a major league roster in a given year. That’s a lot when you consider that the 2018 season is only 187 days long. So pretty much after two weeks of the season elapse, prospects can get called up, spend the rest of the season on the roster and still not log a year of service time. It’s a handy ploy for teams to squeeze an extra year of team control out of a player.

So what’s all this have to do with Kopech?

Well, if you think the White Sox are simply waiting to bring him up to the majors so they can get an extra year of him down the road — which would be a smart thing to do considering the White Sox aren’t attempting to use Kopech’s services to win this season but rather a year or two from now and then far into the future — you might expect him to be called up soon.

There is this thing called “Super Two” that, were the White Sox sole goal just to delay his arrival to get another year of team control, would need to be taken into consideration. If a player is in the top 22 percent in his class in service time, along with some other stipulations, he could qualify for arbitration a year early. So there’s that to remember, too.

But, of course, there’s the logical notion that the White Sox just aren’t necessarily ready for Kopech to hit the majors just yet. General manager Rick Hahn said repeatedly during the offseason that the needs of the big league team and Kopech’s readiness for the majors will be independent of one another. For example, the White Sox need to figure out who’s going to start one half of Saturday’s doubleheader in Kansas City. It’s highly unlikely the team would rush Kopech to the bigs just because they need a spot starter in an April game against the Royals.

Hahn has stressed that there is no rush to get Kopech — or any other of the team’s highly rated prospects — to the majors. And that makes complete sense. The White Sox are not expected to contend for a championship this season, and if the results of the team’s first 20 games are any indication, they look as though they won’t be. So why give any of these young players anything less than ample amount of time to finish their development at a given level?

It makes sense why fans are so eager. This impressive collection of minor league talent has given this team a bright future. And while the losses keep coming at the big league level, it’s understandable why folks want that future to start as soon as possible.

But Kopech has made just seven starts at the Triple-A level. Eloy Jimenez has played in 24 games at the Double-A level. Many of the organization’s highest-rated prospects are still at the Class A level. The daily reports from the minor leagues are encouraging and exciting. And when Kopech does something like strike out 29 batters in four starts, it might seem like a readymade alternative to a starting staff at the big league level that’s walked 61 batters in 20 games.

But minor league success doesn’t always mean major league readiness. Look just a year ago at Yoan Moncada, then ranked as the No. 1 prospect in baseball. He didn’t make his first appearance in a White Sox uniform until mid-July. That was after he proved that he could dominate Triple-A over the course of 80 games. Kopech looks dominant, yes, but is four starts enough? Hahn said this offseason that using Moncada as an indicator for how the team would handle its other highly touted prospects might be a good way to think.

Kopech figures to be up to the majors this season. Jimenez, who’s spring training was limited by an injury and who didn’t start the regular season right on time because of a different injury, might be a bit further behind. But just because fans don’t see those players right away doesn’t mean they’re not doing exactly what the White Sox want them to do: develop into stars who can make this team a perennial contender. That, of course, takes time.