White Sox

White Sox adapting to new second base sliding rules

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White Sox adapting to new second base sliding rules

The White Sox haven’t had to learn baseball’s new sliding rule the hard way, as was the case with the Toronto Blue Jays and Houston Astros in the first week of the season. But they’re still figuring out how best to adapt to the Rule 6.01(j), which prohibits blatant takeout slides on double play balls in which the runner doesn’t make an attempt to reach second base. 

The rule, itself, is fairly clear. A runner must make a “bona fide slide” into second base, which means he begins his slide before reaching the bag, is able and makes an effort to reach the base with his hand or foot, is able to stay on the base after the slide and doesn’t change his path to initiate contact with the fielder.

Essentially, players have to break up double plays by sliding into the bag and not past it. The counterweight to the rule is that managers have the ability to challenge “in the neighborhood” plays in which the second baseman or shortstop drags his foot behind second base, but doesn’t touch the bag — a tactic commonly used in the past to avoid takeout slides.

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Most believe the rule isn’t too difficult to understand. But the problem comes in forcing players to not rely on the instincts they’ve been taught to have since travel ball or high school — to break up a double play by any means necessary. 

“It’s going to be tough on those bang-bang ones, instinctually, to make up your mind within five strides,” White Sox infielder Tyler Saladino said. 

Severe injuries suffered by Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Jung-Ho Kana and New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada put those takeout slides in an ugly spotlight last year, prompting the new rule. But its effects are felt beyond just changing how players slide into second base.

On Friday, Avisail Garcia — with a runner ahead of him on second base — was caught with too big a lead and was picked off first base by Indians catcher Yan Gomes. White Sox manager Robin Ventura said Garcia didn’t have to have that aggressive a lead given he and his linebacker-esque frame couldn’t barrel into second base to break up a double play chance anymore. 

It may seem like players will become overly cautious leading off and going into second base due to the new rule, but Ventura said he’s not concerned about it. 

“Seeing what’s happened the last few games, it looks like everybody is still — their instinct is to still slide in like they used to,” Ventura said. “It’s hard when guy have been playing for 10-20 some years knowing they’re supposed to go after that guy and try to break it up.”

Saladino said there’s another aspect to the rule that changes things: Having to avoid sliding through the bag. In the past, when a player knew he’d be out on a double play, he could slide past second base and into the fielder without worrying about holding on to the bag because there was no chance of him being safe. Now, Saladino said, he has to think about holding on to the bag every time he slides into it.

“The one that worries me is if it’s crunch time and you really need to do something to try to distract or whatever with that defender, and then you’re only option is to hold on to the base — (I’ve) never done that before,” Saladino said. “You just slide through there. So holding on to the base, I mean, that’s a whole new move that we’re counting on our bodies to handle. That’s the one area that I’m kind of concerned with.”

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Saladino is on the other side of it as a shortstop, too. He never was a fan of being “in the neighborhood,” always choosing to tap second base as he moved to his left on double plays. He and other shortstops have to be more conscious of actually touching the base now, given replay can rule a runner safe if they don’t. But with that effort to hit the bag comes a knowledge that, if they are, a runner can’t slide late and past the bag to barrel into them. 

Contact at second base isn’t completely eliminated. Players can still slide to the left or right of the bag so long as they stick an arm or leg out to make an effort at being on the base. But through the season’s first week, there have already been two instances of games ending due to reviews of the new rule.

The Blue Jays lost to the Tampa Bay Rays when replay officials determined Jose Bautista intentionally reached his arm out and touched shortstop Logan Forsythe’s leg instead of going into the bag. A few days later, Colby Rasmus clearly slid late and beyond second base trying to break up a double play and was called for interference, handing the Milwaukee Brewers a win over the Astros.

There may be more high-profile instances of interference being called, some of which will inevitably come in a pennant race. And it may take a while for the White Sox and the rest of baseball to adapt to it. 

“All in all, it’s not the worst rule,” Saladino said. “But at the same time, it always comes down to the fact that we’ve done it one way for so long. It’s just going to be an adjustment.”

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.”